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  • DRR Voices blog: 30 Aug 2017 Maria van Veldhuizen
    Communications Officer at REEEP

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Maria van Veldhuizen

Communications Officer at REEEP

Maria van Veldhuizen is Communications Officer at REEEP. She is also involved in the day-to-day management of the Climate Knowledge Brokers Group, which aims to improve the provision of relevant, timely climate change information to decision makers who need it to plan for a climate-resilient future. Before joining REEEP, Maria lived and worked as a translator in several countries including the Netherlands, Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom. Maria holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science, Policy and Management jointly issued by the Central European University in Budapest and the Universities of Manchester, UK, and Lund, Sweden.

From climate knowledge to climate resilience: Reaching the last mile

Published on 30 Aug 2017

While there is a wealth of climate information available, many decision makers struggle to find what they really need to make informed decisions for a climate-resilient future. Climate knowledge brokers bring information to the last mile, making it relevant to end users.

Climate change and development organisations the world over churn out report after report on the projected impacts of climate change and what can and should be done to mitigate them. Yet many of those reports are left on the (digital) shelf – in 2014, the World Bank found that one third of its reports had not been downloaded once. An article in the Washington Post about this revelation was titled “The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads.” While that may be optimistic (or pessimistic?), it is true that the reason these reports go unread is not that there is no demand for such information. Case in point: in 2015, a survey amongst climate change decision makers in Latin America found that 36% did not have access to sufficient climate change information to support their decisions, and despite identifying as “climate policy professionals” 42% said they “rarely” or “never” included climate change concerns in their decision making processes. So what was stopping them?

There is more climate change information available than one person, or even a team of people, could read in a lifetime, and yet many decision makers cannot find the information they need to allow them to make informed decisions for a resilient future.

A great example of climate knowledge brokering in practice are the “What’s in it for…” toolkits produced by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), which extracted information from the Fifth Assessment Report by the IPCC and put it into context for four different audiences: policy makers in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and Small Island Developing States. While a focus on “Africa” is of course still rather broad, for every policy maker on the continent who needs to plan for a climate-resilient future but lacks the time and/or scientific knowledge to read and understand the implications of the full IPCC report (which is most of them), this summary report was a great step in the right direction.

The Climate Knowledge Brokers Group (CKB) has been working since 2011 to make producers of information aware of the needs of information users, and to help those users access the information they need.

A climate knowledge broker is an intermediary, working between knowledge producers and knowledge users, translating, adapting and synthesising information to make it relevant to the user and her context. The CKB Group brings together hundreds of self-identified climate knowledge brokers working in governments, NGOs, international organisations, academic institutions and businesses all over the world, for peer-learning, the development of knowledge brokering methodologies and tools, and to promote the need for more user needs-driven knowledge production.

In 2015, we published the Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto, which outlines the need for and role of climate knowledge brokers. The Manifesto is based on interviews with more than 80 climate knowledge brokers, policy makers and other knowledge users from around the world. The image below shows the different climate knowledge user groups that were identified during this process, and what climate knowledge brokers can do to enhance their access to relevant, reliable information to inform their decisions.

More recently, CKB has been working on the development of a new methodology called Knowledge Systems Analysis, which aims to increase the functioning of entire climate knowledge systems. These systems consist of the actors receiving, adapting and passing on climate change information, and the links between them. A typical knowledge system connected to agricultural value chains in East Africa may contain farmers who need information about precipitation trends and resilient crop varieties, seed vendors who know when best to sow their seeds, a community radio station broadcasting warnings for extreme weather events and programmes on climate-resilient farming, the national meteorological office which provides the radio station with forecasts, and any number of other actors in between and beyond the ones already mentioned. If all these actors are in place but the farmers still do not have the right information to make decisions that increase their resilience, that must mean that there is a bottleneck or a broken link somewhere in the system where information is not being passed on, or it is not converted to the right format, or it is being passed on to the wrong person.

CKB carries out knowledge system analyses with groups of stakeholders in the system, to get the bigger picture and determine at which points in the system the most effective interventions can be made. The methodology has been successfully applied to the knowledge systems connected to beef value chains in Kenya and dairy value chains in Kenya and India, and the video below has been produced to explain it further.

At REEEP, where the CKB Coordination Hub is hosted, we generate knowledge on clean energy market conditions to reduce risks for investors wishing to enter those markets. Just like those investors, decision makers at all levels, from smallholder farmers to government officials, need access to the best available knowledge on climate change to reduce the risks associated with its impacts and increase their resilience. As the Washington Post speculated, much of the knowledge they need is probably already out there. All we need to do is get it out of those PDFs and into the field.

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