Social Network Pespective of Construction Project Resilience: History
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For construction projects, resilience is the process of resisting and recovering from adversity. With the global economic and social environment constantly changing, improving the resilience of construction projects has become a research hotspot in the field of project management.

  • project resilience
  • organization behavior
  • social network

1. Introduction

Affected by adverse events that are difficult to predict or prepare for in advance, such as the outbreak of COVID-19 and the consequent global political and economic turbulence, organizations often suffer disruptive shocks such as business process disruption and loss of performance [1][2]. These outcomes have quickly led to efforts to understand the trend that organizations are more effective at responding to and recovering from adversity, that is, showing resilience [3][4]. At a time of increasing uncertainty, understanding the resilience of project-based organizations in complex and changing internal and external environments has become a core issue in project management [5]. Here it was focused on the organization resilience of temporary projects represented by construction projects, which are highly likely to be affected by external events and are of great importance to socio-economic development [6][7][8].
In the field of management, research on resilience is generally divided into three levels: individual resilience, team resilience, and organizational resilience [9][10][11]. In more regular and stable environments, resilience at different levels has been observed to help improve one’s own performance, promote collaboration, enhance cohesion, and achieve performance recovery and maintenance [12]. However, it was known little about how it operates in a project-based environment and what mechanisms might contribute to such a valuable project state. This is because the construction project could not be simply regarded as a work team or organization; it often involves the collaboration of multiple participants, and is a temporary system composed of multiple teams or organizations for specific construction tasks, with the characteristics of heterogeneity and loose coupling [13][14]. Despite this, the study of resilience in construction projects needs to be further expanded. To fully consider the characteristics of the project system itself, it is necessary to consider both the integrity of the project system and the coordination of all participating units within the project. Therefore, one of the tasks is to explore how resilience changes when project systems encounter a crisis within a comprehensive theoretical framework.
Social capital theory makes it possible to study resilience in the context of construction projects [15]. Social capital refers to the value of an individual’s or social unit’s position in an organizational structure [16]. It refers to the accumulation of behaviors and norms that make members of a group support each other. In projects, social capital exists in the interpersonal structure of the project life cycle [17]. It brings additional benefits to the project through constant, positive interaction between members [18]. Therefore, understanding project system social capital helps to better define and discuss resilience. Of course, social capital such as cohesion and trust are not exactly the same as resilience, but they are certainly some manifestations of resilience. As described in the study of [19], resilience is largely a social process that is fundamentally shaped by the relationships between the components of an organization. Therefore, according to the social capital theory, it was proposed that the resilience of construction projects is based on the process of resisting adverse impact and realizing recovery reflected by the accumulation of project social capital, which can be described through the measurement of social capital. Under this concept, project resilience is broken down into the different effects of social capital. Therefore, it was explained that the mechanism of project resilience by investigating several key social capitals and establish a project resilience measurement system under the theoretical framework of social capital.

2. Construction Project Resilience

As COVID-19 brings about the sustained development of global economic, political, and social instability, studies on the resilience of various social systems are gaining popularity and attention [20]. Existing conceptualization studies suggest that resilience can be defined by adopting a process or capacity perspective [21][22], focusing on resilience-related coordination activities or states and resources that resilient organizations can develop, respectively. Similarly, scholars have distinguished different manifestations of resilience, including predicting adverse events, reducing the perturbation of adverse events, or recovering from failure [23][24]. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of resilience should include the processes and capacity that enable organizations to anticipate and manage adversity, which can be combined into four complementary dimensions: crisis prediction, crisis management, rebound recovery, and reverse improvement [25].
At present, a systematic research system on resilience has been formed, which can be divided into individual resilience, team resilience, and organizational resilience at the research level. The research objects include the antecedents, processes, and results of resilience [26]. However, project resilience is still a relatively new concept, and although publications on it are increasing, there is still conceptual debate as to whether project resilience should be considered as a capacity or a process [27].
From the perspective of capacity, Turner and Kutsch [28] proposed an interpretation of project resilience, defining it as the art of detecting changes in the project environment, understanding these changes, planning answers, minimizing damage when changes occur, and adapting to new realities. Giezen [29] put forward the concepts of prevention, response, and adaptation in their definition of project resilience, and also mentioned two types of project resilience: Passive resilience and active resilience. In all of these studies, project resilience takes a capacity perspective.
The process perspective sees project resilience as a long-term strategy to deal with complexity and risk. Williams et al. [22] believed that resilience is a process in which individuals or groups avoid the tendency to react negatively to challenging situations and maintain positive adjustment or coping. Similarly, Crosby [30] points out that resilience is the process of managing risk, crisis, or contingencies. Another group of studies, starting with project teams, views resilience as a collective construct, including “an interactive, coordinated, and collaborative team interaction process that describes the actual behavior of teams in coping with adversity” [31][32].
Due to different research objects and focuses, and different research methods [33], empirical studies rarely integrate the process perspective and capacity perspective into the same research. Researchers select one of the perspectives according to the research purpose and the theoretical contribution they are trying to make [34]. It was used a process perspective (i.e., project resilience as the whole process of recovery from disaster) to construct meaningful theories and conduct reasonable in-depth research. As Kahn’s research shows, resilience stems from the relationships between the components of a system and is a social process. Therefore, it was defined that the project resilience as the whole process in which the positive interaction between component units enables the project collective to withstand shocks, cope with challenges, and recover.

3. Social Capital: A Theoretical Framework

Consistent with previous studies based on organizational relationships and structure [35], it was proposed the use of social capital theory to study the resilience of building projects. Social capital has been studied in different areas of social, economic, and political science, creating a wealth of definitions and characterizations of its characteristics [36]. Different researchers distinguish social capital by the context, form, possible use, and group of interactions. Bourdieu [37] proposed the most widely accepted and applied concept of social capital, believing that social capital is the total amount of actual or potential resources obtained through the relationship network, that is, social network is social capital. Coleman [38] defined social capital as a kind of social structural resource from a macroperspective, which is the relationship of responsibility, expectation, trust, and power between individuals or groups. He believed that various exchanges based on the interests of different actors in the social network form a continuous social relationship, which is social resource and social capital. Portes [39] also proposed that social capital is a special connection attached to social relations and an expression of ability. Burt [40] believes that structural hole is social capital and the ultimate competitive advantage of enterprises and other economic activity subjects. Finally, Lin’s [41] discussion on social capital represents the general consensus of theoretical research on social capital. In his view, social capital is the investment of rewarding resources embedded in social networks.
In addition, there are many research angles on social capital theory. In sociology, Carrillo et al. [42] argue that social capital is the most important indicator of family health. In terms of enterprise management, Harris et al. [43] tested the effect of coordination between human capital and social capital on enterprise performance. In the field of policy research, Muringani et al. [44] found that different types of social capital have different incentive effects on European economic development, thus adjusting economic policies.
Of course, there are contradictions between different schools of study on social capital theory. One of the principal contradictions is that between the individual and the collective. Burt and Lin regard social capital as individual capital, which is acquired based on people’s action network. However, in Bourdieu and Coleman’s study, social capital can be acquired in groups. The two views are not completely opposite fundamentally. The individual is embedded in the collective, and the collective is embedded in the larger social network. Therefore, it is based on Bourdieu’s view to identify collective social capital at the project level but also combines Burt’s network-based analysis method. Based on the view that resilience emerges due to the interaction of each unit of the system, it was believed that the process of project resilience can be represented by the change in social capital, and try to summarize the process of project resilience by measuring the change in social capital in each phase of the project network under adversity.

4. Social Network Analysis: A Computing System

Social network analysis (SNA) is a quantitative analysis method based on graph theory and mathematical symbols [45]. In SNA, a social network is a collection of social actors as nodes and relationships between nodes as edges [46]. Its essence provides a mathematical method to evaluate the impact of the embeddedness of nodes and related actors in the social network on their behavior and decision-making results [47][48].
The social capital available to actors of a group is integrated into their social networks [49]. In other words, social capital lies in actors’ social relationships and network positions. Therefore, using SNA to research social capital is a feasible method. One dominant view is that the connections made between network actors form the basis of social capital [50]. This view is strongly influenced by network theory.
Some progress has been made in the measurement of social capital based on SNA [49]. On the one hand, some researchers have constructed social network capital measurement scales and considered the measurement results as social capital [51]. These scales have been used in a large number of surveys, using surveys or questionnaires as data collection tools. On the other hand, some researchers use SNA to measure social capital, which is measured by the description of network genus [52]. It was provided us with the possibility to review the resilience capital of construction projects.
For a long time, construction projects have been considered as temporary organizations involving multiple participants [53]. One theoretical bridge to using SNA in construction is to view a construction project as a set of networks [54]. By taking the key actors in the construction project as nodes and the relationship between actors as connections, it can be quantitatively analyzed the cooperation ability of the project organization and implement effective project network management [55][56][57].

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/buildings12060822


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