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Strategic Crisis Management

August 18, 2009

I am working on a new syllabus for a graduate-level course on strategic approaches to crisis management offered as part of an MPA program. The course will explore the leadership role of emergency managers in preparing for and responding to crises. (For the purpose of this course, a crisis emerges from the real or perceived shortcomings of decisions and actions [or inactions] of responsible parties and may accompany an emergency, disaster, or catastrophe, manifesting itself in a marked decline in public confidence in key institutions, including but not limited to government.)

In recent years, a number of excellent texts have appeared discussing various perspectives on this topic. Most include case studies featuring both public and private sector organizations. Which of these would you recommend?

The approach I am planning to take involves five modules or key topics:

1. Probability: Explore the applications and limitations of risk analysis and risk management theories. Discuss the influence of prospect theory and other cognitive limitations (heuristics and biases) as they influence expectations, public trust, risk communication, agenda-setting, and compliance.

2. Politics: Review competing conceptions of the public agenda, agenda setting, and the role of interest groups in framing issues. The roles of conflict, compromise, consensus, and increased calls for coordination and collaboration. Examine the role and influence of focusing events.

3. Policy: Discuss competing conceptions of the common good, including the limits of utilitarianism and egalitarianism. Examine conceptions of the role and function of government in providing or securing public goods as they relate to public health, safety, homeland security, and national security. Compare and contrast the applications and limitations of hard versus soft power.

4. Process: Examine alternative approaches to organizing and delivering public services associated with health, safety, and security. Explore alternatives to regulation. Discuss the importance of public engagement and social capital formation. Review contemporary theories of strategy development and approaches to strategic planning and plan articulation.

5. Performance: Examine theories of government and bureaucratic failure as they relate to policy implementation. Discuss program monitoring and evaluation as they relate to transparency and accountability.

What do you think of this outline? What would you add or change? What case studies or exercises would you recommend?

Please share your feedback or recommendations for content or improvements.

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