November 2019: Kick-Off Conference on ‘Creeping Crises’

Detecting Creeping Crises: Mapping challenges and designing strategies

Stockholm, 7-8 November 2019

The European Societal Security Research Group (Arjen Boin, Leiden University, Magnus Ekengren,
Swedish Defence University & Mark Rhinard, Swedish Institute of International Affairs) is pleased to invite you to a workshop on Thursday 7 (12.00-18.00) and Friday 8 November (09.00-13.00) at the Swedish Defence University on Detecting Creeping Crises: Mapping challenges and designing strategies. In recent years, both practitioners and scholars have become increasingly aware of the impact that so-called creeping crises exert on modern society. These are crises that simmer under the radar to suddenly and unexpectedly explode in the societal domain. They can be of transboundary nature (think of Europe’s immigration crisis or the financial crisis) or entirely “home grown” (forest fires or a measles epidemic). Policy analysts and politicians typically try to imagine which issue may become politically relevant in the short run. But there are many issues to choose from. Climate change is an obvious candidate. Some will point to rising inequality. Or the loosening of financial regulations, weakening control over a complex sector. But how about intensive agriculture, creating breeding grounds for new diseases? How about the clogging of European airspace, which may give rise to air disasters? How about the growth of mega-cities or the Internet of Things?

Many slow-moving developments may contain the seeds for future crises – but these are also the
developments that are tied to relentless modernization so typical of our time. In hindsight, these creeping crises often appear to be self-announcing, leaving a trail of signals of impending
arrival. Practitioners are confronted not just with a complex crisis to manage, but also with immediate accusations that they ignored signals of emerging crises. Creeping crises are often hard to detect, however. They emerge and take shape in hidden corners of the social and technical spaces that make up modern society. The complexity of modern society and its subsystems
makes these crises hard to detect, trace and contain. Practitioners need the knowledge to formulate evidence-based strategies in order to prepare our societies for these creeping crises.

But first we must conceptualize what creeping crises are and what challenges they present. This workshop brings together experienced policymakers with academic experts to investigate where creeping crises originate and how they propagate into full-blown crises. It explores if and how these crises can be detected and how they may be stopped. The answers to these questions can inform strategy formulation with regard to the processes and structures needed to address this threat type.

Against this background we invite participants of this workshop – practitioners and academics – to share their insights and experience to deepen our understanding of the creeping crisis. This will help to formulate a research agenda that will address open questions.

Attendance is limited, so please confirm your participation no later than 30 August by email to Anna Höggren at the Swedish Defence University (

The ‘Creeping Crises’ project website is now up and running. Click here to find it.