The Caribbean Civil Society Partnership by BridgeCaribbean
A targeted and demand-led outreach project to foster civil society partnership and community adaptation in the vulnerable Caribbean region
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is home to 17 million people dotted across 15 small and low-lying states. The region is characterized by high vulnerability to both natural and economic shocks with climate change posing an additional and immediate threat to livelihood; especially sea-level rise, fresh-water scarcity and extreme weather events. Unlike their northern neighbors, Caribbean states recognize the urgent threat and the need for strong political will (Liliendaal Declaration). Since 1997, states have made progress to study vulnerability, downsize climate models and establish research stations. Regrettably, the reliance is on top-down approaches with scarce attention to community-based adaptation. This is where grassroots and nongovernment organizations are vital: advocating change, designing innovative projects and improving accountability and trust in community adaptation methods. Moreover, transformative change cannot occur without civil society: challenging power imbalances and pushing for institutional and legal reform (Canales, 2011; Chishakwe et al., 2012; Agrawal et al., 2008).
Unfortunately, these organizations work in isolation. Extensive consultations with civil society in the Caribbean reveal alarmingly little collaboration among grassroots and local nongovernment organizations (Commonwealth Foundation, In Progress). Despite their own call for greater partnership, cooperation among civil society has stalled due to geography and declining resources. The Caribbean Civil Society Partnership utilizes technology and expertise to bridge this divide and foster civil society partnership across the 15 CARICOM states. It will be the first of its kind in the Caribbean - tailored to local issues, culture and communication to enable knowledge sharing and collaboration as well as scaling up local projects, climate funds and planning tools. It will have a direct impact on hundreds of grassroots organizations and a lasting contribution to adaptation in the region.
Category of the action
What actions do you propose?
Recent years have seen the proliferation of numerous climate portals; demonstrating the growing need for knowledge sharing and collaboration across communities, practitioners, researchers and policymakers. Unfortunately, there is negligible attention given to the vulnerable Caribbean. We undertook a survey of the top 20 climate portals worldwide and found that only three make mention of adaptation projects anywhere in the region and none include local NGOs: CRiSTAL includes one project in Haiti; WeADAPT names one project in Belize; and ALM lists ten projects, though only the work of large development agencies are listed. Moreover, despite their aim to empower communities and facilitate partnership; ironically, many climate and development portals are supply-driven and operate largely in isolation. Promising signs are seen among the largest of these and the first steps towards a community of best practice is witnessed in the informal Climate Knowledge Brokers Group (CDKN and GIZ, 2012) and Knowledge Brokers’ Forum. The Caribbean Civil Society Partnership is based on these early lessons to create a demand-led climate initiative in the Caribbean, while leveraging other climate portals to ensure long-term success.
We do not need to re-invent the wheel and instead seek to design a project in collaboration with other knowledge brokers in the field of climate change and development. This means not being a one-stop shop or duplicating the work of other organizations; but building a regional network in the Caribbean where one did not exist before, and then connecting to global and regional players. We are also in discussion and plan to partner with organizations who have undertaken previous civil society consultations and/or adaptation research in the Caribbean including the inter-governmental Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs), the University of the West Indies, Commonwealth Foundation and the Nature Conservancy.
As mentioned earlier, civil society in the Caribbean is failing to work together on climate change and development, a situation worsened by falling and redirected ODA and widespread emigration (between 55-89% in the region). Consultations reveal the need for greater partnership to engage in planning processes, access funds, learn lessons of best practice and strengthen their collective voice (Stakeholder Forum, 2008; Commonwealth Foundation, 2005, Murray, In Print). Furthermore, civil society organizations currently have negligible involvement with newly established adaptation funds (i.e. UN-AF) despite the fact that they often have the best knowledge of those impacted by climate change and the concrete problems it creates for vulnerable communities (Harmeling and Kaloga, 2010). This is a critical time for Caribbean civil society to come together on community-based adaptation.
The Caribbean Civil Society Partnership will foster collaboration across the Caribbean among under-represented grassroots and local nongovernment organizations; and then connect these organizations with global and regional players. It is unique in that it does not target government; instead, it is designed for organizations who are often excluded from the table. That said, it is not enough to simply be better connected. The project is designed to foster a community of best practice, encourage collaboration and scaling up of community-based projects (CBA), increase access to financial resources, and develop and increase access to planning tools.
The project will undertake twin activities: a dedicated Knowledge Management Team and the development of a Web-based Portal. In many ways the knowledge management team will be more important to first reach out to local organizations, develop the overall strategy, actively grow the network, seek new partnerships with other climate portals, and monitor and evaluate to ensure tools are being used effectively. There will be outreach on traditional and social media; as well as identification of key Caribbean experts, or ‘trust agents’. The knowledge management team will also follow-up with all member organizations and produce a quarterly newsletter of civil society activities, areas of interest and events; as well as maintain up-to-date information of climate funds (incl. UN-AF), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and microfinance such as KIVA, EcoMicro, SunFunder and MicroPlace. After the start-up phase, the team will organize an annual regional workshop whereby organizations will have the chance to collaborate face-to-face.
In general, it is insufficient to assume that "if you build it they will come”. It takes time for users to get up to speed with new initiatives and this is where the team will facilitate the overall process of engagement. Direct outreach through in-person meetings and regular telephone conversations cannot be underestimated, especially with small organizations. Other useful services include field trips to new CBA projects, participatory photography and video, hosting webinars for training and online discussions, podcasts with local radio and workshops with researchers, private sector and policymakers. Moreover, the project will partner with the 5Cs: the clearinghouse and focal point of government coordination on Caribbean climate change. They do not represent nongovernment organizations but are keen to work in partnership with our project to reach out to Caribbean NGOs. Such a partnership would further strengthen dialogue between civil society and government. In addition, the 5Cs just launched a risk management toolkit for government planning and finance (CCORAL), with additional plans to adapt the toolkit for civil society users in partnership with our project.
The Web-based Portal will be tailored to the local culture, traditional knowledge and modes of communication. Local voices and testimonials will be given equal footing to climate science and modeling. This is an important feature championed by Many Strong Voices, AfricaADAPT and the International Institute for Environment and Development. Moreover, it will be demand-led based on extensive consultations, which will themselves provide invaluable research into Caribbean civil society: their strengths and weaknesses along with opportunities for increased development. Some of the tailored services to be discussed:
- Directory of grassroots, nongovernment organizations & CSO Ministerial contacts
- Clearinghouse of community-led adaptation projects & links to parallel activities outside the region through the Knowledge Navigator widget
- Development of risk management tools such as CCORAL and links to the Caribbean Weather Impact Group
- Maintained list of climate funds and microfinance such as KIVA, EcoMicro, SunFunder & MicroPlace
- Online library with links to such services as Eldis and Panos Caribbean
- Multimedia & multilingual content including case studies, participatory photography and video
- Hosting webinars & podcasts
- Adobe Creative Cloud for coordinating funding proposals and projects between organizations online
As mentioned before, we also will leverage and connect with other regional and global climate portals, including:
- Google Custom Search which will direct users to recommended climate sites if information is not available on ours
- REEGLE with automated tagging API: an intelligent search tool and built-in glossary of terms
- RSS feeds to add relevant content from other sites including Eldis, Livelihoods Direct, Earth News Bulletin & Panos Caribbean
- Knowledge Navigator widget which connects our platform to other climate portals
- Joint marketing with other climate portals
- Partnership with 5Cs & other initiatives such as the Global Island Partnership list of UN conservation projects, Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Challenge and Many Strong Voices
Consultations & Launch
Organizations across the environment and development spheres will be targeted. Already 60 have been identified for the initial consultations to begin mapping civil society organizations across the 15 states: reaching out first with carefully designed questionnaires and telephone interviews, then followed with in-person meetings on each of the islands. These in-depth consultations will not only inform the design of the tools of the project and encourage early buy-in; they will also establish a complete picture of local activities – becoming the first clearinghouse of community-based projects and programs in the Caribbean. We have further identified 16 Caribbean organizations to advise and join this project, each bringing their own expertise related to climate science, governance, policy and development.
Consultations will also feature an initial focus group held in Trinidad & Tobago where the country’s Civil Society Board can add support. Preparation for all consultations will include advisors from both the climate change and development communities for whom we have numerous established contacts. This is to ensure we provide coverage to as broad a spectrum of issues as possible, even those not immediately identified as “climate change” issues. These consultations will also discover what tools and services are most effective, establishing a picture of a) what organizations want to do that they cannot currently owing to lack of information and resources; and b) how they search for new information and partners.
At the end of year one, there will be a formal launch hopefully held in partnership with 5Cs and government policymakers. This will not only raise early awareness of the project but also include the added benefit of bringing many of these organizations together with policymakers. Technology has made great strides and much can be accomplished through email, webinars, cloud technology, and online networks; however, lasting partnerships are created through trust and face-to-face contact. Ideally the project will be renewed after two years with an annual workshop held on a different island each year. These will also include two awards: a youth award for under 25s and one for most innovative community-based project.
As it is often said, adaptation policies need not start from scratch. “People have been managing climate hazards for centuries”; a reality that forms the starting point for approaches such as community vulnerability and resilience frameworks and local adaptive capacity (Prowse and Scott, 2008). Despite this, the majority of climate change initiatives focus on top-down interventions. For example, 85% of all priority projects identified by the NAPAs pay little to no attention to local communities and organizations (Agrawal et al., 2009). Community-based adaptation challenges this traditional top-down approach. Although small and low-lying island states require large-scale interventions such as coastal protection and early warning systems, these alone will not be enough for the Caribbean. Vulnerability can be greatly reduced and local adaptive capacity strengthened though inductive socio-economic solutions, rooted in the existing coping strategies of communities and individuals at risk (Huq and Reid 2007). CBA partners indigenous and scientific knowledge, hand-in-hand, to build community-led initiatives with the long-term aim of scaling up and feeding into higher-level processes.
Civil society organizations are ideally positioned to undertake such work, with small initiatives already beginning in the Caribbean region. The barrier, however, is that these projects currently operate in isolation and many more cannot get off the ground due to remoteness, lack of expertise and financial resources. Climate change is an urgent and common threat to the region, not constrained by the political boundaries of each island and state. Local organizations dedicated to the environment, development and governance need to start communicating and working together to safeguard the people and communities of the vulnerable Caribbean.
Who will take these actions?
The web-portal will be designed and maintained by Cubeworks. Partnership will be sought with regional and international organizations such as 5Cs, Commonwealth Foundation, the University of the West Indies, CaribSAVE, Global Island Partnership, the Climate & Development Knowledge Network, the Nature Conservancy and numerous regional experts with whom we have an extensive network cultivated over 10 years working in the sector.
Laurel Murray is a research/policy consultant in climate change and development. Her background lies in both the sciences and political science with a focus on the politics of climate change and emerging field of community-based adaptation. She also has experience running workshops, focus groups, podcasts, and marketing and communications. Laurel brings her knowledge of climate change and civil society engagement; as well as her experience co-running a similar knowledge-sharing and capacity-building platform. She will lead the Knowledge Management Strategy and oversee the design of the web-based portal.
Jonathan Greaves is a recruitment specialist within the global commodity sectors. His expertise lies in identifying and matching individuals to specific needs, usually centered on start-up projects in niche sectors. He is skilled at mapping new commodity markets and lends this expertise to mapping the Caribbean civil society network. He is adept at interviews and also speaks three of the four languages in the region. Jonathan brings his experience in market research and establishing needs, especially for the initial outreach and consultations and later counterparty outreach.
Deepti Sastry is a performance/accountability advisor for a large relief and development organization. She refines the delivery of programs in the field, evaluates processes and translates the concepts of quality and accountability into practice. She will advise throughout and offer guidance on monitoring the project’s performance and wider impact on communities of practice.
Where will these actions be taken?
The base for the project will be in Trinidad & Tobago where the initial focus group will also be held. The actions will be taken across the 15 member states of CARICOM, representing a total population of 17 million people: Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago. Overseas Territories are not included but could be phased in after the first two years of the project.
The web-site launch and workshop will be held in Belize where inter-governmental Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) is located. The regional workshop and review at the end of year two will take place at is one the University of the West Indies: St. Augustine campus in Trinidad & Tobago. If the project secures funding after two years, an annual workshop will be held in a different state each year.
What are other key benefits?
There are many avenues for growth in a project such as this: linking the knowledge platform with action research in the Caribbean and tapping into CSR and microfinance projects. These can include innovative pricing policies so that poorer households can access renewable energy, climate-proofing houses with local contractors and terracing farmland to reduce erosion. This means we can create additional value by facilitating action related to vital areas of planning and the local economy.
One must remember that climate change is not just an environment problem; it is a barrier to development for the world’s poor. Fortunately, adaptation can work in tandem with poverty-reduction. In fact it was former Assistant Secretary-General, Dr. Edward Greene, who referred to climate change as a pillar for functional integration in the Caribbean – reinforcing a bond across the constellation of states. Now dedicated action is needed to bridge not just government, but civil society across the region.
What are the proposal’s costs?
The Caribbean Civil Society Partnership will begin as a two-year project, which will hopefully be expanded subject to additional funds. The first two years are expected to cost $96,000 USD. The design of the web-based portal will be $10,000 USD with another $10,000 USD towards maintenance and IT support. The remaining $76,000 USD will be dedicated to the knowledge management team: including the initial focus group in Trinidad & Tobago, travel for the consultations, the research and in-person meetings throughout the region.
Starting in the new year, funds for the project will be sought through donor organizations and foundations. If fortunate enough to win the competition prize of $10,000 USD, the money will be put towards an initial set of consultations and development of a test site. A publication will also be produced off the back of these first consultations to be presented at additional conferences to aid research and fundraising.
Agrawal, Arun, McSweeney, Catherine and Perrin, Nicolas (2008). Local Institutions and Climate Change Adaptation. World Bank. Social Dimensions of Climate Change. Issue 113.
Agrawal, Arun, Perrin, Nicolas, Chhatre, Ashwini, Benson, Catherine, Kononen, Minna. (2009). Climate Policy Processes, Local Institutions, and Adaptation Actions. Social Dimensions of Climate Change. Issue 119.
Canales, Nella (2011). Civil Society and the Integration of Climate Change Risks into Planning and Policy-making. CARE Peru.
CDKN and GIZ (2012). Climate and Development Knowledge Brokers Workshop Report. By the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).
Chishakwe, Nyasha, Murray, Laurel and Chambwera Muyeye (2012). Building Climate Change Adaptation on Community Experiences: Lessons from Community-Based Natural Resource Management in Southern Africa. International Institute for Environment and Development.
Commonwealth Foundation (2005). Breaking with Business as Usual: Perspectives from Civil Society in the Commonwealth on the Millennium Development Goals.
Commonwealth Foundation (In Progress). Breaking Point: The post-2015 MDG agenda.
Downes, Andrew (2005). Progress Towards Achieving The Millennium Development Goals in the Small States of the Commonwealth. Commonwealth Secretariat.
Harmeling, Sven and Alpha Oumar Kaloga (2010). Adaptation Fund Under the KP: Mature for Concrete Implementation of Projects and Direct Access. European Capacity Building Initiative
Huq, Saleemul and Reid, Hannah (2007). Community-Based Adaptation: A Vital Approach to the Threat Climate Change Poses to the Poor. International Institute for Environment and Development.
Huq, Saleemul (2008). Community-based Adaptation. Tiempo. Issue 68.
Liliendaal Declaration (2009). Issued by the Thirtieth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community. Georgetown, Guyana.
Murray, Laurel (In Print). Perspectives from Civil Society on the Millennium Development Goals and Post-2015 Agenda: A Focus on Small States and Vulnerability. Commonwealth Foundation.
Stakeholder Forum (2008). A Synthesis Document of Global Stakeholder Inputs. Prepared for the UN High Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals 2008.