Soft targets are often defined as places or events that are vulnerable to attacks because they have low levels of security and high concentrations of people. Examples of soft targets include hotels, malls, schools, concerts, and sporting events. However, this definition may be too narrow and overlook the potential for resilience and adaptation among soft targets. In this post, I will propose a stewardship approach to rethinking the soft target, which emphasizes the role of human agency, social capital, and collective action in enhancing the security and safety of soft targets.
A stewardship approach is based on the idea that soft targets are not passive or helpless victims of violence, but rather active and responsible actors who can shape their own destiny. Stewardship implies a sense of ownership, care, and responsibility for the well-being of oneself and others. It also implies a willingness to collaborate and cooperate with other stakeholders, such as the government, the private sector, and the civil society, to achieve common goals. A stewardship approach recognizes that soft targets have valuable assets and resources that can be mobilized and leveraged to prevent, mitigate, and recover from attacks.
Some of the assets and resources that soft targets can use to enhance their security and safety include:

  • Physical infrastructure: Soft targets can invest in physical security measures, such as barriers, locks, cameras, alarms, and lighting, to deter and detect potential attackers. They can also design and maintain their facilities in ways that reduce the impact of attacks, such as by creating multiple exits, hiding places, and safe zones, and by minimizing the use of flammable or explosive materials.
  • Human capital: Soft targets can train and educate their staff, customers, and visitors on how to respond to emergencies, such as by following evacuation procedures, reporting suspicious activities, and providing first aid. They can also foster a culture of security awareness and vigilance among their members, and encourage them to report any concerns or incidents to the authorities.
  • Social capital: Soft targets can build and maintain strong relationships and networks with other soft targets, as well as with the government, the private sector, and the civil society. These relationships and networks can facilitate the exchange of information, best practices, and resources, and enhance the coordination and collaboration among different actors. They can also create a sense of solidarity and trust among soft targets, and foster a collective identity and voice.
  • Psychological capital: Soft targets can develop and promote a positive and resilient mindset among their members, which can help them cope with stress, trauma, and fear. They can also provide psychological support and counseling to their members, and help them recover from the emotional and mental impacts of attacks. They can also celebrate and honor the victims and heroes of attacks, and use their stories to inspire and motivate others.

By adopting a stewardship approach, soft targets can transform themselves from being vulnerable and exposed to being resilient and empowered. They can also contribute to the overall security and safety of the society, and become part of the solution rather than part of the problem. A stewardship approach is not a substitute for the role of the government or the private sector in providing security and safety, but rather a complement and a partner. By working together, all stakeholders can create a more secure and safe environment for everyone.