Cultural Resilience


Dr Julia Becker

Programme Co-Leader

Massey University


Prof David Johnston

Programme Co-Leader

Massey University




Psychology tells us that human beings tend to follow behavioural rules to ensure that we are acting in an acceptable way. These rules are referred to as social norms, and they can be utilized to influence the way people behave. The Cultural Resilience programme is working to understand the social norms that underpin a resilient culture in New Zealand, harnessing and building on them to improve our national resilience.

Integral to the programme’s research is an outcome-focused plan to clearly define the best tools and strategies to facilitate resilience becoming an integral “part of what we do and who we are”. Using diverse research methods including co-creation with key stakeholders and end users, the programme team is investigating new and rapidly evolving technologies, and determining the ways these can be harnessed to develop social norms of resilience across diverse communities and hazard profiles. The team is also engaging with citizens to build more desire for involvement in hazard related science, and is developing a framework for citizen-science initiatives.



Feature: Q & A with Dr Caroline Orchiston

To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’re hearing from Alpine Fault expert Dr Caroline Orchiston from our Rural research programme. 

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Developing social norms towards a culture of resilience

Seeking to understand existing and prospective social norms around resilience to natural hazards, and how these norms can be enhanced or developed to contribute to a resilient culture. Norms are being considered in the context of location, sudden shocks (e.g. earthquakes, storms, wildfires) and incremental hazards (e.g. sea-level rise). 

Project lead: Dr Julia Becker

Host: GNS Science


Emerging Technologies

Investigating social norms in the context of emerging technologies, and looking at how people’s interaction with information and communication technologies can contribute to a resilient culture.

Project lead: Dr Abi Beatson

Host: GNS Science


Connecting Citizens to Science

Investigating citizen science as a tool for increasing opportunities for New Zealanders to become involved in science activities, and improving the strategic framework for citizen science.

Project lead: Prof. David Johnston

Host: GNS Science



This project, funded from the Challenge’s contestable funding process in 2017, is assessing the role and contribution of technology in fostering genuine participation and citizen science in strengthening resilience to natural hazards in New Zealand.

Project lead: Dr Loïc Le Dē

Host: Auckland University of Technology


Feature: Student Profile

David Wither

David’s PhD thesis involves interviewing North Canterbury residents to understand social and community resilience to natural hazards in the area.

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Key Achievements


Māori cultural kaupapa and risk resilience

National hui at Orongomai marae, looking at which Māori cultural kaupapa (i.e. both values and practices) mitigate risks to marae resilience, and challenges to operationalising it.


Digital volunteer communities

Developed a partnership with digital volunteer communities in conjunction with the MCDEM-led Exercise Tangaroa.


Citizen science

Collaborative workshop summarising opportunities for citizen science in the disaster resilience space.


RAPID workshop

Joint NZ-US Citizen Science workshop in Washington State in August 2017 (RAPID).



Citizen science workshop

Citizen Science workshop in conjunction with East Coast Lab at the Boundary in Hawkes Bay, July 2017.


Social norms

Undertook 7 surveys to investigate social norms and resilience in a pre- (earthquake, coastal) and post-event (Kaikoura earthquake, Edgecumbe flood) context.


Community Engagement Theory

Cultural resilience workshop on Community Engagement Theory.



More than twenty one peer-reviewed publications. 


Feature: Cultural resilience in the capital

Can our capital cope with a natural disaster?

Our researchers have been surveying Wellingtonians to find out how resilient the city’s residents are.

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Thesis Research Students

Amanda Wallis (PhD at Victoria University of Wellington) – Place attachment and resilience.

Lauren Vinnell (PhD at Victoria University of Wellington) – Urban related social norms.

Lisa McLaren (PhD, joint Centre for Disaster Research and Massey University) – Exploring the science behind citizen science.

Marion Tan (PhD, joint Centre for Disaster Research and Massey University – Aligned): Use of mobile applications in disasters.

Alan Kwok (PhD, joint Centre for Disaster Research and Massey University – Aligned) – Measuring social resilience.

Lauren Vinnell (Master’s at Victoria University of Wellington) – Social norms and preparation with first study published (Vinnell et al., 2017).

Alice Lake-Hammond (Master’s at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) – AF8 and Cultural Norms. 

Affiliated with other Resilience Challenge programmes

David Wither (PhD at the University of Otago) – Institutional pressures in agribusiness in New Zealand, specifically looking at how systemic issues impact on the resilience and wellbeing of individuals within the industry (Rural programme)


Feature: Fostering children’s participation in DRR with Minecraft and LEGO

Children are often underestimated in Disaster Risk Reduction initiatives, but they own valuable knowledge about local hazards, as well as the vulnerabilities and capacities in their area.

Our researchers have been using LEGO and Minecraft, two popular children’s pastimes, to foster youth participation in Disaster Risk Reduction.

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Selected publications


Becker, J. S.,   Potter, S. H., McBride, S. K., Wein, A., Doyle, E. E. H., Paton, D. (2018) When the earth doesn’t stop shaking: How experiences over time influenced information needs, communication, and interpretation of aftershock information during the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence, New Zealand. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science.

Kwok, A.H., Doyle, E.E.H., Becker, J.S., Johnston, D.M., Paton, D.M. 2016 What is ‘social resilience’? Perspectives of disaster researchers, emergency management practitioners, and policymakers in New Zealand. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 19: 197-211; doi: 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2016.08.013 [October 2016]

Kwok, A. H., Paton, D., Becker, J., Hudson-Doyle, E. E., Johnston, D. (2018) A bottom-up approach to developing a neighbourhood-based resilience measurement framework. Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal,

Kwok, A. H., Becker, J., Paton, D., Hudson-Doyle, E., Johnston, D. (2019) Stakeholders’ Perspectives of Social Capital in Informing the Development of Neighborhood-Based Disaster Resilience Measurements. Journal of Applied Social Science.

McClure, J., Henrich, L., Johnston, D., & Doyle, E. E. H. (2016). Are two earthquakes better than one? How earthquakes in two different regions affect risk judgments and preparation in three locations. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 16, 192-199. Doi:10.1016/j.ijdrr.2016.03.003

Tan, M.L., Prasanna, R., Stock, K., Hudson-Doyle, E., Leonard, G., & Johnston, D. (2017). Mobile applications in crisis informatics literature: A systematic review. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 24, 297-311

Vinnell, L. J., Milfont, T. L., & McClure, J. (2018). Do social norms affect support for earthquake-strengthening legislation? Comparing the effects of descriptive and injunctive norms. Environment and Behavior, 1 – 25



 Culture programme details