Inderscience Publishers

Coordination in complex systems: increasing efficiency in disaster mitigation and response

Coordination in multi-organisational settings is extraordinarily difficult to achieve. This article examines the problem of inter-organisational coordination in the context of public administration theory and practice. The authors present the concept of complex adaptive systems as a theoretical framework that explains the dynamic processes involved in achieving coordinated action among multiple organisations to manage complex technical operations in environments vulnerable to risk. They argue that coordination may be achieved more easily with the appropriate design of a socio-technical system, that is, a system that supports the exchange of critical information among technical and organisational entities to improve performance in both. The goal is to design a decision support system that uses information technology to enhance the capacity of multiple organisations to adapt their actions reciprocally to changing conditions of risk, enabling the set of organisations to manage risk more effectively and efficiently for the community as a whole. The authors present the design and initial findings from a trial demonstration to implement a prototype interactive, intelligent, spatial information system in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Region.

Keywords: coordination, complex adaptive systems, disaster mitigation, disaster response, self-organisation, socio-technical systems, information exchange, information sharing, performance improvement, decision support systems, DSS, information technology, intelligent information systems, interactive information systems, multiple organisations, collaboration

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