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Q&A: Sukaina Bharwani on the Climate Knowledge Brokers group

SEI’s Oxford Centre, which hosts weADAPT, is actively engaged in a network to improve knowledge-sharing and collaboration on climate and development issues.

Anneli Sundin / Published on 17 November 2014

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Sukaina Bharwani

Senior Research Fellow and weADAPT Director

SEI Oxford

Anneli Sundin
Anneli Sundin

Communications and Impact Officer

Project Communications

SEI Headquarters

Adapting to climate change requires knowledge and resources: climate data and future projections; scientific assessments of how climate change may affect everything from crop yields, to water supplies, to flood risks; an understanding of key drivers of vulnerability, adaptive and institutional capacity; and knowledge about effective adaptation measures and how to finance them.

Many organizations have stepped up to meet this need through online portals and other resources – including SEI’s weADAPT platform. But this has created a new challenge: how to coordinate and ensure that users can find what they need.

That is a key focus of the Climate Knowledge Brokers group, established in 2011 by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), which brings together about 50 global and regional organizations, research institutes, NGOs and communities of practice. SEI was at the group’s annual workshop, in October, and will participate in CKB activities at the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, in December.

Q: What do you mean by knowledge brokering?
SB: In general terms, climate knowledge brokering entails improving the use of knowledge and facilitating the exchange of knowledge (e.g. by “translating” or packaging it for different audiences) to support better decision-making. In weADAPT, knowledge brokering involves curating content for a range of users and ensuring it is of good quality, so that readers trust the platform as a reliable source of climate adaptation content. In addition, we see our role as strengthening the climate adaptation space and seek ways to both support what others are already doing well, to continue that, while leading the way in other new avenues.

Q: What is the benefit of being part of the Climate Knowledge Brokers group?
SB: It enables us to learn from others and share experiences, such as the value of user-driven development, the importance of building trust in platforms through continued face-to-face interactions, and the tailoring of science into knowledge products that are easy to uptake by a variety of audiences. It also allows us to remain at the cutting edge of technology – discuss the latest advancements and how appropriate they may or may not be for our audience.

Q: How much does an established portal like weADAPT continue to evolve over time?
SB: Good knowledge brokering is challenging to manage and sustain, given that we’re trying to meet the needs of a diverse global audience. There are always new attempts to do it better, or differently. There is a demand for this type of knowledge brokering, but we need to learn from each other, and try to avoid duplicative efforts – what has been referred to as “portal proliferation syndrome”. This means we always have to keep in mind what we know about how learning and reflection can facilitate positive change. This informs everything we do: when we are designing the platform, creating and curating content, and communicating with our users.

Q: How is SEI involved in the Climate Knowledge Brokers group?
SB: We recognize that one platform cannot do everything, and CKB has enabled weADAPT to foster highly innovative collaborations with platforms with specific strengths. For example, this has involved a partnership with a platform strong on climate science – the Climate Information Portal (CIP) – and another with a strong regional presence, AfricaAdapt.

One of the results of this rich collaboration has been the integration between weADAPT and CIP, through consultation with AfricaAdapt partners, bringing new information to wider audiences (see, e.g., the integration of climate station data with adaptation projects).

CDKN funding for CIP-weADAPT-AfricaAdapt integration has spawned a remarkable level of interaction between the platform developers and the user community. This interaction has been very fruitful and has significantly progressed our thinking around the delivery of climate-related information to users of these knowledge platforms.

Q: What will the Climate Knowledge Brokers group be doing at COP20 in Lima?
SB: The CKB group’s mission at COP20 is to support decision-makers when tapping into the space of interactive knowledge brokering in the fast-growing field of climate change information. The group will be participating in and co-organizing several events, including a side-event on 1 December, a workshop at ESAN University in Lima on 5 December where SEI’s Tahia Devisscher will present weADAPT, and Development and Climate Days 2014, on 6-7 December (see details on all events).

Q: How can the CKB group make the biggest impact in the long term?
SB: Like everyone else, the CKB group has to, not only keep up with, but also lead the way in the digital revolution, without losing sight of the fact that our key audience is located in the global South, and some novel technologies are thus more appropriate than others. Clearly there is so much potential being leveraged through the use of information communication technologies. Evaluating our actual long-term impact, and learning from good monitoring and evaluation processes, is a challenge, but this will yield valuable lessons for the knowledge brokering needs and demands of the future.

Read more about the CKB group and previous workshops »

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