Diverging sensemaking frames during the initial phases of the COVID-19 outbreak in Denmark

Olivier Rubin*, Daniel de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Abstract

The article draws on the Cynefin framework to illuminate how distinct sensemaking boundaries appeared to co-exist among the two main group of actors, health experts and political leaders, during the crucial early response phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in Denmark. The Danish government was in a chaotic sensemaking frame where major decisions needed to be made fast to avoid an impending disaster, and where scientific evidence was not pivotal to the decision-making process. The leading health authorities, on the other hand, appeared to be in a complicated sensemaking frame where evidence-based decision-making was still the modus operandum, and where policy recommendations were continuously reassessed in light of new scientific data. These two sensemaking frames clashed both publicly and internally, exposing a lack of understanding and communication across different sensemaking frames. Based on the analysis, we recommend two overarching initiatives to bridge contradictory sensemaking boundaries in times of major crises: (i) training in identifying and acknowledging different sensemaking frames; (ii) communication strategies that are sensitive to the sensemaking frames of other actors in the decision-making process.
Original languageEnglish
Journal Policy Design and Practice
Volume3
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)277-296
Number of pages20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2020

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