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Online peer-to-peer knowledge management tool helps communities share adaptation strategies and take action to become climate resilient.



Communities are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. These impacts include increasing temperatures, more extreme heat and flooding events, rising sea levels and changing coastal flood zones, impacts to human health, and ecological changes (NCA draft 2013).  

Some cities are preparing for these impacts. New York City and Chicago have the staff and financial resources to conduct detailed climate studies. Smaller cities like Chula Vista, CA and groups like the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe in WA, partner with other organizations to supplement limited staffing and financial capacities.  Regardless of size, most climate adaptation action in cities is focused on assessing vulnerability and identifying strategies to build resilience.  While these steps are important, it is critical that cities begin transition from planning to action (Bierbaum et al. 2012). 

This project will work directly with communities to refine and further develop an innovative and comprehensive cloud-based knowledge management database that allows them to share adaptation strategies and encourages action to become more resilient.

This web-based tool moves beyond the digital library approach by:

  1. Focusing specifically on individual adaptation strategies;  
  2. Providing "how-to" guidance on implementing those strategies;
  3. Providing a framework for real-time data sharing;
  4. Being able to grow and expand organically through user input;
  5. Providing direct connection to other climate experts outside local government; and 
  6. Enhancing the community based social network of adaptation practitioners to motivate action.


Peer-to-peer learning is critical in developing efficient, effective, and economical solutions to climate change. A web-based tool that communities can use to search and share adaptation strategies will help build a community based social network for adaptation. This adaptation strategy focused tool is critical to scaling our national response to climate change and building resilient communities.  

Category of the action

Urban adaptation

What actions do you propose?

There has been a proliferation of climate change portals on the web over the last few years. There are websites that focus on case studies (the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange), or on climate related policies (Georgetown's Adaptation Clearinghouse), or on climate communications (Climate Access), or on beginning to build a social network of practitioners (Adaptationcolaboratory, StormSmart Coasts). This is also not the first attempt at developing an adaptation strategy focused database (Climate Ready). Despite these efforts, it remains difficult for climate change actors to access adaptation strategy information and specifically detailed implementation information that is relevant to their local climatic conditions from peer communities.  

Moreover, the Resilience Action Network could easily and effectively be combined with or support other existing planning tools such as ICLEI's ADAPT tool, ISET's Climate Resilience Framework, or other vulnerability frameworks being developed by State and Federal agencies. However, it is important to note that the Resilience Action Network platform here is unique from existing planning tools – instead of focusing on the various adaptation planning steps, this tool is specifically focused on adaptation strategy selection and implementation. This novelty makes this a much needed adaptation tool and an important complement to existing tools and resources. 

Adaptation International has already developed a beta version of this tool ( Our experience working with communities on adaptation efforts informed the initial choice of categories and types of information to include. This helps ensure that we provide enough information to act, but not so much that we overwhelm the end users. We have also seeded the knowledge management database with an initial set of adaptation strategies. This project will allow the Adaptation International team to continue refining the tool, including adding more examples, through collaboration with more local stakeholders, thereby ensuring the tool is useful, usable, and understandable to local stakeholders. 

Screen shot of existing prototype of the Resilience Action Network knowledge management search page.

Expanded view of a single strategy within the Resilience Action Network and the type of information collected and maintained for each strategy.

Actions for this project will build on the existing foundation of the Resilience Action Network to refine and enhance the tool. Actions for this project include:

  1. Convene an advisory board of users. This group of sustainability directors, environmental program managers, adaptation professionals, and other key personnel from 15-20 cities will help test and refine the tool. The group will likely include some of the “usual suspects,” such as sustainability directors who participate in the adaptation working group for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, along with other smaller communities that have just started to think about preparing for the impacts of climate change.
  2. Survey the advisory board to assess needs and identify gaps.  A combination of surveys, conference calls, and working group type projects will be used to engage with the advisory board. Their input will help the Adaptation International team identify key strengths and weaknesses of the beta version of the tool and prioritize future development so that it meets the needs of the actual users. This will likely include all aspects of the tool including the user interface, content, usability, and support services. 
  3. Learn from existing knowledge management databases in other sectors.  The issues associated with successful knowledge management are not specific to the field of climate change adaptation. Other groups, such as consulting companies, already work diligently to track institutional knowledge and improve real-time learning from their experiences. The Adaptation International team will research and conduct key multi-sector informant interviews to identify lessons learned from these other fields that can be applied to this tool.
  4. Consider the inclusion of an expert panel of adaptation specialists. One aspect to consider as the tool is developed is the inclusion of a multi-disciplinary panel of expert practitioners and adaptation specialists. This panel would serve a couple of purposes. First, they could review and verify the adaptation strategy inputs from the cities. Second, they could provide strategic support and advice for communities as they adapt strategies that were successful in another region to meet the needs and context of their local region. The results of the needs assessment and work with the advisory board will determine the value of including this type of panel.
  5. Update and refine the Resilience Action Network tool.  Use additional personnel and computing resources to make upgrades and improvements to the tool based on the results of the research and the inputs of the advisory board. These changes may include, but are not limited to, updates to: the multi-criteria search functionality, the entry or display of the adaptation actions, the user interface, the creation of a user specific dashboard, linkages to other adaptation planning tools and resources, or the addition of evaluation and tracking metrics.
  6. Virtual and in person advisory board meeting. The group of pilot cities will provide critical input on how to improve and refine the functionality of the tool, increase usability, distribute information, and recruit new members. The project will bring together all the members of the advisory board for a 1.5 day meeting. There is no true substitute for meeting face-to-face and using that time to developed a shared vision of tool use and continue to build the peer-to-peer network of communities working on adaptation. This meeting will allow for detailed collaborative testing of the updated tool as well as identification of additional partners and discussion of outreach and integrations pathways. To the extent possible, this meeting will be aligned with an existing meeting of key local communities, thereby providing an opportunity to potential present on the tool to other interested local communities.
  7. Identify potential partners and future distribution and integration pathways. In most cases, successful adaptation requires collaboration with colleagues, partners, and peers.  Working with the advisory board, the Adaptation International team will identify key potential partnership opportunities. For example, there are likely existing tools or services that are being used by communities for planning where this tool could be integrated as a module to provide adaptation strategy focused information where and when it is needed by the users. Existing platforms to consider include ICLEI’s ADAPT tool, the STAR Communities Index, Adaptation Collaboratory, and the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange.
  8. Launch, Outreach, Education, and Recruitment of new members.  The more communities that are actively using the tool, adding their strategies, and reporting on their successes, the more valuable it will be to all the users. The Adaptation International team will work closely with the advisory board to identify target areas and strategies for recruitment of additional users beyond the advisory board. The approaches may include: integration into one or more existing platforms; a city-to-city referral or mentorship program; participation at key regional or national conferences; or a dedicated national media campaign. For example the city mentorship program could take a "train the trainer" approach where each community brings in, mentors, and trains five other communities on how to use the tool, thus broadening the reach and community ownership of the Resilience Action Network.




Who will take these actions?

Adaptation International will provide the backend support and facilitation of all aspects of the project. Key members of the Adaptation International team include:

Sascha Petersen, Cofounder of Adaptation International, has extensive experience working directly with communities to assess climate vulnerability, develop adaptation strategies, and create tools to mainstream climate change adaptation into the planning processes.  He also coordinated the development of a computer-based simulation of the External Thermal Control System for the International Space Station, so has experience developing software to meet user needs.

Missy Stults,Senior urban climate change adaptation specialist, has literally worked with hundreds of communities across the country on climate change adaptation.  She was the climate director for ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability and is currently a lead author for the adaptation chapter of the forthcoming national climate assessment and PhD candidate at the University of Michigan focusing on urban adaptation.

Jake Bell,Public health & Tribal climate change specialist, has been working directly with Native Alaskan and Pacific Northwest Tribal communities on climate change and health strategies for the last five years.  He has a Master’s degree in Global Health with a focus on climate change from Trinity College in Dublin.

The initial advisory board of pilot cities will also support the project by actively testing and using the tool. They will provide input on the user interface, back-end functionality, and other components of the tool in order to make it as useful and valuable as possible. Potential pilot membership includes: communities active in sustainability, such as members of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network’s Adaptation working group; participants in the Resilient Communities for America Campaign, as well as small Cities who have yet to address climate issues.

Where will these actions be taken?

Due to the virtual nature of the cloud-based knowledge management database, the actions do not have to be geographically limited. The project could start with the pilot group of 15-20 cities across the country and then once the prototype refinement is complete, that network could be expanded both nationally and internationally. 

All aspects of coordinating and facilitating the participation of the advisory board and the refinement of the tool will be done by the Adaptation International project team.


What are other key benefits?

There are many co-benefits of developing this type of tool.  It will encourage data, information, and knowledge sharing between not just the "usual suspects" but a broad range climate change practitioners, cities, and communities looking to be better prepared and more resilient to the impacts of climate change.  

Some cities have accomplished important work to prepare for climate change though may be farther along in one sector than other sectors. This type of tool will provide a platform to share successes (and lessons learned) and coordinate with climate change experts to ultimately make that work more easily accessible and more broadly applicable.  It will also develop and strengthen a peer-to-peer network of cities working on adaptation.

What are the proposal’s costs?


Proposal costs for this phase of the tool development are as follows:

Adaptation International staff time (~2.5 months):                                           $32,000

           (Includes project management, research, and review)

Advanced database programmer (3 months):                                                 $15,000

Website developer (2 months):                                                                         $10,000

Advisory Board Support (web conferencing…etc. $500 per city):                    $8,500

Advisory Board Meeting (1.5 day meeting, $700 per person):                          $11,900  

Education/Outreach/Recruitment (webinars, flyers, media):                               $8,000

                                                                                                Total:                  $85,400

Time line


This phase of the prototype tool refinement will happen over the course of one year.

First six months

Initial steps of forming the advisory committee, assessing the community needs, identifying gaps, and reviewing other knowledge management tools will occur within six months.  This will lead to the creation of detailed user requirements for upgrading the existing beta version of the Resilience Action Network.

Next six months

The second half of the year will focus on pilot testing and evaluation of the updated Resilience Action Network tool.  This will include coding of the recommended changes, inputting additional adaptation strategies in the tool, and the in person advisory group meeting. 

Once those refinements and updates are complete, the Resilience Action Network will be rolled out to a national audience. The nature of this roll out will build off the analysis of key partners and distribution opportunities completed earlier in the project. It will likely also include a "train the trainer" approach where each of the advisory board members recruits and trains five other communities. The Adaptation International team, the advisory board, and other key partners will also be unveiling and promoting the tool at conferences and other relevant venues during this phase of the project.  


Related proposals


Bierbaum, R.M., Smith, J.B., Lee, A., Blair, M., Carter, L., Chapin III, S., Fleming, P., Ruffo, S., Stults, M., McNeeley, S., Wasley, E., and Verduzco, L. (2012). A Comprehensive Review of Climate Adaptation in the United States: More Than Before, but Less Than Needed. Journal of Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. DOI: 10.1007/s11027-012-9423-1

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2007. Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

IPCC, 2012 - Field, C.B., V. Barros, T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, D.J. Dokken, K.L. Ebi, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, 
G.-K. Plattner, S.K. Allen, M. Tignor, and P.M. Midgley (Eds.) Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Available from Cambridge University Press, The Edinburgh Building, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 8RU ENGLAND, 582 pp.

United States Global Change Research Program (Forthcoming: 2013) United States National Climate Assessment.

Karl, T., Melillo, J., Peterson, T., (eds). 2009. Global Climate Change Impacts in the Untied States. Cambridge University Press. NY. ISBN 978-0-521-14407-0.