Toward an Integrated Socio-Technical Modeling Framework 

Recent catastrophic events in the coastal tropics and sub-tropics highlight the impact of the interdependencies of critical infrastructure systems and how those interdependencies cause failures of physical assets; leading to adverse impacts on the health and socio-economic well being of the communities in those regions.

We will bring the 2-stage methodology of Collaborative Research and Design to Puerto Rico. Rebuild by Design’s Research Stage will be used during the early phase of the project as the team uncovers the events and interdependencies that led to catastrophic infrastructure and social failures around Puerto Rico and the social and physical vulnerabilities as well as the unique opportunities and assets of a particular area, city or community. This is accomplished by fully understanding community and site needs, vulnerability and interdependencies, much of which is uncovered during the narrative collection and analysis stage. We will work with local organizations, government agencies, and community stakeholders to build a nuanced understanding of the social, infrastructural, economic, and ecological challenges facing the Western region. Methods for generating this shared understanding will range from analyzing community narratives and experiences to data analysis and mapping. In the Western Puerto Rico study area, we intend to practice this approach by working with the 12 municipalities and the region to ensure they are fully supportive and fully engaged in implementation of the proposed outcomes to this process.

We will collect narrative stories from target audiences in Western PR including from citizens and agency personnel. This narrative data will subsequently be augmented in meaning by a system of self-indexing by the respondent. The process of self-indexing allows the respondent the first pass at interpreting their own narratives, reducing researcher bias often present in qualitative research and data coding. That layer of data also adds valuable meaning and meta data to the anecdotal information. The unique system of signification provides a statistical/quantitative dimension to the narrative.

Groups of four graduate students guided by senior researchers in our team will capture insights and perspectives from a large population that were and will be engaged. This starts from month six and continues for 30 months. A scanning-network to make sense of a diverse array of experiences related to what happened during Hurricane Maria, the short-term recovery, and medium-term rebuilding (within the three-year duration of project). Analysis is then conducted periodically deriving the emergent patterns. This information will be used as input to the network model.

The focus of the analysis is to develop deeper insights around the physical pattern of phenomena using the narratives as contextual information. Stakeholder engagement is then conducted through community workshops (citizen, agencies, planners etc.) to co-create interventions, with a focus on making the results actionable. Ongoing monitoring and evaluation then provides an instantaneous way of understanding how interventions are being experienced by beneficiaries on the ground.