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SCO119 Understanding Vulnerability Assignment SUSS Sample Singapore

Vulnerabilities are at the heart of our human condition. They can be found in all populations, across borders and boundaries–even within organizations! Designed for students who want to better understand vulnerability-based policies as well as how they affect individuals on an individual level or systemically with society wide implications (like climate change), this course will help you identify different types of vulnerabilities caused by demographic groups like disadvantaged visible/invisibles populations that exist because there is poverty; those created due to precarious conditions resulting from economic uncertainty such as sharing housing, being homeless, working in the informal sector; and those due to lack of access to essential services or social protection measures.

The course, “Understanding Vulnerabilities” will help you identify different types of vulnerabilities and their causes. It also makes connections between individual system vulnerabilities such as demographics in disadvantaged populations or those affected due to climate change–and countries at risk for territorial conflicts.

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At the end of this course, Singaporean students will have taken their first steps towards achieving career success in SCO119 Understanding Vulnerability Assessment. They’ll be able to do by solving following questions: 

Assignment Activity 1: Define key concepts related to vulnerability.

Vulnerability is a topic that gets at the core of what it means to be human, and how we react to the world around us. It’s something that has been studied for centuries by various philosophers– from Albert Camus who used his own experiences as a profound introspective analogy, to psychologists like Brene Brown, who shared the stories of her research with Oprah Magazine. Brown primarily investigates vulnerability through three main concepts: 

“”Self-judgment” – feeling aware about your flaws and inadequacies; “Self-doubt” – having lost confidence in yourself or your judgments; “Shame” – believing you are unacceptable.” 

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It can seem daunting as well as risky to explore vulnerability because there really seems no clear reward to it. As William Deresiewicz points out in his essay, “Solitude & Leadership” , being vulnerable is not some sort of guarantee that you’ll always get what you want or be successful. It’s a vulnerable process that can build stronger personal relationships while at the same time making life seem more difficult.

Assignment Activity 2: Describe the characteristics of vulnerable individuals, groups, organizations or societies.

Vulnerable populations share the following traits: lack of economic and social resources, institutional discrimination in schools and/or with law enforcement, history of high rates of incarceration and poor health.

The potential for vulnerability is different depending on race, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, class background and ability. In some situations a combination of these factors puts people at heightened risk for exploitation or abuse by violent offenders. Sadly the list below isn’t exhaustive – your community needs you to be its eyes and ears when it comes to preventing vulnerable populations from being victimized or taken advantage of during this difficult time due to natural disasters including fire disasters later down south today.

Expect to see increased homelessness, panhandling and shoplifting. Vulnerable populations may be exploited or abused by violent offenders. They may attempt to sell false documents, steal from other evacuees/relief workers, etc.

Assignment Activity 3: Interpret individual and system vulnerability with the perspective of social networks.

Individual and system vulnerability depends on one’s attachment to their social network. 

Isolation may not threaten the individual as much as it does at risk systems such as refugee populations. Protective behaviours can come from those with whom they have a solid relationship, such as family, friends or others that give them motivation and purpose in life. These people can help their “at-risk” person navigate through difficult times if they are threatened by violence or natural disaster for example. Without peers who are living an alternative lifestyle, one has little to no resilience when confronted by violence or natural disasters that threaten the security of their food supply, safety net for emergencies, health care facilities or other supportive institutions which provide essentials within society. Patriarchal power structures often punish women for being autonomous, which can lead to isolation.

Assignment Activity 4: Identify the key features of vulnerable groups with different social and cultural settings

Vulnerable populations are classified into vulnerable groups. However, what is remarkable about them is that while they share many social and cultural settings, members of these groups also have different levels of power, protection and resources. The key features, or phases in the vulnerability cycle are: 

  • Initial situation before vulnerability begins 
  • Pushing people into vulnerabilities 
  • Exponentially growing vulnerabilities 
  • Increasing external pressures to not respond to vulnerabilities 
  • Sensitivity and responsiveness of the environment to exploitation 
  • Slipping into a state of chronic violence and permanent vulnerability.

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The main vulnerabilities that individuals face are: poverty, mental and physical illnesses, illiteracy, poor living conditions and disabilities among others. The more vulnerable situations one is exposed to, the more likely they will be affected.

Assignment Activity 5: Demonstrate the networks of vulnerable groups in the contexts of social issues in Singapore or across countries.

The implications of vulnerability are not limited to the individual. The individual’s vulnerable status is impacted by the particular context (family, generation, community) and specific social issue faced (racism, sexism). Vulnerable groups emerge from families with abusive parents; sexual exploitation; drug addiction; and armed conflict. There are also systemic vulnerabilities that exist across contexts and communities where labeling and “policing” minorities create vulnerabilities such as poverty, immigration violations, housing instability among others.

These groupings often differentiate those who experience vulnerability because of shared similar experiences as well as those who experience it at different levels due to shared or differing factors such as race, gender orientation etc., these intersections among groups can confuse our understanding of power hierarchies and vulnerability.

The collective may be vulnerable to exploitation from outside forces, but if they are able to mobilize and properly leverage their power within a dominant system, they can gain access to resources that would otherwise remain unavailable. This is the community’s perspective on how best to address a given issue- a perspective that is often shared with those who may not be in the group, but who are sympathetic to their cause.

Assignment Activity 6: Illustrate how a resilient infrastructure network can recover from an attack.

To illustrate how a resilient infrastructure network can recover from an attack, let’s look at the water distribution system. In a hypothetical town that needs to keep 3,000 gallons of water per day in stock, 10% of this amount will be lost from leaking pipes and from seeping through seams in rusty pipes. This leaves these 3,000 gallons plus 1,700 gallons left to distribute. If a small-scale weapon attacks one pipe containing 30% of the total supply enough so that it is permanently compromised without affecting its other resources, then while it will have reduced the overall water supply by 1/3rd, the vast majority – 2/3rds or above 1 million tons – will be unaffected due to redundancy built into the water distribution network.

A resilient infrastructure ensures that critical services can continue to be delivered in the event of an attack or other incident. By incorporating multiple redundancies and alternate paths into the design of essential systems, a high degree of reliability can be achieved. This allows key services to remain operational even if individual components are damaged or destroyed.

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