Principles for Co-Producing Climate Services: Practical Insights from FRACTAL

Submitted by Francesca Liberatore Vaselli | published 14th Jul 2022 | last updated 11th Aug 2022


This working paper contributes to the body of knowledge on principles for co-producing climate services by reflecting on and sharing experiences from the Future Resilience of African CiTies and Lands (FRACTAL) project.

FRACTAL was implemented from 2015-2021 in nine southern African cities as part of the Future Climate For Africa (FCFA) programme, with the main aim of co-producing climate knowledge that could inform climate-resilient urban development. Through transdisciplinary learning processes, which were anchored by “learning labs”, societal stakeholders worked with researchers from various disciplines to co-explore decision contexts, identify knowledge and capacity needs, and co-design activities to respond to these.

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Approach and methodology

Review of the literature on principles for co-producing climate services

This paper begins by providing a summary of messages from the literature that relates to principles for co-producing climate services, which are categorised according to: i) capacities of stakeholders involved in the processes; ii) design of co- production processes; and iii) institutional, policy and environmental factors.

Study approach: Identifying project-specific principles

Reflective approaches were employed to identify project-specific principles that supported co-production of climate services during FRACTAL. The vast amount of evidence that was produced during the project was also analysed using qualitative methods to better understand the practical dimensions of engendering these principles, and to position these principles alongside the growing body of relevant knowledge. 

Near the end of the first phase of FRACTAL, a subset of the FRACTAL team formed a learning group with the main aim of reviewing major lessons learned from the project. This learning group facilitated a collaborative reflection with the broader FRACTAL team to identify a set of principles (see earlier brief) that were considered important for the success of FRACTAL.

The FRACTAL principles

The paper presents the 13 FRACTAL principles that supported co-production of climate services and links them to the growing body of literature on co-producing climate services. 

Principles that were identified as particularly important include:

  • Respect and trust: Listening to one another and supporting emotional connections.

  • Bigger picture (systems) thinking: Acknowledging that climate risks result from multiple interconnected drivers, and that different groups of people hold knowledge about these drivers.

  • Treating in context: context-driven climate research (i.e. context-led approach to exploring problems and thinking about solutions).

  • The social element: including activities and events that support socialising, bonding, connecting as people and having fun.

  • Catalysing (African) agency: Africa-owned solutions, based on local research and capacity.

  • Neutral space and enabling process: a well-designed programme with objectives, boundaries and a carefully managed process at all scales (project scale, city scale, cluster scale).

  • Process-driven iteration: some explicit overarching goals were set, but methods and outcomes were generated through iterative processes.

  • Transdisciplinarity and (un)comfortable differences: a transdisciplinary approach that is welcoming of complexity, integrates different types of evidence, encourages open-mindedness and is comfortable with differences in ideas, values, inputs and processes.

  • Inclusivity and collaboration: a genuine acknowledgement of the importance of different stakeholders, an appreciation of all input (voice equity).

  • Linking the current with the past and the future: constructively reflecting on past experiences and current trends for learning, adapting and future visioning. Ongoing learning and reflection was also important within the FRACTAL team and processes.

  • Networks and relationships: building networks and relationships across organisations and knowledge domains.

  • Embedding researchers: pronounced role of Embedded Researchers (ERs).

Application of principles in virtual and/or hybrid engagements

The paper ends with a reflection on the application of principles in virtual engagements during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020/2021).

During this time, the FRACTAL team built on much of the social capital that was established in face-to-face engagements prior to the pandemic. Several principles were strengthened through virtual methods e.g. such engagements allowed a diversity of stakeholders to take part in transdisciplinary learning processes, which supported ‘inclusivity and collaboration’ and ‘networks and relationships’.

These engagements did, however, introduce challenges for engendering some principles, particularly when participants battled to secure connectivity to support effective online engagement. In these instances, FRACTAL attempted to support engagement by purchasing technical equipment and data bundles. Another challenge associated with virtual and/or hybrid engagements related to challenges for facilitators and participants alike to notice body language and subtle facial expressions of other participants, which are important in relational learning processes.


Further resources