EU-Australia knowledge exchange event: Services and science supporting climate action

Submitted by Julia Barrott | published 17th Apr 2020 | last updated 30th Jun 2020

Introduction

Web-based platforms are an effective means of presenting knowledge to support decision making. Yet their evolution needs to balance the experience, needs and capacities of users such as policymakers and practitioners, the availability of relevant, usable and legitimate knowledge based on the science, and the resources available for platform development.

Within the Strategic Partnerships for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (SPIPA) programme, the Stepping-Up Knowledge Exchange between Climate Adaptation Knowledge Platforms (KE4CAP) project is facilitating knowledge exchange between Europe and other G20 countries. The aim is to advance cooperation and learning with respect to using web-based platforms to support climate adaptation planning and action.

The first of three KE4CAP bilateral knowledge exchange (BKE) events was held with Australia in Melbourne, 3-5 March 2020; others are planned with Canada and Japan in 2020 and 2021. 

The deliberations during this BKE event identified learnings that could inform both European and Australian efforts. Although the current state of platform delivery of climate services is less mature in Australia, the discussions and exchanges provided opportunities to learn from each other. 

This report summarises deliberations during the EU and Australia bilateral knowledge exchange event and learning from the pespective of the KE4CAP project, with an emphasis on:

  • Indications of value added from using web-based platforms; defining the value proposition 
  • Specific challenges and lessons learnt towards enhancing value, including governance, business models and user engagement
  • Other challenges and opportunities for knowledge exchange
  • Thematic analysis (see section in full text)
  • Lessons learnt for subsequent KE4CAP activities (see section in full text)

A separate workshop report capturing learning from an Australian perspective is available from our Australian hosts, the National Environmental Science Program, the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub and CSIRO (Navigating Climate Change Mission): Platform-based science and services supporting climate action (May, 2020).

This article summarises some of the key discussions and lessons from the meeting. See the full report (download from right-hand column) for details.

Lessons Learnt

Defining the value proposition for web-based platforms

Like many other countries, there does not exist within Australia a clear and agreed value proposition supporting web-based climate knowledge platforms and associated capabilities, products and services.

Framing of such a value proposition was seen as critical and it was suggested it should be based on:

  • a core Australian platform supported by an ecosystem of an aligned / integrated set of differentiated platforms tailored to specific needs;
  • delivering value to all users in terms of socio-economic and environmental well-being and other benefits;
  • integrating scientific and knowledge exchange capabilities across disciplines and different sources to co-design, develop and deliver a platform ecosystem capability with and for the diverse spectrum of users.

Focusing on a goal of a well-adapting and climate resilient Australia, elements that could be reflected within a value proposition include the:

  • capability to co-design and co-produce information, data and associated knowledge for all Australians;
  • establishing and sustaining a national climate service capability that is able to support users on their journey towards becoming well-adapting and climate resilient; and
  • then need to go beyond simply facilitating access to climate data and increasing awareness to supporting pathways to action.

The value proposition should:

  • be double-sided in that it has legitimacy and weight within both the science and policy/practice (user) communities and includes recognition of the net benefits of both science-based evidence and of policy and practical actions;
  • be co-established between providers and the different user (including purveyor) communities, potentially leading to multiple but interlinked versions of the value proposition each targeting different user communities;
  • reflect the value arising from linking and consolidating existing initiatives and investments and enabling the integration of additional activities and continued improvements at national and sub-national levels across multiple sectors;
  • be put forward by the intended users to increase its legitimacy and credibility;
  • be based on the demonstrable value added from such platforms, articulated in a manner that is meaningful to those intended users; and
  • be based on added value that includes providing on-going and trusted decision support through ready access to appropriate information and knowledge needed to inform decision-making for climate action, including for climate risk assessment and climate resilient investments.

A key point made during discussions relates to the scope of the effort and resources required. European national platforms have shown that progress can be made through a strategically targeted and phased approach, even with limited resources. Crucial to success and sustainability are nurturing, building and demonstrating support for these initial and phased efforts by engaging early and working with the intended users, providers, purveyors and other stakeholders.

Specific challenges and lessons learnt towards enhancing value

Governance, business models, including defining a value proposition, and enhancing user engagement were identified as key challenges for Australia. Australia aspires to be a global leader in using scientific knowledge, data and information to inform decision-making and support climate action, but questions are being asked by stakeholders as to ’who, what and how’ and potential next steps. These questions are particularly important considering the existing and emerging governance and political and economic contexts within Australia, as well as the currently fragmented and, although not necessarily intended, competitive rather than coordinated and complementary, ‘platform landscape’. 

Governance

In Australia, there is no central strategy or ‘roadmap’ for developing, resourcing and coordinating a national climate service capability. This has created a market with:

  • A supply side that is fragmented and uncoordinated, with a proliferation of platforms delivered by a variety of sources and with mixed credibility, relevance, quality assurance and utility.
  • A demand side that is rapidly emerging and hungry for access to core and differentiated products and services tailored to a variety of user needs and capabilities. 

A key challenge is how to draw on, translate and make available the results of decades of research investments (a significant strength in Australia) to inform services and enhance utilisation, and how to break down existing silos to equip decision makers with coherent and complementary knowledge and decision support tools.  It was suggested that addressing this challenge would require active, agile, inclusive governance that enables stakeholder engagement, is inclusive and harmonised across multiple stakeholders and elevates users within the governance structure. As such, some form of interjurisdictional-participatory governance mechanism is required. 

An essential element of the required governance is leadership, more than just organisational leadership, but a requirement for overarching, convening leadership to drive agreement on the development of a web-based platform ecosystem. 

A critical need is to map and engage the diverse range of stakeholders (providers, purveyors, funders and users) to provide a clear and comprehensive understanding of current capabilities and activities across Australia, and the basis for exploring how they are, and could be better linked and increasing the likelihood that new initiatives would have increased coherence, encourage synergy and avoid duplication of effort. An initial phase of this mapping is underway.

Business Models

There is a need for innovative business models consistent with the existing and evolving platform ecosystem, supporting both public and private-facing web-based platforms and the associated capabilities, services and products, and facilitating access to funds to support the core infrastructure and sciences on which they rely. Such models need to be: 

  • flexible (consistent with the evolving landscape) and supportive of the necessary transition so that they can enable the development of strategic alliances with critical sector organisations and consultancies which would bring additional intelligence, capabilities and capacity from their respective sectors; and
  • consistent with the need for services to be decision-driven and science-informed and enable partnering with consultants and the third sector to meet the needs of both private and public users as well as new and emerging stakeholders such as Indigenous communities.

Business models require a better understanding as to what the core (typically public value) and differentiated (often private-for-profit) products and services are, and the means of identifying and resourcing the underlying infrastructure and science. Establishing and sustaining these aspects can be challenging if the business model is dominated by seeking revenue or public value is minimised in favour of private benefit. A business model that values both public good and private benefit is needed to enhance collaboration and coordination across these two domains. The value proposition for climate services (see above) is critical.

When considering both governance and business models together, an option that received particular attention was a ‘shopping centre’ analogy in which the platform ecosystem (shops with a concierge at the front) recognises and reflects the different needs and capacities of users, providers and purveyors (basic superstores vs. specialist outlets). A challenge noted with this option is the need for an effective way of converting uses and funders. - see full text for further explanation.

User Engagement

Co-design and co-development approaches are generally not well understood and under-used within the existing user-provider nexus in Australia. This in part arises from a lack of willingness and ability of both users and providers to invest time and effort throughout the product and service development process. This could be addressed through building capacity and engendering innovations in stakeholder engagement.

There is a clear recognition that user engagement is critical for generating user buy-in, particularly in terms of reflecting on the users' journeys when designing, developing and subsequently evaluating web-based platforms and building user capability and trust. The current focus on engagement between the science community and the finance/investment sector in Australia is a case in point (see full text).

A key advantage in Australia is the potential for the active engagement of Traditional Owners in developing information and knowledge supporting climate action. In particular, embedding traditional knowledge to enrich that provided by the science community, and enhancing the engagement of these communities in local through to international climate action initiatives.

A particular aspect for which co-design and co-development is seen as being critical is in efforts related to defining and developing standards and QA/QC approaches, the lack of which is limiting acceptance of outputs by industry and government regulators. The need for transparency, comparability, traceability and credibility calls for user engagement to inform the process, but also a central authoritative body to establish (potentially through a phased approach) and maintain agreed processes.

It was also suggested that existing nationally relevant case studies demonstrating the results and value of user engagement in Australia, along with a broader set of enablers such as knowledge-brokering and communities of practice can provide learning and capacity building opportunities. Such case studies should be based on the experiences of the user community (rather than just the scientific community) to promote peer-to-peer learning.

Other challenges and opportunities for knowledge exchange

As is the case in Europe, there are similarities and difference between the scope, governance, business models, content and functionalities of web-based climate knowledge platforms comprising the current landscape. Coincident with this is the significant capacity and enthusiasm within the science, service and user communities (as demonstrated during this EU-Australia BKE event and earlier events in Europe) to deliver a coherent and coordinated capability at the national, sub-national and sectoral levels. Together, these could be seen as offering opportunities for shared learning and for developing a deeper understanding of how to enhance contributions from web-based knowledge platforms to supporting climate action (resilience, adaptation and mitigation).

The following points refer to specific areas where the deliberations during, and reflections following, the EU-Australia BKE workshop suggest potential areas for increasing understanding and mutual learning:

  • a greater focus in Australia on providing climate data and resources to support disaster risk reduction and climate resilience and on supporting the private sector (e.g. the financial and investment sector to meet requirements 
  • Sharing challenges related to enhancing the pull for climate services and maintaining both policy and practice relevance through the offerings on the platform.
  • Exploring a network style of governance that is more than a transactional activity but based on wider framing that considers the associated social architecture and designed to be based on a participatory governance system involving users, providers, purveyors and funders.

Deliberations within this BKE event highlighted other challenges that warrant further consideration:

  • Identifying an appropriate digital (web-based) and domain (people-based) balance as having a respected, quality on-line resource is necessary but often insufficient in terms of enabling action.
  • Exploring means of reconciling challenges posed by differences between users’ expectations and science capabilities, and by the need to merge with non-climate data/information (e.g. exposure and vulnerability) when identifying and assessing risk and adaptation/resilience responses.
  • Exploring means of positioning new and existing platforms in an opportunity framing, adopting and implementing an adaptive approach up front to ensure platforms can evolve to build resilience both now and into the future as needs and other salient circumstances inevitably change.