by James Smith, REEEP
The Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto, launched on 17th September 2015, opens with a quote from one of the many interviews that preceded its creation:
“There was a time when I and many of my colleagues went in search of moral victories by converting other people to our points of view. The better part of knowledge brokering, however, is to communicate ideas in the languages and in the value systems of the audience.”
William Becker, Executive Director, Presidential Climate Action Project
This statement is important because it speaks to the growing realisation that thinking about the climate can no longer be solely the domain of climate scientists, or environmental policy-makers. Most of our lives, jobs and environment are sensitive to a changing climate. Effective decision making will be needed in many areas, from a great many people, if we are to build a climate resilient future. Those people will need to make effective use of climate knowledge(*see footnote) to support them in making those decisions.
At the moment, too many of them do not have the knowledge they need. CKB has been around (and growing steadily) since 2011. At each successive workshop the topic is always raised about supply driven versus demand driven knowledge brokering. Perhaps too often we climate knowledge brokers push out the information to which we have easy access, rather than the information that would be most useful for people in their jobs and lives.
You can think of a spectrum of users, with potential users who aren’t yet considering climate information at all at one end, to users at the other end with access to too much information, lacking sufficient time to sort through it all to find what they need. Somewhere in between sit people who have a need for information that no-one is currently collecting, and those who don’t have access to information that does exist somewhere.
The first point is obvious. Relevant information must be available and accessible. Whilst writing the Manifesto we had quite a debate about the term ‘broker’ because some interviewees thought it sounded commercial, thinking that we expect to be paid a fee for passing information. I’m keen to point out that CKB supports open knowledge, free to the user wherever possible. My organisation, REEEP, has long used and promoted Linked Open Data (see, e.g. http://blog.reegle.info/blog/thoughts-on-linked-open-data-following-reeepnrel-washington-d-c-lod-workshop.htm#more-7056 or www.climatetagger.net).
Secondly, what came through loud and clear for all users – in particular for those at the overwhelmed end of the spectrum – was the need for tailoring. To be useful, information must be actionable, which means the user must be able to relate it to his or her own circumstances. The more the knowledge broker can synthesize climate information for a particular user and contextualise it with information from the user’s own sector and/or locality, the better.
I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but we therefore think there is a distinct and vital role for climate knowledge brokers to act as filters, interfaces and translators across different disciplines, fields and sectors. We need to maximise our efficacy and efficiency, both to serve our users and make better use of the funding and resources currently available, and to demonstrate our worthiness to funders for increased resourcing to meet the coming wave of demand for climate information.
We in CKB think the only way to achieve this is through collaboration – we have committed to this as a standard in our work in the principles contained in the Manifesto. If you agree, you can become a signatory to the Manifesto here – you’d better read it first though! We think there’s a big role for funders to play here too – coherent, strategic funding for climate knowledge brokers means not insisting on setting up a new website or portal for every new initiative, but thinking about how to deliver information most effectively to the users who need it. In most cases that will mean collaborating with existing knowledge brokers, who have audience and reach, rather than starting from scratch.
And when we say collaboration amongst climate knowledge brokers, we mean it. Production of the Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto has been an intense, and intensely collaborative exercise. 17 contributors carried out interviews with 80 users of climate knowledge and other knowledge brokers, then attended an editorial workshop in Vienna in May to discuss what they had learned. A draft was produced and commented on by those 17, plus the dozen members of the CKB Steering Group. Draft v2 was discussed at the CKB Annual Workshop in UN City in Copenhagen at the end of June with 59 participants. Following further revisions, the Manifesto was approved and adopted by the Steering Group in July.
Personally, I’m proud to have worked on the Manifesto and have thoroughly enjoyed working with so many engaged and engaging people, including many challenging and stimulating discussions with colleagues (such as an ongoing debate about the definitions of data, information and knowledge, see: https://www.climate-eval.org/blog/answer-42-data-information-and-knowledge). Its launch isn’t the end of those discussions, though. In fact its a beginning. We hope you will engage with us in our efforts to ensure people make climate sensitive decisions fully informed by the best available climate knowledge. Here are two immediate opportunities to do so:
- For funders: A donors meeting to discuss coherent, strategic funding of climate knowledge brokering activities (to be held later this year) – if you are interested in learning more about this please contact the Chair of the CKB Group, Geoff Barnard from CDKN (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- For climate knowledge brokers: participate with us in CKB by taking part in a webinar and knowledge sharing clinic for collaboration-minded climate knowledge brokers (online, details to be announced on the CKB website http://www.climateknowledgebrokers.net and the CKB newsletter, for which you can sign up at http://tiny.cc/5ao32x)
*In this post (as in the Manifesto) the terms ‘climate knowledge’ and ‘climate information’ are used as shorthand to encompass a broader field of climate-related and climate-relevant knowledge/information. E.g. information about an adaptation project – how farmers are adjusting their crops and farming practices to a drier climate, say – is climate-related information, rather than climate information per se. CKB encompasses knowledge brokers who are dealing with the full range, from information from climate science through to mitigation and adaptation policies and projects, climate compatible development and green growth.