Dr Liza van der Merwe
3 October 2019
Liza developed a conceptual framework for resilient essential services which highlights that essential service delivery requires a tight interplay between resilience in social and technical infrastructure, along with capabilities for specified and general resilience. This framework highlights required domains of resilience within the complex adaptive socio-technical system responsible to produce and deliver essential services. This is in contrast to the normal emphasis of utility resilience on critical infrastructure resilience. While engineering approaches can be used to enhance the robustness of infrastructure and flexibility of technology systems, in severe disruption these are unlikely to function far outside its envelope of safe operations. However, the social component of the socio-technical system can be either the strongest resilience resource, or the weakest link, to navigate extreme events. For this reason, approaches to formatively build resilience in the social fabric of essential service organizations are urgently needed. Liza’s PhD dissertation uses the implications of complexity thinking and resilience thinking to investigate approaches to assess and build the resilience of the embedded social resources required to ensure resilient essential service delivery. The objectives of the study were addressed through four research papers to: develop a conceptual framework for assessing resilience of essential services; pilot two methods for assessing and building resilience (through a principle-based formative assessment approach and a narrative-based sensemaking approach); and to describe the SenseMaker® methodology, as it is increasingly utilized in academic research. The findings from this study advance conceptual and methodological aspects of resilience assessments, and may assist a wide range of actors seeking to assess and build the resilience of essential service delivery in socio-technical systems. Liza has a background in Computer Science and Mathematics. She designed spatial decision support systems in areas of environmental, asset and risk management. She came to appreciate the need to balance social and technical considerations through her experience and post-grad studies in GIS and technology management. She developed the Transmission Spatial Information System using a bottom-up approach. As a systems owner, she sought to spatially enable leaders for improved effectiveness. Later on Liza was drawn to enterprise resilience, and asked to perform resilience assessments. She embarked on a PhD learning journey to match this challenge. She compiled Eskom’s first integrated disaster management plans, and established cycles of formative and summative resilience assessments, which adaptively shape the focus and key performance indicators of Eskom’s Enterprise Resilience Programme. She has a keen interest on the implications of complexity to build and assess resilience within the essential service industry, particularly to promote general social resilience.