Adaptation Capability Advancement Toolkit (Adapt-CA)

The Adaptation Capability Advancement Toolkit (Adapt-CA) is intended to assist California local governments with overcoming common institutional barriers and improving agency capabilities. By using Adapt-CA, local governments will be able to rapidly identify opportunities to improve existing capabilities in order to pursue climate change adaptation initiatives more effectively and holistically.


Process Areas

Each component of Adapt-CA is organized by four process areas, which are defined as the core areas of control within local governments and where institutional barriers to pursuing adaptation commonly arise.

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    Leadership & Organizational Culture

    Engaging agency executives and elected officials, establishing adaptation as a strategic priority, and transforming agency culture through internal coordination and staff empowerment.

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    Staffing & Technical Capacity

    Allocating staff to dedicated adaptation roles, developing adaptation competency throughout the agency, and enhancing technical capabilities, tools, and resources.

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    Stakeholder Engagement & Partnerships

    Standardizing authentic community engagement in agency decision-making processes, regional coordination, and external collaboration and partnerships.

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    Operations & Institutional Processes

    Mainstreaming adaptation into agency processes, implementing processes for measuring and reporting progress, and building momentum for predictable and sustainable funding.

Maturity Levels

Each process area is also organized along four maturity levels, which are milestones that follow an evolutionary path toward more advanced,  institutionalized, and continuously improving capabilities.



The Matrix describes the high-level core adaptation capabilities of a local government for each process area at each maturity level. New users are recommended to review the Matrix to gain familiarity with the Adapt-CA structure.


The Checklists describe core adaptation capabilities in greater detail, as well as the associated benefits of advancing capabilities. The Checklists allow for rapid self-assessments of existing agency capabilities to help users navigate the Roadmap.


The Roadmap provides suggested actions, additional guidance, and recommended resources to advance adaptation capabilities. By using the Roadmap, local government staff can pinpoint concrete next steps that will enable their agency to pursue adaptation initiatives more effectively and holistically.


Adapt-CA is a product of the Overcoming Institutional Barriers to Implementing Local Adaptation Strategies project under California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment. The toolkit has been developed by the Local Government Commission, ICF International, and Susanne Moser Research & Consulting in partnership with ARCCA.

Communities throughout California are already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change – from more frequent and intense wildfires and extreme weather events to prolonged drought and extreme heat. While many local governments have taken action to address current and future impacts, many continue to face institutional barriers that hinder their transition from adaptation awareness to planning and implementation. Each agency is uniquely situated with varying levels of leadership support, staff capacity, community engagement, and access to resources, each of which can serve as a barrier or driver to adaptation action. While California as a whole has made considerable advancements, progress remains uneven throughout the state and many local governments report that institutional barriers hinder progress on adaptation.

As such, Adapt-CA has been developed to assist local governments to overcome these barriers by identifying actions that can be taken to advance agency capabilities. Adapt-CA is intended to be used by local government staff who are involved in day-to-day management and operations, as well as by agency executives. The toolkit allows for both a top-down approach among decision-makers and a bottom-up approach for project managers and planners. Due to the inherent nature and scale of climate change impacts, it is recommended that key departments and offices, including community development, economic development, emergency services, sustainability and public works, collaborate to fully leverage this toolkit. The development of Adapt-CA has been informed by Capability Maturity Models, which originate from the software development industry to describe current processes and strategies to overcome barriers to improve processes and produce desired outcomes.

This toolkit provides guidance on improving agency capabilities without specific connections to regulations or funding opportunities. While it can be used to identify areas that require further attention and investments, as well as to build the case for making such investments, the sole use of this toolkit is not expected to provide additional funding for adaptation and resiliency efforts. Although Adapt-CA is designed with the understanding that each agency encounters unique challenges and opportunities in order to enable local governments of all sizes and types to utilize the toolkit, reaching the highest maturity level defined in this toolkit may not be desirable or suitable for all California local governments.