The impact of failing to understand information flow within climate adaptation and resilience responses

Each year, at the Oxford Adaptation Academy, participants develop 'stakeholder maps' to establish the impact of their work and to highlight areas that their plans may not be addressing adequately. In a more traditional project management methodology, such as SSADM (Structured Systems Analysis and Design Methodology) or Business System Development as it is more commonly known these days, alongside this form of entity mapping two other models would be prepared, one of which is Data Flow Modelling (DFM).

The importance of data-flow modelling is that it asks two fundamental questions of a system, what information does this 'entity' need, and where does it actually get it from? It is all too easy to assume that because the data that is needed has been established, then the latter part of the question is redundant, especially in a system that is already live. Of course, it is not! What's more, simply having the possibility of a source, doesn't mean that this is the mechanism that is preferred by the recipients or that it is managed effectively.

It was refreshing, then, to stumble across a paper from 2010, in the journal Climatic Change, by Tyler Joseph Tarnoczi and Fikret Berkes, in which they demonstrate not only the importance of this research, but also highlight a real world example directly affecting climate adaptation responses among the farming community in the Canadian prairies. They demonstrated that farmers were not getting important information about soil and water conservation practices. This was due to two problems. Central government were simply not managing the communication process, somehow seeming to expect those who did not know of its existence to miraculously discover it nonetheless - a rather random process! Secondly, the farmers had little interest in learning from text-based information, instead they had a strong preference to learn through observation, trials, and two-way dialogue.

Some might say that this isn't rocket science, but it is remarkable how often such breakdowns in communication appear to happen. Seasoned climate practitioners will know to do things differently, of course!


Tarnoczi TJ and Berkes F (2010) Sources of information for farmers' adaptation practices in Canada's Prairie agro-ecosystem. Climatic Change. 98 (1-2): 299-305 [DOI: 10.1007/s10584-009-9762-4]

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Established in 2010, GCAP (http://climateadaptation.cc) ranks among the top 10 leading climate think tanks globally, providing knowledge services related to national adaptation investment and finance, climate economics, climate adaptation strategy and planning and climate risk screening. A world class organisation, we support managers holding over $1 billion in funds. Our flagship, Oxford Adaptation Academy (http://adaptationacademy.com), is a unique incubator for leadership and innovation within the field of climate adaptation.

Dr Graham Wilson is Director of the Adaptation Academy 2017, where he will also be leading the personal development and leadership strand. With a background in ethology and behavioural science, he is an Executive, Leadership and Political Confidant, Tutor in Psychology and Counselling with the University of Oxford, and Lecturer in Leadership, Business, and HR with TOBES. His research interests include coaching and visual anthropology. [LinkedIn = http://tinyurl.com/drgwli]

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