1. Identify overall need and gaps in existing resources through initial talks with key stakeholders


In many cases the first step in forming a regional adaptation collaborative will be an assessment of the landscape – this assessment involves reaching out to key stakeholders to identify their perspectives on adaptation, to learn about efforts already underway, and to scope the initial “need” for regional work.  This assessment is critical because every region has a unique need, and identifying need can reveal opportunities for collaboration.

It can be challenging to engage some stakeholders on climate change and adaptation for a number of reasons (e.g. misunderstandings, uncertainty, skepticism, and emotional reactions). Adaptation is a new area for many – there may be a clear connection to a given field, but a practitioner in that field may or may not be aware of that connection. Even if an individual understands the connection, they may not have the time to work on adaptation efforts given other priorities. Individuals might already address climate change impacts through their existing positions, but may not be prepared for new levels of impacts in the future. Furthermore, adaptation impacts may cross jurisdictions or the boundaries of fiscal authority. Ideally, a representative diversity of key stakeholders should be engaged to inform a more robust understanding of the need for a regional adaptation collaborative. However, the initial stakeholder group may not be representative.

The term “key stakeholder” includes any individual or group with an interest in climate adaptation decisions. Key stakeholders include those who can influence climate adaptation decisions and those who may be impacted by those decisions. The former have decision-making authority, make policy, and/or have oversight over emergency management and critical infrastructure. The latter include vulnerable populations. It is critical to engage both types of key stakeholders. Key stakeholders are generally located where there is the most need – in regions most vulnerable to the potential impacts of climate change, with a relatively low capacity to adapt. Examples of common key stakeholders, based on the experience of ARCCA regions, include:

  • Municipal governments – especially staff from planning, public works, and environmental services
  • Utilities – water, energy, waste, wastewater, etc.
  • Public agencies – regional planning agencies, ports, airports, air quality management districts, health and human services, and offices of emergency services
  • Universities – climate scientists, public policy centers
  • Place-based philanthropic partners – community foundations, corporate foundations
  • Nonprofits – technical assistance providers, community-based organizations
  • Civic leaders – elected officials, business or nonprofit leaders

Stakeholder engagement is resource-intensive, so, ideally, clear process design should be established from the start.  Before engaging potential key stakeholders, an engagement plan with clearly articulated goals should be created. Funding should be secured and / or existing engagement efforts leveraged as appropriate. While this is the ideal, in reality the process is often ad hoc.  It is beneficial to be flexible, so you can do what is possible with available resources.

Tools & Resources

A Framework for Stakeholder Engagement on Climate

This framework from the Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship outlines best practice methods to engage with stakeholders on the issue of climate adaptation. The framework will help you: Understand what nature and degree of engagement is required by different stakeholders; Identify what sorts of information stakeholders need in order to make these decisions; Work towards the development of a protocol for modes of engagement; Develop a framework for monitoring the success of communication, engagement and research. A Framework for Stakeholder Engagement on Climate Adaptation contains a checklist of potentially relevant stakeholders that can help you obtain diverse inputs – this list it is not exhaustive and may need to be customized.

Stakeholder Engagement: A Step-by-Step Guide

This guide discusses the theory, process and practice of stakeholder engagement. Specific elements include: a checklist with tips to support the stakeholder engagement approach; a template table identifying who stakeholders are, what they know, why they should be involved, and when and how to involve them; and tips on the types of communication to use, when, and why.

Introduction to Stakeholder Participation

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Services Center provides technical assistance to coastal management professionals addressing complex human-based problems. “Introduction to Stakeholder Participation” is the second in a series of publications developed to bring information to this audience about the use of social science tools in their field of work. This guide presents a set of procedural elements common to many effective stakeholder participation projects and programs. Additionally, the document provides guidance on identifying coastal management stakeholders, describes some of the most commonly used techniques for stakeholder participation, and discusses evaluation of stakeholder participation.

California Adaptation Planning Guide

California Adaptation Planning Guide
The California Adaptation Planning Guide (APG) outlines a step by step process to developing a stakeholder engagement program. Although focused on individual local government action it includes considerations for incorporating the stakeholders engagement effort into local planning initiatives such as general plans, local hazard mitigation plans, and adaptation plans. The outreach and engagement process included in the APG can be modified for a variety of uses. The APG is the official reference document on the planning process for resilience in adaptation for the State of California.