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FEATURE: The lasting impact of tailored climate science

In 2014, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) carried out an outreach programme to bring the findings of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) to developing country governments and other stakeholders, so that the latest state-of-art climate science could be better incorporated into decision-making. CDKN produced a range of guides and communications toolkits for use by stakeholders, organised policy dialogue events with IPCC authors, young scientist meetings and trainings for journalists in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, as well as outreach activities for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Latin America.

As part of the toolkit’s design, we included a questionnaire to track how people were using the content, to help us best understand our audience and inform the work of knowledge brokers. In this feature, we review the answers provided by users and the learnings we drew from the initiative.

Introducing the AR5 and the role of the knowledge broker

CDKN’s role as a ‘knowledge broker’ involves acting as an intermediary between scientists, policy-makers and communicators, to ensure that climate science is reaching the right people, and is being understood and acted upon. This involves filtering, synthesising, tailoring and contextualising climate information, and creating a platform for dialogue among parties. The aim is to remove barriers that might inhibit information-seekers from accessing the material and taking action.

The AR5 is over 5,000 pages long, so we distilled the key region-specific information into short, easily digestible summaries for policy- and decision-makers. We also provided slide packs, infographics and high-quality images for communicators and journalists, to encourage reporting on the findings of the report to decision-makers and the wider public.

Capacity building using the toolkit

In 2015, those accessing the toolkit mainly did so for academic purposes (in teaching and research) in both developing and developed countries. They also accessed the material to conduct outreach and capacity building for communities and local governments (such as in Kendari City, Indonesia and by the Environment General Authority, Libya). In 2016, access for academic purposes was still very high, but in the case of developed countries, the main use, at nearly 50%, was for external capacity building. The material was used, for example, by a Dutch think-tank to conduct a lecture for diplomats from Southern Africa and by a digital media company conducting an online training course for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands. The University of Oregon, USA, used it to inform a lecture on the ‘Anthropocene, to be delivered at the annual convention of the Australian Anthropological Society’.  In developing countries, external capacity building was also high (though academic use was marginally higher); a local NGO in Barbados used the toolkit ‘to develop visual information products to help government and civil society stakeholders in Caribbean SIDS to better understand the process and necessity for mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster risk management considerations into policy and planning processes.’ A private company used it for capacity building in India surrounding irrigation. The same organisation accessed the toolkit last year to spread climate change knowledge within organization through workshops, seminars and trainings. An organisation in Colombia used the resources to help ‘promote all aspects of climate change and disaster risk reduction in [the] region’. The uses of the toolkit were active and for a very broad audience; UTZ used it to train smallholders in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, meanwhile a member of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry used it to assist in the ‘development of a national policy on climate change adaptation’.

The third most common use for both developing and developed countries was internal capacity building (although in many cases, the toolkit was used for more than one thing.) The US Fish and Wildlife Service used it for ‘public and partner meeting on climate impacts and adaptation.’ AgroRForAfrica from Nigeria used it for presentation purposes and the Food and Agriculture Organisation used it ‘for dissemination to climate change programme staff at FAO and Afghan ministries’. A member of the Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock of Honduras requested to use the material ‘in communication and institutional strengthening on climate change.’

The percentages and anecdotal information reported below pertain to the users who have downloaded the images from the toolkit in 2016.

Educating for the future

In the toolkit’s first year and in 2015, we reported that the number of those engaging with CDKN’s work for educational purposes was high; universities such as Rabat, Ambo, Sydney, Cornell, ICU Zambia, Columbia, the University of Mauritius, the Universities of Manchester and Bath, Botswana, the Federal University of Rio Grande du Sol and Multan University accessed the toolkit. In 2016, this list was expanded by the University College London, the University of Oregon, James Cook University and the University of the Free State. Tufts University School of Medicine in the USA used the toolkit to inform a ‘project on global climate change and malaria,’ meanwhile, the Costa Rican Association of Medical Students also used it for educational purposes. A student at the Conway School, USA, used it in their application for a Fullbright Fellowship. In the Congo, the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) used it to Illustrate climate change science challenges when teaching students.

Encouraging accurate reporting

Encouraging responsible journalism on the Fifth Assessment Report was one of the key aims of the media toolkit, but figures show that developed country usage for this reason was lowest, at 6%, and second lowest by developing country users at 17%. Where it was used by the media, now three years after the release of the Fifth Assessment Report, reporting seemed to focus more widely than just on the report’s contents. Although Write Start International, Sri Lanka used it in climate change articles, the Universal Citizens Media Network in the USA used it for educational and advocacy purposes, while a freelance journalist in Pakistan used the material to inform a broader article on the state of climate change reporting in South Asia for Climate Tracker.

High engagement

Overall traffic to the toolkit has reached nearly 24,000 views since its creation, with 16,500 individual users accessing it, showing a high number of return visitors and a particularly low bounce rate compared to the rest of the site. This shows that people engaged and interacted with the toolkit well as they stayed online for much longer. Access by developing countries outstripped those from developed countries, with 60% of those accessing the material being from the former. India was by far the most engaged developing country, followed by South Africa, Ethiopia and Colombia.

The legacy continues

Although the toolkit was promoted for use by journalists, the number of educators and capacity-builders accessing the toolkit has been unexpected and illuminating. A university, the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, used it for conferences to a ‘broad audience’, while the use of the content in reports that require or incorporate further research, such as the study carried out by Tufts University School of Medicine or in the reports from Sustainable Drop Concepts in Uganda, has been high. The examples of education and capacity building show the toolkit’s long-lasting, broad impact and indicates an unexpectedly wide desire for tailored climate information that is encouraging for knowledge brokers everywhere.

To read more about the findings from the initiative in previous years, see below.



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