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Acting on What we Know and Learn for Climate and Development Policy

The Challenge

On the 5th and 6th March 2013, the Climate Change Team at IDS organised a knowledge exchange which aimed to explore how learning is (or isn’t) taking place in climate and development policy spaces, and whether the knowledge we are generating is acted upon. As a complex problem, climate change requires us to work and to learn differently. This means breaking down disciplinary silos, and drawing upon a diversity of perspectives and voices, linked through a range of brokers and intermediaries who do not play the same role as a ‘subject expert’. As a result, in the context of international development, our understanding both of the challenges and of how to shape responses is still emerging and evolving.

An increasing number of organisations and actors have been reflecting on how to learn better for climate policy, whilst a range of experiences suggests a mixed bag so far for efforts to translate what we do and do not know about climate change into policy action.

The Response

The IDS Climate Change Team had been in conversation about these issues with a number of key actors in the field, each with their own learning agenda for climate policy:

1. The Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Initiative (CCAFS)

2. The Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

3. The UK Department for International Development (DfID)

4. The Global Environment Facility Evaluation Office (GEF EO)

5. International Development Research Canada (IDRC)

As a result of our conversations, we decided to come together to take stock, share and chart the next steps, the result of which was the knowledge exchange. The event brought together actors from government, donor, research and civil society spaces, to include a diversity of perspectives and learning opportunities. Reflecting the challenges, priorities, expertise, networks and ways of working of the group of organisers, the knowledge exchange was structured around four learning themes.

1. Whose knowledge counts? Locally-held knowledge for climate change adaptation (IDS & CCAFS), looking at the ways in which locally-held knowledge is brought into climate policy and practice, what is missing and what might change.

2. Brokers, translators and intermediaries: new roles and challenges for putting knowledge into practice (IDRC, IDS, USAID), seeking to explore the changing role of the ‘knowledge worker’ in climate and development, performing brokering and intermediary functions at the boundaries of different fields of practice.

3. How to learn from climate change evaluations (CDKN & GEF EO), exploring the barriers and opportunities for getting evaluation findings to a wider audience and learning more from the vast datasets available.

4. Extreme events and disaster risk reduction (DRR): what are we not learning? (IDS), which endeavoured to understand why DRR policy and practice seemed frequently not to take account of the behaviour of people exposed to potential or actual disasters.


Mockbee, M., Newsham, A., 2013. Acting on What we Know and Learn for CLimate and Development Policy (final report). Institute of Development Studies.

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