When someone wants to sell you something – chocolate or shampoo, for example – they present their product in a shop or on a website, and then tell you about it through advertisements on the TV, radio, in print or online. Why is this relevant, you ask? Because we should do the same for adaptation – we need to present our products and advertise in places where people who need our services will find them, rather than expecting people to come to us.
I’ve recently returned from three days at the European Climate Change Adaptation Conference in Glasgow (5-8 June) where two of the main messages I heard were:
Stakeholders really matter
More high-touch, less high-tech
What’s the best way to engage with stakeholders such as communities, business and local government? And is there an optimum time to begin that process?
After Hurricane Sandy, the New York authorities increased the scale and urgency of adaptation measures such as flood defences. At a community level, it led to an understanding and acceptance of measures that would have previously met with resistance. People recognised the need to adapt, and now.
While people are experiencing the after-effects of an extreme weather event is a good time to engage stakeholders. This needs to happen within 12 to 24 months of the event so that it is still fresh in peoples’ memories.
How do we do more high-touch – and with a small adjustment to the quote – WITH high-tech?
In my experience of working with textile and food and drink businesses in the forerunner of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Carbon Trust, I provided advice on energy efficiency, waste minimisation and water management. I walked around factories and then sat down with the management and employees to explore together how to alter processes to save money, waste and make the company more competitive – which occasionally led to the discovery of new innovations. We tailor-made solutions for a number of businesses and published the lessons learned in case studies that were shared across the sector. The sharing consisted of attending sector events, articles in the programme newsletter and trade magazines, and peer-to-peer through company open days.
As adaptation practitioners, we need to listen to users’ priorities – which may not be related to adaptation – and create tailor-made solutions that fit with their particular ways of working and strategic direction. We can learn from this process, from both the stakeholder and intermediary perspectives, and share these lessons with other communities, businesses and sectors that may have similar problems.
When UKCIP was part of the UK Climate Projections 2009 delivery team, we ran a series of training courses that were trialled, adjusted, put online, and rolled out across the country to help users make the most of the new projections – a great example of high-touch WITH high-tech.
How do you engage with stakeholders? Find out what their priorities are, and if they have been affected by extreme weather events – the long time scales of climate change are off-putting, and can be discussed later – and develop tailor-made solutions that fit with their ways of working. The ideal timing for this is within 2 years of an extreme event.
How do you get the message out? Explore from where the community, sector or local government gathers information they find useful, and share your messages in that environment, in a variety of modes – events, articles, site visits, online – and in language that they are familiar with, using terms that they know and, if needs be, translated into other languages to reach particular groups.