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:
- How could learning processes and monitoring and evaluation be linked to enable maximum benefit from both? When should they be linked and when not?
- What kind of incentives can be designed into programmes and projects to prioritise and enable really effective learning?
- How do we capture and share learning systematically?
- How can we measure and demonstrate the impact of our learning processes?
- 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?
- 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.
- Frame learning as a strategic path to impact
- Articulate learning questions
- Focus on learning priorities
- Ground learning in action
- Slow down to speed up
- Share learning with others
- Build learning into business as usual
- Consider context
- Fail fast to succeed sooner
- 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.