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Collaboration to bridge the gap between climate science and adaptation policy

The SEI Initiative on Climate Services generated new insights about the reasons why growing stores of knowledge about climate change so seldom gain traction in adaptation policymaking. The initiative's focus on co-design shifted the field's prevailing emphasis from products to processes.

Date published
18 May 2020

About this initiative

SEI initiatives explore key issues on sustainable development, and serve as hubs for our research. The mission of the Initiative on Climate Services was to enhance work in the burgeoning field of climate services: the co-production, tailoring, communication and interpretation of science-based climate information to support policy planning and decision-making. The initiative focused on understanding how co-design and co-production processes could improve decisions and policies to address climate change adaptation. The work took place in urban and rural settings, and on four continents (Africa, Asia, Europe and South America). A central objective was to understand why on-the-ground planning and policy decisions so seldom incorporate relevant and usable climate science and information. The work enhanced understanding about the importance of processes, over particular end products.

Duration:  mid-2015 through the end of 2019

Main outputs: the Tandem framework to guide the co-design and co-production of customized climate services

Region: global, with research conducted in Colombia, Kenya, Indonesia, Nigeria, Sweden and Zambia

A new, collaborative framework

The main achievement of the initiative was the creation of a new framework, Tandem, to guide interaction of key people who need to be part of effective decision-making processes for adaptation and other policy contexts. The central premise of the Tandem framework is that the best decisions emerge from incorporating the perspectives of a wide variety of people and disciplines. Such processes bring together insights from people with experience in government, the private sector, civil society, and climate science. The initiative found that expertise central to such processes comes not only from science, but also from on-the-ground politics and life itself. The initiative emphasized that inclusive planning processes that span such areas of expertise can help build capacities of local participants, many of whom have long been sidelined.

The Tandem processes aim to build a foundation that extends beyond climate change adaptation missions per se, to address needed change for sustainable development and the greater good. The processes themselves focus on building human capacity and establishing trustful relationships that can help communities make effective decisions to address the challenges they face.


Using Learning Labs and gameplay

The initiative participated in a project that designed and led collaborative “Learning Labs”, engagements that used gameplay to explore and address key adaptation issues facing fast-growing cities in Africa (through the Future Climate for African CiTies and Lands (FRACTAL) project funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Natural Environment Research Council).The work brought together politicians, engineers, urban planners, climate scientists and community representatives from grassroots organizations working in impoverished, fast-growing informal settlements. The experiences led Windhoek to create the city’s first integrated climate change strategy and action plan, and for the city to help guide other urban areas in taking similar steps.


Using case studies insights for different global contexts

Work in the initiative involved case studies from around the world. Academic work informed  ongoing adaptation planning to address climate-related hazards facing Stockholm (heat waves) and Karlstad (flooding), for example. The experiences from these case studies led to publication of research offering a 10-point list of best practices for climate service providers to employ. Other case studies included: improving climate services for farmers in Nigeria; combining science and traditional, indigenous knowledge among smallholders in Bali; and examining co-production processes to address watershed management in Colombia.

Where do we go from here?

Academic work from the initiative continues to test the use of the Tandem framework and refine it. Researchers from the team are exploring the possibility of scaling up the CSI climate farmer field schools conducted in Bali to become a national programme, continuing work with the Indonesian meteorological service (BMKG). There is also interest in scaling up the climate field schools beyond Indonesia.

SEI work on related issues also continues through a recently completed review of climate-science use in adaptation and resilience research and practice. Commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the review has informed the development of its new CLimate And REsilience Framework Programme (CLARE). The programme aims to develop new, more demand-responsive evidence, innovation and capacity to enable developing-country governments and communities to better address climate change challenges and opportunities, and to develop more effective disaster risk management and recovery.

The initiative is also contributing to the “Investment Blueprint for Climate Informed Digital Advisory Services” led by the Global Commission on Adaptation, the World Food Program, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, and  the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security Program (CCAFS). The Action Track on Agriculture and Food Security aims is to mobilize resources to further goals of food security by helping smallholder farmers to improve climate resilience and adapt to climate change. One focus under the Action Track is to expand access to climate-informed “digital agricultural advisory services for at least 100 million small-scale producers by 2030”. This involves extending real-time surveillance and early warning systems, seasonal and long-term forecasts, and digitally enabled farmer advisory services.

Finally, the Tandem online guidance is seeking to build a community of practice with various forms of capacity development to support outreach and use of the framework though webinars, podcasts and video summaries of research.

Learn more about this initiative

Find all publications, features, perspectives and more in our content archive.

Visit the initiative page