Social Ties: Community Based Adaptation – Part 1

Blog: Social Ties: Community Based Adaptation

I remember when I first heard the word ‘ties’. It was 2015, I was in Holland, it was a hot summer day, & I was talking to my wife’s cousin, a passionate sociologist. She was telling me about social housing projects with disadvantaged youth when she began to explain in detail how ‘social ties’ work. My eyes lit up, the cogs started to turn, & the links with disaster recovery crystallised.

Social network analysis (the identification of patterns of interaction within a system) is not new. It emerged in the late nineteenth & early twentieth centuries across a range of disciplines including sociology, psychology & anthropology. By the 1970’s, a group of US based researchers had formalised the analysis of social networks. Closer to home, our own Dr Rob Gordon has been assisting us understand ‘social process’ after disasters for 30 years or so.

Nowadays, many of us are well aware of Professor Daniel Aldrich’s valuable research. He has empirically validated the role of ‘social ties’ during disaster preparedness, response & recovery. For those people that don’t know, there are three types of ties that Aldrich has found strengthen community resilience & recovery. These are ‘bonding ties’, ‘bridging ties’, & ‘linking ties’. Here’s a great video resource to help you understand more:

But let’s consider two non-natural disaster applications of social ties. In my next post (Part 2) I’ll look at some of the ways in which social ties have supported community adaptation during past health emergencies and natural disasters.

Cybercrime & Phishing

Leukfelt (2014) in a very interesting study, describes ‘an organised group of phishers whose relationships are based on real world social networks rather than internet forums, and who mainly use social engineering rather than malware to acquire information from victims.’ Leukfelt outlines measures to prevent crime that target the social ties on which the phishers’ networks are based.

Addressing Poverty

Afridi (2011) in a programme paper, examines whether social ties help people cope with or move out of poverty. One conclusion reached is that social ties undeniably support personal & collective wellbeing. A second is that social ties do help people experiencing poverty, although they do not lift them out of it. Afridi recommends that the strengthening of social networks occur in combination with increased financial investment in key areas.


You can start to see that social ties, the bonds that bind people together, have a long history with a variety of well identified positive applications. If you would like to understand more about the role of social connection in a disaster and emergency context, you can read Part 2 here.

How I can help

There is no denying that we are living in times of unprecedented change. Australian communities and organisations are at the forefront of learning to live with the disruptive effects of increasingly frequent and intense natural disasters. With over a decade’s experience, I help people recognise that hidden within adversity are opportunities for adaptation, recovery and growth.

Find out more about my services