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Each potential member of your regional adaptation collaborative has a unique mission that informs its needs, so doing a formal or informal needs assessment can help identify where these needs are sahred, and resources each group can each bring to the table. The focus of this assessment should be on identifying needs related to adaptation issues in regions that are best handled collaboratively, as opposed to needs that might be important, but are unique to the individual organization. For this reason, it is important to look at needs of members with respect to the goals and scope of the collaborative – this is one reason why it is useful to set boundaries for an effort before identifying needs. The process of defining these needs might include surveys of key stakeholders, analysis of regional activity, and an inventory of relevant ongoing work. This process should yield tasks and goals that can inform a detailed framework for a regional collaboration around adaptation.

You may want focus on what will help your regional adaptation collaborative members move forward in their respective efforts and by extension with the collaborative work. For example, there might be a need for sea level rise analysis or for risk assessment for public health.

Defining a narrow set of shared needs is hard work. If too broad a set of needs are included the collaborative is likely to be ineffective, but if the list of needs is too exclusive stakeholders will fall away. An effective regional adaptation collaborative will aim to strike a balance between the appetite for various efforts and the capacity of the collaborative to implement those efforts. In addition, since adaptation needs change, the process should be designed to allow for ongoing input on shared priorities.

It is also important to consider the sequencing of needs. At times it may be important to focus on the needs of one stakeholder group over another for opportunistic reasons (for example, if funding becomes available unexpectedly or if there is a specific event to act on). As the process of identifying needs proceeds it can be important to foster an understanding that a regional adaptation collaborative works on a long-term time scale – while the current focus might be on one set of needs that focus might change in the future.

It is useful to identify and assess the explicit information needs of local decision makers. These needs might be identified through a review of the plans that drive funding and staff time allocations for climate adaptation challenges related to emergency response, infrastructure, land use, transportation, and natural resources. Review of these needs will help you gain an understanding of the key planning processes in each sector and region. It is also useful to identify and prioritize key stakeholder needs for climate risks, future projections and data, and guidance and capacity.

Completing a needs assessment provides a roadmap for funding, conducting research, and updating priority planning processes and documents to directly incorporate adaptation. Identifying detailed needs will support the development of a regional adaptation collaborative governance structure.

Tools & Resources