Adaptation to climate change is increasingly recognized as an urgent need – but identifying the most effective ways to reduce climate risks in a particular place, population or sector is still a major challenge. Knowledge and capacity-building are crucial, and organizations in the global North and South alike are working to provide them, often with very limited resources.
One cost-effective and efficient way to help is to link these organizations through online platforms where they can find information, learn from their peers, and share their own experiences and lessons learned. That is the vision behind the collaborative weADAPT platform, coordinated by SEI-Oxford, which links adaptation professionals around the world.
This week, at a side-event at COP18, SEI researcher Tahia Devisscher presented weADAPT as part of a stock-taking of the Climate Change Capacity and Development (C3D+) project, a five-year initiative coordinated by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) that is drawing to a close in the next six months.
The C3D+ project involves three global partners – SEI, the Centre for International Forestry and Research (CIFOR) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) – and six partners in developing countries: the Climate System Analysis Group (CSAG) and the Energy and Research Centre (ERC) at the University of Cape Town; Environnement et Développement du Tiers Monde (ENDA TM), in Senegal; Munasinghe Institute for Development (MIND), in Sri Lanka; the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP); and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).
SEI’s work with this project also received substantial support from the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) Knowledge Brokers programme.
A chance to expand weADAPT’s reach
SEI’s role was to provide a platform for knowledge-sharing, through weADAPT, Devisscher says. That created opportunities to bring weADAPT to new audiences and gather valuable feedback from partners using weADAPT to support local adaptation projects in West and Central Africa.
“C3D+ really helped us improve weADAPT, especially through two user labs we conducted,” says SEI senior researcher Sukaina Bharwani. “We were able to overcome barriers which may have prevented people from sharing their work on the platform, and we identified a big need: to link to climate data.”
With CDKN support, the weADAPT team filled that need by connecting with two key partners’ resources: CSAG’s Climate Information Portal, which provides both historical records and downscaled future projections of the climate. They also linked weADAPT to AfricaAdapt, a platform managed by ENDA TM that collects grassroots adaptation stories from across Africa.
The result is a richer array of content that integrates climate data, top-quality adaptation research, methodologies and tools, and stories from adaptation practitioners around the world. Users can quickly access all these resources through a Google Maps interface that went live on Nov. 28.
Bharwani, who this year has participated in efforts to stem so-called “portal proliferation syndrome”, says the choice to link to C3D+ partners’ resources reflects that desire to avoid duplication.
“There are so many adaptation portals out there, and a big issue for all of us is how to stay unique and provide added value,” she says. “We recognize that we can’t do everything, and our partners do some things much better than us, so we identified ‘value-added’ resources from our partners and connected weADAPT to them. It would be very difficult to provide such a wide array of resources on our own.”
The C3D+ project has also led to several improvements to the weADAPT interface, Devisscher says. For example, the user labs showed that the search functionality wasn’t focused enough – it produced too many results – so now filters have been added. There is also a new way to contribute articles and “case studies” through a simplified “QuickShare” tool (in English or Spanish).
Together, the added exposure and technical improvements have paid off in higher traffic and deeper user engagement, says SEI researcher Anna Taylor.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase not only in the number of visitors, but in the number of pages they view when they come to the site,” Taylor says. “But even better, we’ve seen a lot more user-generated content, so people are adding articles about the work they’re doing. That is a big part of the mission of weADAPT, to encourage knowledge-sharing at all levels, so we’re very excited!”
The weADAPT platform now features a Google Maps interface that allows users to directly access climate data from the Climate Information Platform as well as adaptation stories from AfricaAdapt.