Climate change poses daunting challenges. There is so much to learn: about climate science, about expected impacts in specific places, about how to adapt, build resilience, and achieve a low-carbon future. Many people are still not aware of climate risks or potential responses, and if they set out to educate themselves online, they may be overwhelmed and find it difficult to tell good information from bad.
This is why climate knowledge brokers are so crucial.
Through outreach, they can raise awareness of climate issues. By curating content and providing feedback to the authors, they can improve the quality of available information. By gathering materials and cross-linking them, they make “hidden” knowledge more accessible. By synthesizing information and putting it in context, they make it more useful and actionable. And by filtering materials, they prevent overload.
Both climate knowledge-brokering and co-production of climate knowledge is a key aspect of the SEI Oxford Centre’s general research and weADAPT-related projects. Oxford staff, particularly Senior Research Fellow Sukaina Bharwani, have been active in the Climate Knowledge Brokers (CKB) Group, a network of organizations and professionals focused on improving the quality and use of climate knowledge in decision-making.
On 17 September, the CKB Group issued a “Manifesto” that lays out a vision to achieve a world in which people make climate-sensitive decisions “fully informed by the best available climate knowledge”, and outlines the essential role of climate knowledge brokers – and the CKB Group – in achieving that vision:
Society is only now grasping the full extent to which our lives, jobs and environment are sensitive to a changing climate. Effective decision-making will be needed in many areas if we are to build a climate resilient future.
Many more people will therefore need to make use of climate knowledge to support them in making their decisions. We understand that these users of climate knowledge require access to high quality information that is tailored to their specific circumstances. …
Chains of ‘knowledge brokers’ act as filters, interfaces and translators between knowledge producers and users, across different disciplines, fields and sectors. … The CKB Group (“CKB”) aims to help climate knowledge brokers become more effective and efficient in their efforts to meet the information needs of current and future users. We believe this will only be achieved through collaboration, sharing and a commitment to open knowledge. …
We support the intelligent use of climate-related knowledge; we urge the coherent and strategic funding of climate knowledge brokering activities; and we invite the participation of all collaboration-minded climate knowledgebroker […]
The Manifesto is the result of an intense collaborative effort where user needs and the characteristics of a knowledge broker role were investigated by 17 contributors, who interviewed 80 climate knowledge users and brokers. It starts from the recognition that, as the Manifesto puts it, “[a]lthough there has been greater uptake in recent years, we are a long way off meeting current needs for climate information effectively, and nowhere near the limits of potential future need.”
Rather than try to solve the problem individually, members of the CKB Group, launched in 2011, envision a “more connected climate information world … where users are guided to what is most relevant to them, where content can flow between websites easily, and where information providers and knowledge brokers are working together and learning from each other”.
The weADAPT team fully embraces that vision. “The messages from the rich array of experts in the Manifesto is the same: We need better, tailored and packaged information to support decision-makers,” says Bharwani. “We can all use the reminders provided here about what makes knowledge accessible, useful and most importantly, actionable.”
A clear focus on user needs
SEI Research Fellow Mònica Coll Besa says the Manifesto’s emphasis on meeting users’ needs is particularly important. “At the end of the day we are seeking to improve the use and quality of climate-related knowledge in decision-making to deal with complex real-world challenges,” she says. “That means that we need to engage with a range of different actors across different disciplines to make sure the information we provide is presented in context and is relevant and useful to the people who need it.”
The CKB Group has also encouraged its members to collaborate and find synergies instead of replicating one another’s efforts. Already several joint initiatives have been launched, with positive results. The Manifesto aims to foster even greater collaboration at a time when the need for climate knowledge is particularly great, with the Sustainable Development Goals about to be approved and a new global climate change agreement expected to be reached at the Paris Climate Change Conference.
“The Manifesto is only the beginning,” says Bharwani. “The goal is to inspire all climate knowledge brokers out there to engage in the CKB network, participate in webinars and workshops, and share their insights and experiences, so that we can learn from each other. The Manifesto also provides good food for thought about our daily work and whether it aligns with our long-term objectives. It can push us to engage in a deeper, more effective dialogue between users and providers of information, with more urgency and hopefully more impact.”