Lessons and practice of co-developing climate services with users

Submitted by Sam Woor 16th November 2018 15:08
codevelopment of climate knowledge

Schematic of three broad categories of engagement between users and providers of climate services (figure 2, page 6 of the report; Hewitt et al., 2017).

Introduction

This report* shares experiences and summarises lessons learned from Climateurope (www.climateurope.eu) project partners HZG, RHMSS, Met Office, Imperial College and BSC on how to foster co-development of climate services (CS) between providers and users, and highlights good practice for user engagement and effective communication of science to decision- and policy-makers.

This report describes not only the good practices in co-developing CS between providers and users, but also focuses on the challenges encountered by continuous multi-stakeholder engagement. The lessons learned of co-developing CS with users are given at the end of the report, in the form of selected case studies. The case study services include:

  • RESILIENCE, a user-friendly tool for the wind energy sector that produces information of the future variability in wind power resources based on probabilistic climate predictions. 
  • Seasonal Hurricane Predictions, an online platform that brings together predictions from different centres that specialise in Atlantic hurricane prediction (universities, private entities and government agencies).
  • Oasis Hub Ltd, an on-line aggregator and conduit for the most advanced and accurate catastrophe, environmental and climate change data, tools and services from both the private and public sectors.
  • The CLIPC portal, which provides access to climate information of direct relevance to a wide variety of users, catering for consultant advisers, policy makers, private sector decision makers and scientists, but also interested members of the general public.
  • GERICS Adaptation toolkit for cities (Stadtbaukasten), an individually applicable advisory service for sustainable adaptation to climate impacts.
  • GERICS Adaptation toolkit for companies (Unternehmensbaukasten), a prototype product that supports decision makers in the private sector in identifying, developing and implementing effective policies regarding adaptation to climate change.
  • Climate Impact (Adaptation) Atlas for spatial planning in the Netherlands, which supports actors to factor in heavy rainfall, periods of drought and heat, and the impact of potential floods in spatial planning.
  • SEERISK, a transnational project funded by the South-East Europe Transnational Cooperation Programme. 
  • OrientGate, which aims to communicate up-to-date climate knowledge for the benefit of policy makers, including urban planners, nature protection authorities, regional and local development agencies, and territorial and public works authorities.

*Download the full report from the right-hand column. The summary below provides highlights only - see the full text for much more detail.

Barriers for co-development and the ways to overcome it

Alongside the many advantages that it presents, co-development of climate services with different user groups might not always be easy, in particular when it comes to the integration of climate information into planning processes and decision-making.

The stimulants and barriers of user engagement for CS were mentioned in the internal report of the ECLISE project and are summarised in the following table:


Responses to the question “what were the most important stimulants or barriers to your involvement?" (table 4 of the report, page 28).

These results show that most barriers are related to lack of time and resources, or limited expertise in the topic. At the same time, the main stimulant for users for being involved in ECLISE was the opportunity to gain knowledge about climate change.

Furthermore, the recommendations of the providers show that frequent contact and an active involvement of the user from the beginning of the project is very important.

Evaluation of Climate Services via “user interaction”

‘User interaction’ and ‘usability’ were used as indicators to evaluate the success of the climate services in the EU FP7 ECLISE project (www.eclise-project.eu). The user communities were mainly determined by decision makers from businesses, local and regional authorities. The success of ECLISE was evaluated based on the criteria shown in Figure 10 on page 29 of the report:

  • “Interaction” was suggested  to show the degree to which the users have been involved in the problem formulation, research design and in the analysis of the findings. Evaluation was based not only on the frequency of the interaction, but also on the involvement of the process of both parties and the understanding of each other.
  • “Guidance” is the second indicator, and is an important factor for data to be used in the decision-making process.
  • “Trust” was selected by ECLISE as the third indicator that influences both interaction and uptake of information.

The mechanism to achieve a sound quality control of CS is rather complex [Blome et al., (2017)]. For example, the evaluation should be applied throughout the entire development process and not only to the final product. An appropriate budget needs to be allocated to accomplish all steps that are required for the evaluation. Nevertheless, the most important part of the evaluation is recognised as transparency. Climate service providers have to make sure that they are documenting the work not only from providers’ perspectives, but also regarding user’s needs. 

Lessons Learnt

  • Individual solutions, which satisfy the individual requirements and needs, have to be developed in close co-operation with the customers and users.
    • Based on the experiences gained at GERICS, no standard solutions can be provided for questions concerning adaptation to climate change. 
  • Relationships are one of the keys to success.
    • User engagement is a continuous process that should not be relegated to either the initial or final stages of the project.
    • It should instead be interwoven into the very fabric of the project at all stages. Involvement of users in the very early stages of design and development of CS brings people together and creates a feeling of ownership.
    • Furthermore, users’ needs change over time or not very clear from the start(“unstructured problem”), and therefore a continuous process of adaptation and feedback mechanisms are required.
  • Do not underestimate the time and effort required to establish such relationshipsfrom both the users’ and scientists’ sides.
  • Building trust and relevance and knowing the actors involved is key to ensuring a climate service is responsive and delivers what people need over time.
    • Ongoing capacity building, continuous identification of needs, and ownership at the local level, are as important as product development and provision.
    • A climate service is much more than just the information product.
  • Knowledge brokering is an emergent and critical role in the context of increasingly dynamic and uncertain climate events where learning on adaptation, resilience and climate science is continually evolving.
    • It enables the right players to link up for a specific purpose, and facilitates knowledge exchange, innovation and informed decision-making, and allows the creation of multi stakeholder platforms where climate information and uncertainty can be collectively interpreted in creative ways.
  • Institutional frameworks, supportive policy environments and funding are not yet in place or not yet conducive to support co-development processes which engage all actors and demonstrate the benefits of climate services.

Further resources