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weADAPT at 15: How research, policy and practice community members use the platform

Climate impacts are increasingly reported from all around the world: from flooding in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Australia to heat waves in India and wildfires in California. Many of these extremes are felt by the most vulnerable with the least capacity and resources to adapt and who have contributed the least to climate change itself. This vulnerability and lack of adaptive capacity underscores the need for more effective ways for people to share information about adaptation solutions to address common risks.

This is our motivation for weADAPT: helping planners, practitioners, local and national policymakers, researchers, businesses, communities and individuals seeking practical and up-to-date information on climate change adaptation and relevant science, enabling them to compare and assess the thousands of projects going on around the world facing similar challenges and providing space to learn lessons from their potential solutions.

Sukaina Bharwani, Francesca Liberatore Vaselli, Meadow Poplawsky / Published on 17 October 2022

Source: weADAPT.

In collaboration with Oxfam GB in 2007, SEI Oxford began an experiment – wikiADAPT – to test knowledge-sharing demands and needs for climate change adaptation issues. The goal was to create a shared space for researchers and practitioners to collaboratively write articles on adaptation and share experiences, lessons learned and useful tools and methods.

SEI Oxford launched the platform, but the users have made it into what it today:  a vibrant and active community of research and practice that makes use of leading-edge research and knowledge on adaptation-related issues. weADAPT received 160 000 unique site visits in 2022, and it continues to grow faster than ever before. While online climate change adaptation knowledge is plentiful there is in fact so much information there that people turn to weADAPT to help them navigate through the onslaught. They come to weADAPT to find up-to-date information in accessible language (and in over 130 languages). They come to learn from similar ongoing work and to avoid the risk of repeating approaches that have already been tried and found wanting.

We surveyed our users to find out how exactly they are using content and connections on weADAPT. This map reflects findings from interviews showing that weADAPT is used in vastly different ways by diverse actors and in multiple locations. We have been inspired by how far and wide the platform’s content has motivated others and their work.

Figure 1: Stories from around the world about how weADAPT is being used. Source: weADAPT.

Key symbol 11. Raising awareness, supporting learning and keeping the community up to date

Interviews highlighted that weADAPT is used extensively to increase awareness of and support youth and adults alike in learning about climate change in a variety of sectors and contexts. Interviewees also emphasized that weADAPT helps them to stay up to date with the latest research and developments in the adaptation sector, as well as helping the community to learn from each other.

Key symbol 22. Capacity development and training

weADAPT’s team is conscious of making all content as accessible as possible and providing it in a synthesized and easy-to-digest format. Several respondents described using weADAPT owing to its simplicity and ease of use, its “understandable and pragmatic approaches” that use “simple down-to-Earth language” and is “based on real-life cases”. Respondents have also used weADAPT for training their local communities, farmers, students, young women and girls and internally displaced people at high schools, summer camps, youth engagement boot camps and workshops.

Key symbol 33. Adaptation planning and implementation

weADAPT helps the transition from awareness raising and capacity building to adaptation planning and implementation. Many interviewees discussed the importance of projects they read about on weADAPT, the inspiration they provided and the recognition of the need to tailor information for their own contexts and needs. This customization of existing resources, methodologies and tools for individual situations is the type of learning that can be reshared on weADAPT and is invaluable to practitioners, planners and researchers alike.

Key symbol 44. Linking science to policy at all scales

Interviewees described using weADAPT to support the drafting of a national communication plan, technical reports, project documents, research papers, literature reviews, proposals, dissertations and theses, as well as for the development of strategic environmental assessments. It has also been used to find ways to translate scientific concepts and theories to different stakeholder contexts and realities, including the principles of “uncertainty”, “probability” and “risk” to policymakers, sector experts, the private sector and decision-makers from local to national levels.

Key symbol 55. Creating connections, partnerships, networks and communities of practice

Several interviewees report using weADAPT for connecting with users or organizations both directly or indirectly. Indirect ways of connecting include using social media to share weADAPT content, including a LinkedIn group, sharing weADAPT content on messenger apps such as Messenger and WhatsApp, finding and contacting adaptation experts through SEI’s and weADAPT’s LinkedIn accounts, sharing weADAPT’s newsletter with colleagues, printing the newsletter out for community members, and browsing weADAPT networks for stakeholder mapping.

Key symbol 66. Learning from around the world

A key characteristic mentioned by many respondents relates to the wide geographic spread of weADAPT’s content, particularly the fact that case studies are from all over the world, allowing a huge degree of exchanging lessons learned. Many projects and initiatives have been inspired by activities taking place elsewhere and are tailored and modified to suit local context. For example,  a high school teacher in Tanzania used ideas shared by others in the weADAPT newsletter on afforestation, reforestation and organic farming to develop new adaptation projects in his village, planting trees in his community and encouraging others to get involved. He was later inspired by adaptation projects shared on weADAPT from other parts of the world facing similar climate risks to move into aquaculture.

Key symbol 77. Facilitating knowledge exchange

Access issues related to poor connectivity, especially in African countries, are clear. However, even with the constraints, the platform has been used where possible to increase access to information. Several respondents noted that the value of weADAPT’s newsletter is that it can be downloaded to read offline when internet connectivity or electricity access may not be available.

Key symbol 88. Informing and inspiring other climate platforms

As a team, we are often asked to reflect on and share our lessons learned in developing the platform and to support other platform and knowledge managers in their own efforts. According to a civil servant in Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, weADAPT has inspired the nature, shape and evolution of the Japanese climate change platform AP-Plat, whose goal is to support the sustainability and resilience of the Asia-Pacific region. Lessons and experience from weADAPT have also inspired other online platforms and communities such as the Global Water Partnership’s Toolbox called the IWRM Action Hub, which follows a similar “Learn, Explore, Connect” ethos.

weADAPT map

Figure 2: Geographic distribution of weADAPT interviewees in 2022. Source: weADAPT.

Next steps

Adaptation is a global issue and every country needs to work together to address how climate change will affect their societies and environment. Our work is essential to continue building adaptation knowledge and empower connection and collaboration between people and organizations working in climate change adaptation worldwide. This type of work needs to grow and investment and funding is crucial to ensure knowledge sharing on adaptation can continue to expand and influence.

As evidenced by our survey and initial interviews, through 15 years of cultivating a trusted global community of research and practice, weADAPT has supported knowledge sharing on projects worldwide to facilitate capacity development and accelerated climate action. Our mission continues to be promoting equal access and standing for all users and organizations across the platform, our newsletter and our social media. This is crucial for ensuring everyone has a voice and can contribute to the shared knowledge base. Valuing diverse knowledge and including diverse actors is particularly essential for supporting transdisciplinary learning and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Our work is not finished and the importance and urgency of this work continues to grow. We will keep working with our users to understand their evolving needs and ensure weADAPT content is of the highest quality, relevant and timely. We will expand and enhance our knowledge sharing capabilities in 2023, taking stock of input and feedback from our interviews, (including increasing map functionality, accessibility to language translations and knowledge sharing capabilities and improving interactivity with other users) and launch a cutting-edge new version of the platform that will offer even more opportunities for learning, sharing and connecting to the adaptation community. This is particularly important as climate action around the world accelerates towards collectively fulfilling our Agenda 2030 goals.

More information

Written by

Sukaina Bharwani

Senior Research Fellow and weADAPT Director

SEI Oxford

Francesca Liberatore Vaselli

Design and development by Soapbox.