Four takeaways from the ARA’s European Workshop
Held between the ARA and European adaptation actors, the workshop explored synergies for collaboration and ways to strengthen the ARA’s role in driving action research for vulnerable communities.
Bringing together adaptation actors from several European countries, the Adaptation Research Alliance held the European Workshop from 14 – 15 September 2021. With representation from government, science councils, funders, researchers and implementing organisations, the goal was to identify best practices around action-oriented research and how European partners can join the ARA in their adoption.
In collaboration with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the workshop explored synergies in research programmes among European actors and how to increase investment into action-oriented research for climate adaptation and resilience.
“The vision of the Adaptation Research Alliance is a world in which the research community is a highly valued partner to policymakers, practitioners and the most vulnerable communities,” said the ARA.
Notably, the workshop showed key alignments between core functions of the ARA and key areas of activity among European stakeholders. The workshop also revealed that Europe hosts a critical mass of action and research aligned with the vision and mission of the Alliance.
The workshop, however, was not meant to merely explore synergies. Participants shared lessons learned from their own initiatives to help strengthen the ARA’s three functional areas of advocacy, research and resource mobilisation.
This knowledge exchange gave insight into best practices. It also gave insights into how the ARA can drive the adoption of these practices and promote stronger collaboration and project development among partners. The following highlights four key takeaway messages from the workshops.
The role of lived experience
The ARA can help galvanise actors from the Global South to co-create solutions and lay emphasis on insights from ‘lived experience’ alongside those from ‘expert knowledge’. Learning starts by understanding how people experience hazards and who is vulnerable. By focusing on lived experience, there is a greater chance to co-design research and co-create knowledge. In line with this, as part of its second workstream, the ARA plans to implement a consultative process that brings together a diverse group of experts to discuss broad topic areas and agree how to identify what needs to be researched in those areas. The ARA acknowledged the challenge is to ensure equal participation of those with lived experience and those with ‘expert knowledge’.
Experiences from those working on the ground indicated a need for better communication. Not only between researchers, funders, and organisations on priorities and expectations, but also in the communication of research itself. For example, a need to simplify scientific language and translate research across language barriers was made clear. This ensures an inclusive process and can lead to the adaptation of scientific data and jargon into actionable information.
Support knowledge exchange
There is a need to emphasise South to North and cross-regional learning in both advocacy and research. This would be an opportunity to apply the knowledge from communities on the frontline in a way that influences the design of adaptation research and implementation. This would also ensure a more coherent research process where similar kinds of work are conducted to capture comparable data across different geographies. In line with this, there is a need for a greater synthesis of knowledge.
Think more broadly
The workshop highlighted that advocacy means something different to each member. Advocacy is, for instance, as much about influencing behaviour as policy. The ARA should explore broadening its scope for advocacy by supporting a qualitative shift in the behaviour of institutions and ensuring that local perspectives are given the prime placement they deserve in decision making.
In all, the ARA European Workshop revealed a unique opportunity for the Alliance to become a knowledge broker – spotlighting key issues, catalysing partnerships, and capturing insights into best practices to support vulnerable communities.
However, the ARA cannot deliver impact by merely producing more reports or creating a web platform to disseminate information. Instead, these must be embedded in a dynamic and interactive learning system predicated on knowledge co-creation.
As one participant highlighted, “Most learning does not happen on platforms or in isolation, it happens together, and it happens iteratively.”