Research & Scholarship

Sociologist Caroline McDonald-Harker obtains Major Research Award

Caroline McDonald-HarkerThe 2013 Alberta flood resulted in devastating impacts affecting social, economic, health, and environmental infrastructures. Children and youth are particularly affected by disasters because of their dependence on adults, and psychological and social factors related to their developmental stage, life cycle, and structural vulnerabilities. However, children and youth are also resilient and can act as powerful 'catalysts for change' in their families and communities in the post-disaster environment. Yet, their influence, capacity, and ability to contribute to disaster recovery and resiliency efforts are often overlooked.

Dr. Caroline McDonald-Harker from Mount Royal University (Collaborative Co-Lead) has teamed up with Dr. Julie Drolet from the University of Calgary (Collaborative Lead) and Dr. Robin Cox from Royal Roads University (Collaborative Co-Lead) to conduct a research study on disaster resilience in the wake of the devastating and costly 2013 Southern Alberta Flood Disaster. This collaborative interdisciplinary research partnership has been formed in order to explore the complex interrelationships between vulnerability, risk, and resilience among children, youth, and their communities impacted by the 2013 Southern Alberta Flood Disaster. Their research study entitled "Alberta Resilient Communities Research Project: Engaging Children and Youth in Community Resilience Post-flood in Southern Alberta", is funded by an Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions (AIHS) CRIO-Population Resiliency research grant of $1,059,716. This research study examines and focuses on the lived realities of flood-impacted children, youth, and their communities in order to better understand the social, economic, health, cultural, spiritual, and personal factors that contribute to resiliency. The partnership also includes academic and community-based researchers, knowledge end-users, government stakeholders, and numerous community partners (schools, social service agencies, community organizations, etc.) from Calgary, High River, and the outlying Foothills region. This community-based research is grounded in a child- and youth-centered participatory approach in which children and youth are engaged and empowered as active participants in the research process.

The proposed research activities are organized into three streams of complementary activities, each of which focus on a specific population or lens (key community influencers, child-focused, and youth-focused) that illuminates our understanding of child and youth resilience. Each research stream is comprised of one of the co-leads and a sub-group of collaborative members, community partners, and other relevant stakeholders including children and youth, who will guide research activities. The objectives are to: 1) use child- and youth-centered approaches that enable the lived realities of children, youth, and their communities to inform and strengthen health and well being, as well as improve policy, training, and practices related to enhancing disaster preparedness, disaster risk reduction, and resilience; 2) build interdisciplinary knowledge and tools that focus on effective systems and practices that support resilient communities and protect child and youth rights; 3) increase the multi-directional mobilization of knowledge among researchers and non-academic audiences through child- and youth-generated knowledge programs and other innovative means; 4) use innovative and creative approaches to research that build capacity amongst disaster management and health professionals, government policy makers, community leaders, educators, practitioners, university faculty and students; all in order to reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience among children and youth; 5) advance, at a public policy level, Alberta's programs and infrastructure to support population resiliency in disaster recovery in the long and short term; and 6) use the program of collaborative research to establish a dynamic Alberta Resilient Communities Network (ARC-N) for research training and mentorship, community capacity building and knowledge mobilization to empower children and youth as knowledge producers and agents of change.

For more information on this AIHS funded project, please see: