Staffing & Technical Capacity
Having well-developed and dedicated staff capacity to address evolving climate change risks and adaptation is fundamental in order to internally advance the agency towards achieving resilience goals. The process of building staff capacity can be broken down into two core strategies: 1) increasing technical capacity to identify climate change risks and implement adaptation activities; and 2) ensuring that there is sufficient staffing allocated to adaptation activities, as well as sufficient investment in staff development to increase staff’s ability to plan for and implement adaptation activities. Given that climate change risks and adaptation are cross-cutting with high levels of uncertainty and variability, staff capacity is needed across multiple departments and across a range of different skills. As the adaptation space continues to evolve, it is important to continuously invest in staff to enable more sophisticated financial and legal analyses of climate risks and adaptation scenarios.
To build understanding of climate risks and adaptation to support adaptation activities on an ad-hoc or opportunistic basis.
|Identify internal adaptation “champions” among existing staff who are interested in working on adaptation efforts.|
|In coordination with leadership, discuss existing staff roles and staff’s past and current projects or activities to determine who may have interests that best align with potential adaptation needs, and where the role of an adaptation point-person should belong.
Look across key roles or activities in traditional government operations to find individual staff with related interest in adaptation. For example, Climate Action Planning, sustainability planning, CEQA and environmental protection, transportation, stormwater management, public health, greenhouse gas mitigation efforts, etc.
Approach staff who have demonstrated interest and skills in similar areas to determine interest and fit for the role of an adaptation point-person and champion.
For agencies with staff unfamiliar with climate change risks and adaptation, provide all staff with a high-level summary of adaptation concerns and opportunities to implement adaptation activities within the agency to gauge staff interest and fit.
|Identify needs and gaps in the current set of available adaptation-related technical skills and technology resources, and begin to identify resources to develop basic climate change adaptation knowledge base.|
|Conduct staff and project reviews at a high level to determine gaps and needs for adaptation technical skills and technology resources.
Create a skills matrix to define ideal staff technical skills for adaptation-related activities (e.g. across planning, safety, etc.) against the baseline. Consider the four main steps of the adaptation process when creating a skills matrix: Identifying and assessing risks and vulnerabilities; Creating a vision, setting goals, and planning; Financing and implementation; Monitoring and evaluation (outreach and engagement is integrated throughout the process).
Connect with colleagues in other local governments to learn about necessary and preferred technology resources for adaptation programs.
For smaller agencies with limited staff capacity, work with local NGOs engaged in the adaptation space that can help agency staff navigate the adaptation field and identify locally-relevant resources.
Assess the agency’s current process for accessing technical resources in order to identify gaps or barriers to obtaining climate risk and adaptation-related resources.
Based on gaps in technical skills, resources, and access, set goals for building knowledge over time.
When particularly useful resources are identified, catalog them in a resource library document. This can be a simple spreadsheet that lists resources, the topics that they cover, and a link or instructions to access. Circulate the resource library among internal staff who are available and interested in engaging in adaptation efforts.
Identify regionally-relevant opportunities and resources, such as free webinars and email subscriptions. Sign-up for listservs from adaptation networks to stay informed about free trainings and updated resources.
|Empower interested staff to seek out information and build expertise as it relates to their existing projects.|
|At minimum, supervisors should allocate time to allow interested staff to participate in online and in-person trainings as opportunities arise, and to review key resources such as: regional vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans; background information on key climate impacts and response strategies; and specific resources related to their projects.
Support sharing of available resources by champions to other staff through internal channels (e.g. newsletters and meeting briefings). If there is enough interest, set up brown bag lunches where staff can participate in and discuss adaptation webinars or other trainings.
Connect adaptation champions and interested staff to local NGOs that are engaged in the adaptation space to learn more about locally-relevant climate change risks and adaptation initiatives.
Identify an adaptation point-person, identify adaptation technical support needs, and allocate resources for key project staff to participate in adaptation competency-building activities.
|Assign or hire at least one internal adaptation point person with at least part-time responsibility.|
|Identify and communicate incentives and motivation for having a focal point for adaptation and adaptation champions. For example, framing climate risks as a security and safety concern and as a barrier to economic and workforce development can make it more relatable to staff as an agency priority. Additionally, it can be useful to frame adaptation in a way that focuses on topics that are of greatest concern to the public.
Formalize the adaptation point-person role by including adaptation responsibilities in their job description. Responsibilities may include leading internal adaptation initiatives, developing their adaptation-related technical skills, coordinating with internal adaptation champions and leadership, and engaging external sources on adaptation. Determine what skills are needed in an adaptation point person for the agency (e.g. technical understanding of the climate adaptation process, communication skills, etc.). Determine a budget for the adaptation point person role to account for staff time and resources.
Consider whether this role is at a level sufficient to be effective across the organization and potentially elevate the role (e.g. to a manager-level position) as appropriate to the organization’s decision-making structure.
|Job post examples:|
|Focus on addressing technical capability needs on a project-by-project basis while continuing to expand access to technical resources throughout the agency.|
|On a project-by-project basis, identify technical capability needs based on project goals. Identify sources of technical support to meet those project needs and steps needed to access technical support (e.g. departmental or funding approval). Consider the importance of in-house versus third party technical resources. Prior to starting a new project, assess the level of technical analysis required by considering the lifetime of the decision/investment and potential consequences of not adapting. The scope of analysis will help inform the technical capabilities that will be needed.
Develop a prioritization scheme for filling the technical capabilities gaps identified throughout the agency, including knowledge and understanding of legal risks and solutions. Identify the steps needed to access sources of technical support.
Seek external expertise to fill internal gaps and aim to include a knowledge transfer component to enhance internal capacity. External resources that can be leveraged include local universities, consulting firms, NGOs, and other public agencies.
Maintain the resource library of competency-building materials and disseminate among interested staff. Document the way in which climate adaptation is incorporated into projects and disseminate information to other staff to increase awareness of adaptation capacities.
Demonstrate outputs of the technical resources to build the case for investment or continued investment in the resource. Include training for specific resources in staff onboarding process.
|Ensure that project staff participate in relevant adaptation competency-building activities especially prior to undertaking projects.|
|Obtain supervisor buy-in to approve time for climate change competency-building activities.
Competency-building activities can include attending webinars or trainings, reviewing existing primer guidance documents, and reviewing regional vulnerability assessments and/or adaptation plans. Activities should also include understanding and formalizing ethical standards of practice (organizations such as the American Society of Adaptation Professionals are currently developing standards and a professional curriculum). Where possible, leverage existing competency-building activities provided by regional agencies and collaboratives.
Invest in training to ensure that appropriate staff possess or build the skills needed to effectively and comprehensively assess the risks and vulnerabilities of anticipated climate change impacts. Encourage staff to integrate adaptation work into budgets and grant proposals to justify time and resource allocation for project-specific adaptation training. Work with local NGOs that are engaged in the adaptation space to identify additional training resources and opportunities.
Consider the “training of trainers” approach: Invest in trainings and resources for adaptation champions to understand sector-specific risks, vulnerabilities, hazards, and adaptation approaches. Train the adaptation champions to build the adaptation competency of others in their departments. Encourage department champions to identify relevant sector-specific resources to share with their team.
Set up regular check-ins or team meetings around a community of practice to share knowledge and build understanding.
Local and Regional Plans
Refine roles of adaptation staff to expand responsibilities, develop agency-specific resources and processes for technical support, and expand adaptation trainings for adaptation and non-adaptation staff.
|Refine the role of the adaptation point person and expand responsibilities as needed. Recruit additional adaptation champions in key departments and formalize their roles by including adaptation responsibilities in their job descriptions.|
|Expand the responsibilities of the adaptation point-person, such as enhancement of their technical skills, development of tailored capacity-building trainings for agency staff, coordination and engagement in regional adaptation activities, etc. Consider providing a title promotion (e.g. chief resiliency officer or resiliency specialist) to compensate for added responsibilities.
Elevate this role to a level (e.g. deputy department lead, management role, city/county manager’s office) sufficient to be effective across the organization and potentially elevate the role as appropriate to organizational goals.
Identify departments for which adaptation considerations are most relevant. Identify opportunities to communicate the relevance and importance of connecting adaptation to key sectors.
Begin to recruit adaptation champions from those key departments. Maintain a list of adaptation champions in various departments, and foster knowledge sharing and open lines of communication (e.g. through a regular team meeting) to increase capacity and identify potential areas for collaboration.
|Job description examples:|
|Streamline the process to access adaptation-related technical capabilities in order to address gaps and needs throughout the agency (using internal or external expertise), and enhance capacity-building information tailored to the agency’s needs and processes.|
|Work with other departments to identify opportunities to integrate adaptation technical resources and capabilities in technical activities and decision-making throughout the agency (e.g. planning, public works, financing and capital improvements).
Include costs for staff time and technical resources into program and departmental budgets.
Consider integrating performance measures to evaluate technical assistance for accuracy and usefulness. Apply this evaluation to in-house versus third party technical resources. When external technical capabilities are necessary, aim to include a knowledge transfer component to enhance internal capacity.
Identify a full suite of technical support options to address gaps and needs based on past sources of technical support, sources used by similar agencies, and online research. Update the resource library with these options.
Tailor the library of capacity-building information to the agency’s needs and processes. For example, categorize and map out the resources by each stage of the agency’s program and project cycle.
|Provide ongoing professional development support so adaptation staff remain at the forefront, and provide required trainings for department heads and all staff to ensure base understanding is in place.|
|Focus adaptation competency-building activities on technical skills gaps and needs, particularly for integrated planning, monitoring, financing, and implementation. Consider drawing on external experts, such as local universities, to build internal adaptation competency.
Develop agency-wide outreach and training to make all staff aware of climate risks to the community, importance of climate adaptation, adaptation planning process and how it relates to the agency, and internal and external resources. Use existing resources and tailor them to the agency, and further tailor them to the departments. Information could consist of a handout with tailored details about the relevance and process of incorporating climate change in the agency’s process, a formal and recurrent training, etc. Materials should cover basics of what adaptation is, why it’s important, climate stressors that are projected to have the greatest impact on the region, background on conducting vulnerability assessments and identifying adaptation options to enhance resilience, etc.
Elevate adaptation staff, and invest in technical resources to build in-house capabilities, develop agency-wide adaptation training plan to undertake all steps of the adaptation process.
|Elevate the role of adaptation staff and integrate with other senior staff.|
|Specify career advancement opportunities for adaptation staff (e.g. discuss potential leadership positions, engage with staff to conduct self-assessments to explore their skills and interests, allow for rotation of roles across adaptation initiatives). Staff should feel like there is opportunity for career growth.
Include in the job descriptions of senior staff to coordinate with the agency’s adaptation lead. Provide a summary overview of planned and ongoing adaptation initiatives being undertaken by the agency.
|Continue to identify new areas of technical capabilities for investment, tied to adaptation planning and implementation efforts, and invest in high-quality technical resources to conduct in-house analysis and implementation of adaptation measures.|
|Assign adaptation staff to seek opportunities and resources to build agency’s technical capacity for planning and implementing adaptation measures.
Continuously use performance measures to assess and identify areas for improvement of technical capabilities. Use the agency’s adaptation roadmap and status reports on adaptation implementation to inform technical capability needs.
Continue to streamline institutional processes for staff to access technical capabilities.
Track emerging adaptation tools and conduct evaluations to determine which are suitable for organizational investment.
Pursue the integration of adaptation technical resources with other operational processes and resources so that climate change impacts are considered in decision-making throughout the agency.
|Tracking tools and efforts
|Develop an agency-wide adaptation competency-building plan and training curriculum and allocate appropriate resources for all staff to understand the adaptation process.|
|Leverage adaptation champions within various departments to conduct outreach and promote adaptation awareness agency wide; incentivize adaptation integration in other roles not as directly related to adaptation activities (e.g. procurement, education, community engagement).
Provide training to new staff on local/regional climate change impacts as they relate to the agency as part of onboarding, including the importance of both mitigating and adapting to climate impacts and initiatives being undertaken by the agency.
Continuously evaluate and improve or update trainings as needed. If an annual internal agency survey exists, integrate questions to assess and monitor adaptation awareness.
Train and increase skillset of local government staff in a variety of community engagement practices. Engagement practices should include eliciting community priorities, fostering trust, conflict resolution and producing material in de-jargoned language that is easy to understand.
Ensure that all staff are able to clearly articulate the importance and value of climate change adaptation, key climate change impacts and the associated risks and vulnerabilities, and specific strategies to integrate adaptation into their work.