Adaptation Academy Alumni Feature: Alvaro Fonseca

In this small blog series, we want to give room to some of GCAP's Adaptation Academy graduates, to highlight their professional development in the field of climate change adaptation. We will share stories of professional growth, lasting networks and cooperation that inspires. If you are interested in taking part in GCAP's next Academy, read on and get in touch.

Our first alumnus is Alvaro Fonseca. Alvaro took part in the Academy during the sunny summer of 2016. At the time, he was Chief Advisor at Sweco, a big Swedish engineering consultancy with a strong base in Europe, based in their office in Copenhagen. In November 2018, he left Sweco and joined Ramboll, a Danish engineering and design consultancy with more or less the same size of Sweco but headquartered in Copenhagen. At Ramboll, he is now Chief Project Manager in the department of International Water & Climate Resilience, under the Climate Adaptation and Landscape Architecture spearhead, as they call their strategic trans-boundary business units.

We asked him a couple of questions about his Academy experience. This is what he has to say.

GCAP: Alvaro, what was the most valuable insight you took home from the Academy? How has this influenced your work?

Alvaro: I would need more time and space to expand on this question. But I'll give it a shot. One of the most valuable lessons I took with me from the Academy, is the importance of approaching climate adaptation as what it fundamentally is: an interdisciplinary challenge. We cannot expect to be successful if we approach adaptation with a silo perspective. This was not new to me, and it has been acknowledged for a while. What was the tipping point for me was those two intensive weeks, where we all had to leave our silos and engage in constant interdisciplinary exercises that forced us to think differently, and hence propose solutions that were anchored in this very needed interdisciplinary perspective.

Another important lesson I remember from the Academy, is the amazing combination of technical discussions and leadership reflections. I really enjoyed those sessions where we had to do a great deal of inner thinking and reflections on our own perspectives, paradigms and practices, and relate them to specific challenges we were trying to solve. And underpinning all of that was a well-designed leadership "module", built and implemented by Graham (added: Wilson), whom I remember dearly. Graham's reflections and sparkling questions made me reflect significantly on the balances between career paths and personal development, family life and our role in society and in all this journey we call resilience.

GCAP: Did you expand your network or form friendships through the Academy?

Alvaro: Significantly. The Academy opened many doors for me in many ways. The amazing people that participated together with me, are champions in their fields, in their organizations. I have expanded my network after establishing constructive relations with many of them, with whom I am still in contact.

GCAP: Can you share with us a memorable moment from the Academy?

Alvaro: Probably when I volunteered to expose some of my deepest struggles within my organization, in a session where all the other participants basically "grilled" me with questions and comments and I was not allowed to say anything, just listen and listen. Those 20 minutes of feedback felt very long! But it was a tremendous help, as it basically touched upon all aspects: personal struggles with colleagues, frustration with the leadership, technical aspects, cooperation with clients and colleagues, etc. It was a very enriching experience.

GCAP: Thank you for your reflection on the Academy of 2016, Alvaro!

Alvaro Fonseca (photo owner)

About the Adaptation Academy

An integral part of GCAP's mission to enhance climate change adaptation is the development of skills and expertise in adaptation professionals at various career stages. Between 2012 and 2017, GCAP welcomed participants to its Adaptation Academy in Oxford. The two-week Academy brought climate change professionals with various backgrounds and different organisational affiliations together, who engaged in an intense training that increased their capacity and leadership to navigate and advance in the climate adaptation field by providing practical skills for implementing innovative adaptation solutions. GCAP has since adapted its Academy design to bring intensive short courses to practitioners abroad. The next course will be delivered in collaboration with Tandem Research in August 2019 in Goa. Join us for the Monsoon Academy on Planning for Climate Resilience in Urban Areas. Get more info here.  

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