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The Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto – the revolution starts here

Posted: 18 Sep 2015
This blog was first posted on the CDKN website.

Geoff Barnard, Knowledge Management Strategy Advisor to CDKN and Chair of the Climate Knowledge Brokers (CKB) Steering Group, introduces the Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto and its revolutionary proposals.

Manifestos don’t come along every day. Successful ones can mark a turning point in the history of a cause or movement. By setting out a clear statement of principles and a convincing call for action they can galvanise support, and shift the debate. They can even spark a revolution.

The Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto hopes to do just that. With the Paris COP21 talks around the corner, it couldn’t be more timely. So what’s in it and what difference will it make?

Three messages stand out most for me. First is the scale of the information challenge it sets out. Twenty years ago climate change was a niche topic, of interest mainly to scientists and activists. Nowadays, almost everyone is becoming a climate decision-maker in one way or another.

From government policy-makers and industry chiefs, to city planners, farmers, and everyday consumers, the Manifesto make the point that more and more people are making decisions that will affect, or be affected by, climate change. To make those decisions wisely they will need access to relevant and trustworthy information. Where will they get it from? Few are in the position to understand complex modelling data or have the time or skills to wade through dense research reports. There will be a huge need for knowledge brokers of various kinds who can interpret this kind of expert knowledge and help users make sense of it.

Second is the importance of tailoring. The Manifesto is peppered with quotes emphasising how a ‘one size fits all’ approach simply won’t work. To be useful, climate information needs to be directly relevant to the audience and individuals in question, downscaled to the right level, and presented in language and formats they can easily relate to. This means there’s a big job to be done in intelligent filtering, translation, and repackaging – all of them knowledge broker roles.

What does a government policy maker, for example, do to sift out what’s important for their country from the latest IPCC climate reports? How does a business owner or householder make smart choices on energy-efficient equipment without trustworthy advice on payback periods and reliability? Where does a city planner go to find out how sea level rise or seasonal flooding will affect new housing settlements? Who is providing tailored information for small farmers to help them with crop choices in their specific valley or sub-region? The answer is that right now they struggle.

To fill these gaps, the Manifesto points to the need for a whole new generation of knowledge brokers, and talks of ‘chains’ of knowledge brokers working at different levels and in different ways. Technology will play an important part in this, but it won’t all be about websites and smartphone apps. Journalists have a big role to play. So do extension workers, trade associations, chambers of commerce and many other existing and new players in the information market.

The third big message is that we’ll only crack this if we work together. This means adopting open data standards, constructing information systems so content can be easily shared, and creating peer networks to exchange learning on what’s working and what’s not, to avoid reinventing the wheel. Collaboration is what the Manifesto is all about, and – to me – makes it such a breath of fresh air.

What difference will the Manifesto make? I’m confident it will be welcomed by other information players, whether they think of themselves as ‘knowledge brokers’ or not. It offers an open invitation to engage and join forces. The Climate Knowledge Brokers Group has a lot to offer, but also a lot to learn, and the Manifesto helps signal this in a constructive and public way.

Probably more importantly, the intention is that by raising the flag for climate knowledge brokers, the importance of this role will be recognised and need to invest in it in a more coherent and strategic way will be understood – something that has been notably lacking up to now. Funders take note; without a joined up approach to climate knowledge, many of the other investments being made as part of global efforts to tackle climate change are likely to fail.

Will it bring forward the revolution in the climate information world that I’ve written about previously. Let’s hope it does provide this spark, because without it those policy makers, city planners, business owners, farmers and householders are going to be left in the dark.

For more information on the CKB and Manifesto:

The Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto
F. Bauer (ed); J. Smith (ed) 2015
The Climate Knowledge Brokers Manifesto  by the Climate Knowledge Brokers Group (CKB), a network of organisations and professionals focused on improving the quality and use of climate knowledge in decision making.  ...
The Disaster-Knowledge Matrix – Reframing and evaluating the knowledge challenges in disaster risk reduction
R. Spiekermann; S. Kienberger; J. Norton; F. Briones; J. Weichselgartner / Elsevier 2015
This paper focuses on the context of disaster risk reduction, including climate change adaptation and the implementation of research-based knowledge in policy and practise. It starts by framing the knowledge challenges and goes...
Exploring the role of climate science in supporting long-term adaptation and decision-making in sub-Saharan Africa
L. Jones; E. Carabine; A. Hickman / Climate and Development Knowledge Network 2014
Exploring the role of climate science in supporting long-term adaptation and decision-making in sub-Saharan Africa is the title of this Climate Knowledge Development Network working paper, synthesising research drawn from participants...
Climate information requirements for community-level risk management and adaptation
G. Srinivasan; K. M. Rafisura; A. R. Subbiah / Climate Research 2011
Climate information is an important prerequisite for informed decision-making in risk management and adaptation to help prevent climate extremes from becoming disasters. This paper asserts that in order for climate inform...