Social capital and institutional complexity in Svalbard: the case of avalanche disaster management Academic Article uri icon


  • PurposeResilience can be understood as the ability of communities to adapt to disturbances in a way that reduces chronic vulnerability and promotes growth. Disaster scholars assert that resilience is developed through a set of adaptive capacities across multiple domains, including society, the economy, the built and natural environments, and sociopolitical institutions. These adaptive capacities have been thought to be networked, but little is known about how they are connected. The authors explore how institutional capacity and social capital intersect to influence change adaptation, using a case from the Artic: Longyearbyen in the Svalbard archipelago.Design/methodology/approachThe authors use case study methods that integrate original interviews of Longyearbyen residents with news articles and public documents to analyze emergent themes related to institutional capacity, social capital and disaster risk reduction.FindingsAnalyses reveal that implementation gaps in hazard and disaster programs and policies, coupled with high turnover of staff in key positions, have created accountability issues indicative of low institutional capacity and weak social capital between the public and government. Additionally, high turnover of the population of the community, within the context of the legacy as a mining company town, is accompanied by social divisions and low trust between diverse cultural groups in the community. This lack of social capital provides little support for institutional capacity to effectively mitigate risk posed by climate change.Originality/valueThis study illuminates institutional capacity building needs directly related to disaster resilience for cases of complex institutional arrangements and developing democracy.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Tiller, R. G., Ross, A. D., & Nyman, E.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Tiller, Rachel Gjelsvik||Ross, Ashley D||Nyman, Elizabeth

publication date

  • August 2022