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Joining the dots – learning to work collaboratively to address climate change

Multiple Authors

Climate change – a systemic challenge

Climate change introduces new complexities and uncertainties into decision-making and planning. It also compounds pressing challenges posed by demographic, socio-economic and other environmental change taking place, such as meeting the rapidly growing demand for food, water and energy and addressing biodiversity loss.

However, current interventions that are designed to respond to development and environment challenges are fragmented across many sectors and institutions both public and private. The interventions themselves tend to be narrowly defined and assessed. And they’re dominated by short-term priorities with very little focus placed on integrated approaches that would create space for learning and flexibility in decision-making and implementation processes. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to tackle large-scale systemic challenges such as poverty, biodiversity loss and climate change effectively (UNEP 2010, Daw et al. 2011, Jones et al. 2011).

As such, there’s a critical need to develop processes that enable decision-makers at all levels (community, national and global) and actors (public, private and third sector) to plan and act together and within complex interconnected systems if we’re to develop a sustainable, climateresilient future that supports social and ecological prosperity.

It is increasingly recognised that it’s important to bring different knowledge sets, perspectives and interests together to better understand and balance trade-offs when designing and implementing robust strategies to address development and environment challenges (Vignola et al. 2009, Tschakert and Dietrich 2010, High Level Panel on Global Sustainability 2012). Responding to increased complexity and uncertainty requires civil society organisations and public and private sector actors to develop and use processes that support multi-stakeholder participation, learning, and systemic, adaptive management approaches (IPCC 2012, IDS 2012).

The demand for and interest in strategic ways to address and adapt to climate change provide a significant opportunity to research and develop processes that support such integrated and participatory decision-making (UK Stationery Office 2010).

This short paper is based on work undertaken by SEI and WWF-UK in 2010-2011 with stakeholders in three climate-vulnerable developing countries – Belize, Nepal and Tanzania. The work aimed to explore the opportunities for and barriers to taking integrated approaches to decision-making in the context of climate change. We reflect on and share our learning which may have wider application and impact beyond the three countries studied. Individual, more detailed country reports for each of the three countries are available on request.


This think piece is co-authored by Anna Taylor and Tahia Devisscher from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Helen Jeans and Joanna Phillips from WWF-UK.

It is based on a study commissioned by WWF-UK, funded by UK aid from the UK Departmentfor International Development (DfID). The work was undertaken in collaboration with theStockholm Environment Institute (SEI) centres in Oxford, UK, Bangkok and Thailand, andWWF offices in the UK, Belize, Nepal and Tanzania. We are very grateful to the people whoparticipated in this research from Belize, Nepal and Tanzania. We also give special thanks to thereviewers – Lisa Schipper and Rasmus Klocker Larsen, from SEI US and SEI Stockholmrespectively – for their constructive comments and Guy Jowett WWF-UK for his editorialsupport. The workshops referred to in this report took place 2010, information provided byparticipants reflects that time.


Joining the dots: Learning to work collaboratively to address climate change, (2013) SEI/WWF, Taylor, A., Devisscher, T., Jeans, H., Phillips, J.

This publication is one of the main outputs from a joint project between SEI and WWF. To read more about this project please click here.

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