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FEATURE: Learning about climate compatible development – share with us

Juliane Nier and Rachel Phillips of LEAD International reflect on the International Climate Fund’s (ICF) Learning for Change Dialogue and present ideas for others to use. Ms Nier and Ms Phillips served as delivery partners for the dialogue. Please share your own ideas with us below.

Tackling climate change means operating in a complex environment marked by high levels of uncertainty and little agreement among stakeholders. In this context relying on how-to-guides and step-by-step instructions to solving climate change are not an option. They simply don’t exist. Therefore, a different approach to learning and adaptive practices is needed to deliver the change that is so urgently needed.

DFID and Lead International partnered to convene a dialogue process to explore how recipients of DFID’s International Climate Fund were learning from their experience of programming and implementing new approaches to climate compatible development and how that learning and insight could be used to increase the ICF’s institutional effectiveness.

As one of the ICF’s flagship programmes, CDKN participated as a key contributor to this dialogue, along with more than 45 other stakeholders from across the ICF, to explore our understanding, experiences of and approaches to learning in the context of climate change and policy making.

During a series of initial interviews, we heard that learning can be done for many different reasons. For some it means improving the effectiveness and efficiency of decision making and achieving objectives; learning can be a tool to identify gaps and adapt project delivery. For others learning is a means to gaining capacity, new skills and knowledge. In addition, learning was seen as an element that could support DFID’s accountability vis-a-vis the taxpayer and strengthen preparedness to tackle future challenges.

We also heard about interviewees’ experiences of successful learning interventions. CDKN’s practical experience on south-south knowledge sharing added to the breadth of emerging learning practice. An interesting example is CDKN’s support to the Government of Uttarakhand in developing a vulnerability and risk assessment. The risk assessment provides the evidence base to refine and prioritise the state-level action plan on climate change. CDKN’s Colombia team had gone through a similar process. They shared lessons learned about using a participatory engagement process for developing vulnerability assessments for Cartagena and the Upper Cauca River Basin. Other practical examples included multiple-stakeholder interventions, knowledge and research uptake and long-term demand driven country engagements.

Moreover, we uncovered six big questions that kept coming up, but to which no-one has the answers yet. These questions require further inquiry and testing if we are to increase our capacity to learn at a portfolio or institutional level:

  1. How could learning processes and monitoring and evaluation be linked to enable maximum benefit from both? When should they be linked and when not?
  2. What kind of incentives can be designed into programmes and projects to prioritise and enable really effective learning?
  3. How do we capture and share learning systematically?
  4. How can we measure and demonstrate the impact of our learning processes?
  5. What enables us to aggregate our learning and make sense of it at the ICF portfolio level to maximise the impact of the ICF investments?
  6. How can we enable the flow of learning between practice on the ground and higher level policy making in highly political contexts? From a synthesis process of the interviews, workshop conversations and overarching reflections, the following 10 principles for effective learning.

These questions, along with others, were explored further during a co-creative workshop. The workshop provided a platform to share what we had heard during the interviews and seek feedback and input from a further 25 stakeholders from around the ICF. Participants explored the big questions, unpacking them and sharing experiences and ideas for how the ICF could become more effective at institutional level learning.

  1. Frame learning as a strategic path to impact
  2. Articulate learning questions
  3. Focus on learning priorities
  4. Ground learning in action
  5. Slow down to speed up
  6. Share learning with others
  7. Build learning into business as usual
  8. Consider context
  9. Fail fast to succeed sooner
  10. Grow connections, not collections

More detail about these principles, as well as eight dimensions for learning and some simple tools, frameworks and tips are captured in Learning for a Low Carbon Climate Resilient Society.  These can help practitioners design more effective learning cultures, processes and interventions that make a difference.

In CDKN, we already use some of these principles to inform our Learning Programme.  We know that learning is not an optional extra. We see learning as a strategic path to impact. This is why we have embedded our learning priorities and questions in our business plan. We have designed and invested in a structured learning approach. Reflecting on our experiences and actions has helped us to make better decisions about the future.

We also focus on learning priorities: by using a bottom-up approach CDKN has identified and prioritised learning areas that we believe make the biggest contribution to our capacity to deliver change. This year we are focusing our learning on private sector engagement for Climate Compatible Development benefits, gender sensitive approaches in the context of climate change, interventions at the subnational level and preparation of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.

It’s part of CDKN’s theory of change to grow connections, not collections. We see learning as a social process. As a knowledge network, CDKN brokers connections between different actors at all levels. CDKN has been involved in fostering a vibrant community of practitioners around the Low Emissions Development Strategies Global Partnership since its founding in 2011. The Partnership provides a forum for governments, practitioners, donors and multilateral organisations to promote cooperation on LEDS initiatives and activities and exchange best practices. Our experience tells us that especially when addressing complex issues the answers are often found in the collective.

How you are applying the principles and dimensions in your context? What prototype solutions have worked for you? In the spirit of learning share with us your experiences and reflections.

Download the full booklet: Learning for a Low Carbon Climate Resilient Society

Image: adaptation project meeting, Ghana, copyright CDKN.

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2 responses to “FEATURE: Learning about climate compatible development – share with us”

  1. Thank you for this great initiative. I read with interest the booklet Learning for a Low Carbon Climate Resilient Society and I would like to share some experiences in the different fields of inquiry about learning for change of IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP). (

    (i)The link between learning and monitoring and evaluation. In the case of ASAP we created a Results Framework for the programme which is linked to each project M&E system and allows for consolidating results. The Knowledge Management (KM) function relies completely on the project’s M&E system for inputs and ideas. The three main KM functions include:
    – capture good practices and processes at project level: refers to capturing knowledge on innovations/good practices (i.e. sustainable agricultural practices) adopted by the project as well as on processes (i.e. testing the Multidimensional Poverty Assessment Tool ) that can be scaled up – including horizontal‘ scaling up where IFAD can stimulate knowledge sharing between communities.
    – knowledge for technical purposes at programme level: refers to knowledge generated from different project experiences and used at programme level , i.e. on how to measure resilience or on effectiveness of multi-dimensional assessment tools such as MPAT, etc…
    – knowledge that leads to advocacy: when M&E is linked to KM and to outreach we yield results at project and policy level (strong KM and Communications Plan working alongside a rigorous M&E system in order to produce targeted materials for influencing policy makers from project outset)
    For this to happen it is essential that a functioning M&E system is established at project start-up but this is often challenging in terms of number of dedicated staff as well as staff capacity.

    (ii) Incentives for learning. In ASAP we set up a partnership with the Red Cross Climate Center to expand the use of participatory games for promoting learning dialogues on climate risk management and disaster preparedness. Climate Centre staff lead the facilitation of the game components in up to ASAP inception workshops, ensuring that games are well embedded as serious tools for learning and dialogue and can help to maximize potential to inform decision-making and planning processes.

    (iii) Capturing and sharing learning and (iv) Sense-making at the portfolio level: IFAD faces the challenge common to many organisation of relying much on people with institutional memory and of not being able to systematically capture knowledge generated from the different projects. In ASAP we tackle these (iii) and (iv) as part of a common process of building a systematic link between M&E, KM and communication, as mentioned under (i). The flow of information from the different project is analysed for the identification of common themes and is tuned in to on the ground knowledge product series such as the Adaptation Advantage series ( ). The stories from the field are developed in to project based videos for use as advocacy tool/ communications products and social media content ( and )

    (v) Measuring the impact of learning. Building a climate resilient society is mostly related to incentivising behavioural changes, which are difficult to measure. We often need qualitative analysis to assess those changes (i.e. through the use of surveys). IFAD commissioned a progress review of ASAP to ODI and preliminary findings show that ASAP has provided a significant financial and technical boost to mainstreaming climate change into IFAD. This has been very successful in changing policy and decision processes for investments to be sensitive to issues of climate change through project design. Innovative staff training on climate change has increased awareness and understanding at decision making level within IFAD HQ. Considering the early stage of projects implementation, it is too early now to assess ASAP’s effectiveness in incentivizing and achieving climate integration at country level, however, a number of tools, such as capacity building programmes but also South-South exchanges are built in ASAP projects to facilitate knowledge sharing and behavioural changes.

    (vi) Learning between policy and practice. The ASAP programme result framework includes a specific ‘Policy influence outcome’ related to knowledge on climate-smart agriculture documented and disseminated. It measures the number of international and country dialogues where IFAD or IFAD-supported partners make an active contribution. All ASAP co-financed projects have an objective of influencing national policies through dedicated actions that range from mainstreaming climate change into the Socio-Economic Development Planning process (Vietnam), to mainstreaming climate change adaptation in policy instruments to promote climate-proof Post-harvest Handling and Storage (PHHS) business enterprises (Rwanda) to Influence policy dialogue on climate change adaptation/mitigation, disaster risk reduction and environmental sustainability (Kyrgyzstan).

    • CDKN Global says:

      Dear Ilaria,

      Thank you so much for your comprehensive reply with very specific examples of approaches in IFAD that have worked well for the organisation and its service recipients. At CDKN we are also eager to make and capitalise on the linkages among knowledge management, M&E and learning to the greatest extent possible. Our ‘Inside Story’ publications series and various Working Papers which capture learning from CDKN’s experience all attempt to do this – but we know there is always room for improvement! ( I hope your interesting and extensive comment will stimulate similar reflections from others who are exploring and experimenting on how we drive positive change from our learning.

      with best wishes, Mairi Dupar – CDKN Knowledge Management (Global team)

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