OPINION: Readers spread the word on the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report
From July-Sept 2014, CDKN produced three regional reports on the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, co-hosted outreach events and provided a media toolkit to facilitate discussion and knowledge-sharing. As part of the outreach, we quizzed users on how they are using the material. Anna Hickman, communications consultant with CDKN, looks at the results, and explains how outreach really does make all the difference.
Understanding our audience is key in guiding CDKN’s work and research: who will be accessing our materials and for what reasons? What do they want from it and how will they be using it? It enables us to provide policy-relevant, practical research to decision-makers and inform climate compatible development. Such questions guided the creation of our What’s in it for Africa, South Asia and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) reports and accompanying media toolkit, which distil the richest information from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report for regional audiences.
In engaging with our audience on a personal level, it gives us an insight into difficulties they face and how they are trying to survive and thrive in the changing climate. It also enables us to see exactly where our information is reaching, with surprising results; CDKN’s work, according to those accessing it, is used everywhere from schools and youth groups to events for embassies and policy-makers.
Our analysis of who’s using our What’s in it for Africa, South Asia and SIDS reports and toolkit shows they are connecting with CDKN’s work largely for the one reason: education and awareness raising. Whether it is for stakeholders or policy-makers, PhD students, staff members or school children, education and capacity building is at the heart of their intentions. The percentages and anecdotal information reported below pertains to the 163 users who have so far downloaded the images from the toolkit. Overall traffic to the toolkit, including the reports, has reached over 8,000 views since its creation, with 3,300 users accessing the reports directly.
The number of users engaging with CDKN’s work for purely educational purposes is predictably high, with university students at degree, Master and PhD level accessing material for their work and research, and lecturers using it for presentations in their seminars and lectures.
However, it is children who are being recognised as potential future game-changers, with organisations seeking to engage schools and youth groups to empower young people with climate knowledge that they can pass onto their families and communities. One case study illustrates the resources are being used to inform broadcasts to local children in Mexico, to raise awareness of climate change for the national science and technology week. Other responses report organisations holding discussion groups during and after school. Another case study describes how the resources are being used in a campaign to improve a national curriculum, to cultivate environmentally literate students who can go on to create environmental solutions in their communities.
Internal capacity building, learning and research
Feedback shows that the toolkit and reports have been shared by organisations amongst colleagues and networks, and used to inform training and capacity-building events. Above all else, it is informing their own research and projects. Even the creation of the toolkit itself has been part of a wider learning journey, with organisations studying how we put together our toolkit because they want to do something similar.
External communication, awareness building
The most popular use of the What’s in it for Africa, South Asia and SIDS resources is for external communications and awareness-building. It is here we see contact with policy-makers and other stakeholders. Organisations have used the material to raise awareness ahead of the UNFCCC’s 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20), hold seminars for legislators and embassies, and educate the public. It has been used to inform development strategies to build adaptive capacity, for example, and in campaigns aiming to introduce non-motorised transport initiatives into major cities.
One of the key aims of the media toolkit has been to encourage responsible journalism on the Fifth Assessment Report. Not only is the material being used in articles and blogs, in print, online and multimedia platforms, it is also being used to further educate journalists through workshops and training sessions.
Nevertheless, a comparison of the responses shows that greater numbers of journalists from developed countries are requesting the resources than those from developing countries. Does this indicate a greater appetite among developing country audiences for peer-to-peer communication about climate change, rather than debate about its causes and consequences in the mass (broadcast) media? That’s what our small sample of respondents seems to show, but it’s only a snapshot. If you are a developing country journalist or work with them, let us know how we could make our communications toolkit more ‘user friendly’ for you in the future by writing in the comment box below.
It could also be the case that journalists are standing by until they need the IPCC’s resources in the context of a breaking news story; as one participant told us at our Ethiopia journalist training workshop: “I will keep these resources at my fingertips so that when the next infrastructure proposal comes up, the next dam is going to be built, I will look to see what the IPCC says about it.”
Website statistics show that traffic to the site was increased from focus countries, often by over fifty per cent, surrounding the launch events of the regional What’s in it for Africa, South Asia and SIDS reports. Users from the countries hosting the launch events engaged with the content for longer and explored other resources on the site. Additionally, organisations and individuals aren’t just accessing the materials for a single use, but for many. Responses to the questionnaire show that those conducting internal training and capacity building are also using the materials for external trainings, seminars for policy-makers and public events to raise awareness. Those engaging at a legislator level are also recognising the need to take the same information to a community level, and vice versa, ensuring that knowledge reaches every corner.
In conducting this study of CDKN’s users, we hoped to profile our users to better direct our research in the future, but have been rewarded with a valuable lesson, that if you teach a man to fish, he will keep on teaching.