Beads - Passion for Facilitation

Capacity development, learning, change, poverty/power/progress

Blog about learning/change, facilitation, systems: small groups and large scale processes, and poverty/power/progress.


Facilitating access to knowledge - a climate change example

This new Climate Planning site brings together over all sorts of tools for climate change planning. Although it is focused on tools for policy makers, it does include sub-national/community/human rights based tools like CARE's Climate Vulnarability and Capacity Assessment Handbook.

I'm blogging about this site for two reasons:

  1. It’s a great example of how to make a large variety of knowledge/toolkits easily accessible 
  2. On a site like this you can discover what’s is not available yet


Making knowledge/tools accessible

To help users find what they are looking for, the site uses a knowledge frame with 3 components. You can identify:


  • your main are of interest - in this case, adaptation and/or mitigation
  • where you are in the work process/cycle – in this case a five steps policy cycle
  • what type of tool you are looking for – in this case 1) process guidance (e.g. "how to" manuals), 2) knowledge sharing (e.g. useful websites, portals, etc), 3) data and information tools (e.g. online climate data, analysis tools)


You can make your selection by ticking relevant boxes and pushing levers up and down to indicate relative importance of your areas of interest. When you hit the ‘find’ button, it generate a list of tools that is tailored to your needs. This list you have generated can be further fine-tuned to your needs, for instance you may want to find out if training is required to use the tool. There is a short description for each tool, so that you know a bit more about what you find if you choose to click it. When you click a tool, you get a page with even more information, including a link to download the tool. (If you try the climate planning site, don’t be fooled by the PDF link on top of the tool-page, which is just a PDF format of what you already have on your screen. Go all the way down to find the download link; it doesn’t say so, but if you hit it, it happens anyway.)

I my last job I helped develop a similar ‘knowledge map’, as we called it, on the intranet, using just powerpoint and hyperlinks. You don’t need to be an internet or web design wizard to make this work. Of course, if you have money to spare, the wizkids make it look even nicer and work even faster.

Discovering what's not available yet

On some of the selections you make to find the tools you need, you may only get a few items listed. For instance on the climate planning site, there are just 2 tools for the policy implementation process, and those tools actually cover all five steps of the cycle, not just implementation. The information you will find is then very general, like project management guidance. That’s a bugger if you are a climate change policy maker looking for specific handles on how to keep all the stakeholders working together productively at multiple levels. If your work is to develop policy guidance, then this site shows you what is already there, so that you can focus your scare resources on what’s not there yet.

A knowledge map like Climate Planning helps those who develop policy guidance to save money by building on what is already there. It can also help you to develop an argument with which to mobilize collaborators and resources to develop what is still missing. If you have a great tool that’s not on the site yet, you can tell the site owners about it, and help them make your tool available via their site.

So what if the site doesn’t feature ‘your’ item as an area of interest? Say you are favoring ‘soft’ over ‘hard’ climate change investments. Well, if the site is attracting many users, and these users have a large overlap with your target audience, then you might want to contact the site owners to discuss how they suggest ‘their’ users can access materials that are critically relevant to their performance, like ‘your’ area of interest.

Rather than going it alone by developing another climate change website for policy makers, it might be better to explore collaboration first. This may seem obvious, but judging from the number of climate change websites and portals, collaboration is usually not the first thing people think about when they have something to offer.

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