Researcher Profile: Daniel Nohrstedt

Daniel Nohrstedt is Associate Professor at the Department of Government, Uppsala University

Researcher Profile: Daniel Nohrstedt

Could you briefly explain the research that you do?

Me and my colleagues study the public governance of hazards and risks with a special emphasis on collective-action and collaborative institutions. The fundamental problem that we seek to understand is how individuals from different public and private organizations are able to work together across organizational boundaries to achieve solutions that no actor can achieve alone. We are also intrigued by the choices policy actors make among the broad selection of potential collaboration partners and institutions. This research presents several theoretical puzzles as well as concrete practical problems that policy actors grapple with on an everyday basis. From a theoretical perspective, we are interested in unpacking what motives and considerations make it worth the time and effort for actors to invest in collaborative endeavors. We also try to better understand how different collaborative networks or forums can be organized and structured to support effectiveness regarding, for instance, joint capacity to cope with environmental risks and hazards. These are questions that cannot be answered by using one single type of methodology or data and therefore we combine a variety of analytical approaches such as network analysis, interviews, and comparative case-studies to answer our questions.

How did you get interested in crisis management and disaster research?

Growing up in Sweden (which journal referees sometimes remind me is the safest place on earth) I remember being both scared and fascinated by disasters. However, when I first started to study political science, I noted that most things we learned were about the stability of society and the political system. Yet, one day I attended an undergraduate seminar where we discussed the Chernobyl disaster, which opened my eyes to crisis management as a field of study. That seminar teacher eventually became my PhD supervisor and since defending my thesis, I have devoted most of my work to better understand how societies prepare for, respond to, and learn from extreme events.

What has your research helped us understand?

I frequently discuss my work with societal security and civil emergency planning specialists and we often end up talking about the “holy grail” of collaboration, focusing on those attributes and factors that make collaboration work. Although collaborative institutions are very different from one case to another, they also share some common challenges. In this regard, my research offers some guidance to help practitioners understand the challenges they face in a somewhat different way than before. For example, my research can help to develop some common vocabulary and also diagnostic tools for comprehending structures and processes of collaboration in a more systematic way. This knowledge echoes some well-known insights from the literature regarding the importance of trust, pre-existing relationships, and leadership support. But my research also advances some new insights concerning, for example, the importance of routines for managing dynamic networks where people come and go over time.

What would you like to research in the future?

I aim to continue engaging in interdisciplinary work, which is very stimulating as it challenges me to think more broadly about the applicability of political science in relation to other disciplines. Hereby, I also learn more about my own discipline. As a next step, I would want to advance the understanding of how collaborative institutions form and develop over time. Collaborative institutions are one form of public organization that has become more prevalent in a variety of areas but we still have limited knowledge of how these institutions emerge and evolve into viable organizations that can support better solutions to societal and environmental problems. One of my goals for the future is to compare different types of institutions and how they perform in tackling some of the most pressing problems facing society.