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A social identity perspective on interoperability in the emergency services: Emergency responders' experiences of multiagency working during the COVID-19 response in the UK

Publication date: 

26 Dec 2022


Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, Volume31, Issue3 September 2023 Pages 353-371


Davidson L, Carter H, Amlôt R, Drury J, Haslam SA, Radburn M and Stott C

Publication type: 



Abstract Recent research has shown that multiagency emergency response is beset by a range of challenges, calling for a greater understanding of the way in which these teams work together to improve future multiagency working. Social psychological research shows that a shared identity within a group can improve the way in which that group works together and can facilitate effective outcomes. In the present study, 52 semistructured interviews were conducted with 17 strategic and/or tactical responders during the COVID-19 pandemic to understand the possible role of shared identity in the multiagency response to COVID-19 and whether this was linked to factors that facilitated or challenged interoperability. Findings show evidence of a shared identity at a horizontal intergroup level among responders locally. However, there was limited evidence for a shared identity at the vertical intergroup level between local and national responders. Three key factors linked to shared identity appeared to contribute to effective multiagency working. First, pre-existing relationships with other responders facilitated the ease with which responders were able to work together initially. Second, a sense of ‘common fate’ helped bring responders together, and finally, group leaders were able to strategically reinforce a sense of shared identity within the group.