4.5. Enhancing knowledge management

As much as successful implementation (4.1) depends on effective financing (4.2) and supportive background arrangements (4.3), they in turn depend on a shared basis of understanding (4.4) which relies on proper tools for knowledge management. This chapter showcases good practice and examples for producing a “new collective knowledge” by capitalising on the diverse knowledge available, for example, by sharing and transferring knowledge, tools, and good practice instances.

4.5.1 Ecosystem-based Adaptation and risk reduction

The consideration and use of nature-based solutions in adaptation and risk reduction strategies should be strengthened through enhanced cooperation, dialogues and inter-sector practices and policies.

Guillaume Rohat, Karin Allenbach and Hy Dao (University of Geneva)

Nature-based solutions (NbS) could serve as an effective umbrella framework embracing a number of different ecosystem-based approaches, including other issue-specific solutions such as Ecosystem-based approaches to disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR) and Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) etc.

The sustainable management of natural ecosystems is an important and efficient approach to addressing societal challenges, including climate change, food and water security, natural disasters, human health, and economic and social development. The advantages of using ecosystems to increase resilience are numerous. For example, natural ecosystems act as buffer zones in case of river flooding or sea level rise, stabilise the soil, protect against erosion, and protect against snow avalanches.

In addition, preservation and restoration of ecosystems have a number of associated co-benefits, such as carbon fixation, water filtration, contributing to leisure and mental well-being.

NbS are a complex issue that requires cross-sectoral collaboration and multi-stakeholder coordination in a wide range of landscapes. Capacity building and institutional strengthening are particularly important in effective design and implementation of NbS, and in taking into account the broad spatial scales.

Although NbS provide a wide range of benefits for human well-being and biodiversity, the value of ecosystems and their ability to reduce the negative impacts of climate risks are uncertain, highly diverse and context-specific. When planning NbS, the impact of climate change on the provision of associated ecosystem services must also be considered. Monitoring and adaptive management are necessary to guarantee the sustainable effectiveness of the solution in the long-term.

When evaluated as a whole, beyond monetary values, NbS is often presented as a cost-effective solution compared to conventional engineering options. However, measuring financial and economic costs and benefits is extremely challenging.

For effective and transparent implementation, to increase credibility, and trigger investments, associated trade-offs and potential harm should also be considered. The effectiveness of the solutions should be evaluated in a comprehensive manner, taking into account the uncertainty of future climate and socio-economic projections, and integrating an adaptive management framework. Incentives or financial instruments may be needed to overcome short-term losses before reaching longer-term benefits, or to compensate affected actors and/or strengthen community support.


EbA and Eco-DRR have many similarities and are perceived as effective instruments to bridge DRR and CCA communities by promoting the collaborative implementation of different conventions.

Sustainable management of ecosystems has been widely embedded in global policy agreements. As a result, ecosystem-based approaches should be integrated into national-level strategies that implement these global policy frameworks.


At the country-scale, both authorities in charge of environmental regulation, landscape planning, and the economy should be involved in assessing adaptation and risk reduction options, and the potential for an ecosystem-based solution. At the European level, the main actors are the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), The European Directorate Generals (DGs) of International Cooperation (DG DEVCO), Environment (DG ENV), Climate Action (DG CLIMA), European Civil and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), and other international organisations for protection of specific ecosystems, such as Wetlands International.

It is also important to mention that the main success factors for implementation of ecosystems-based adaptation and risk reduction are the engagement of local stakeholders through interactive participative approaches, cooperation across them, the alignment of activities across agencies and institutions, and the involvement of the private sector through the demonstration of private and multiple (co)benefits.

4.5.2 Information and knowledge management to foster stronger CCA-DRR institutions

Promote a systematic process for sharing data, information and knowledge for CCA and DRR that accelerates learning and collaboration, and makes it easier for stakeholders to find, access and use content that is legitimate and relevant to their needs. This can also promote better monitoring, reporting and evaluation processes.

Sukaina Bharwani and Julia Barrott (SEI) and Rob Lokers (WER)

Information and knowledge management (IKM) refers to the systematic process of collating and sharing data, information and knowledge so that it can be easily found, accessed and used. This process is essential for ensuring that relevant knowledge generated by different actors can be found by those who could benefit from it or who need to apply it.

Good IKM optimises the value and utility of the intellectual resources produced by an organisation or community of practice. A variety of different types of information and knowledge may be useful for different actors. These can include traditional products such as environmental and socio-economic data, project and research reports, and legislation and legal documents, but also organisational and actor-oriented data.

In the context of reducing climate and disaster risk, good knowledge management facilitates:

  • The evolution of good practice and avoidance of repeated mistakes through supporting the sharing of lessons learned and experiences from research and the whole adaptation and disaster risk reduction cycle
  • Better informed practice through enhanced access to data and information needed for decision-making
  • Reduced redundancy, duplication and enhanced opportunities for collaboration through easy discovery of who is working on what, and where
  • Increased capacity and common understanding and language through enabling easier knowledge transfer between actors and peers
  • Peer-to-peer networking and communication, leading to stronger, better connected networks.

In CCA and DRR the lack of clarity around language and the use of technical terminology is a particular barrier to collaboration. The use of a shared and well-described terminology is essential for connecting relevant knowledge, promoting awareness and understanding of the meaning ascribed to particular terms, and thus for supporting communication and connection between these fields. International efforts to record monitoring and evaluation of climate mitigation, adaptation and risk reduction efforts at the national level (see recommendation 4.4.1) would significantly benefit from better IKM processes.

Harmonising the use of language remains a challenge due to the diverse and heavily nuanced and ever-evolving definitions. Addressing disparities in the use of terms directly risks losing these nuances, many of which are valuable to ongoing debate. Such a top-down approach also risks marginalising certain actors. Building and legitimately translating a shared terminology that acknowledges and connects the varied terms and definitions used today is a significant undertaking, and one that requires support from an equally varied array of actors.


Standards should include:

  • The adoption and criteria for the use of a shared CCA-DRR terminology for describing content (for example, using keyword tagging)
  • The provision of term definitions and other metadata (for example, synonyms) to promote understanding of their meaning(s)
  • The adoption of an appropriate tool to tag content in a way that enables relevant content across different websites, portals and platforms to be inter-connected and comply with LOD standards.

Use sustainable IKM infrastructure that assures the longevity, discovery and accessibility of knowledge, to maximise its utility and legacy:

  • Maximise the use of well-connected sustainable databases that: adopt a Linked Open Data approach (including a standardised vocabulary); are designed for the long-term; are informed by user needs; and, are kept up-to-date
  • Adopt a practice of assigning unique and persistent identifiers (e.g. URI’s, DOI’s) for online sharing and reference
  • Avoid the development of new websites that ultimately contribute to a growing mosaic of defunct online spaces; where customised online spaces are needed, create microsites that are built on and thus connected to the knowledge bases of existing websites.


Broad involvement of many different stakeholders is needed, including: the academic and practitioner communities and associated organisations and institutes; the public sector, including regional and national Government offices and ministries; private sector entities working in the climate risk space; programmes and projects producing and sharing relevant knowledge and information/data; donors and funders of CCA and DRR relevant work; and relevant operating knowledge and information portals and platforms.

4.5.3 Using knowledge platforms and portals to enhance learning and collaboration

Knowledge platforms and portals should play a leading role in promoting and supporting learning and collaboration within and between CCA and DRR communities. These online spaces should not serve as repositories of information, but act as connectors of people and knowledge, and as forums for peer-to-peer learning, dialogue and exchange across the two domains.

Sukaina Bharwani and Julia Barrott (SEI)

Knowledge, technologies, methods and approaches within CCA and DRR are growing and evolving quickly. There are also expanding areas of overlap between CCA and DRR as decision-makers, scientists and practitioners look for more comprehensive, integrated solutions. At the same time, additional actors such as businesses and those from other sectors such as health are increasingly looking to address climate change and its impacts. Consequently, the need for learning and collaboration across an array of actors with varied capacity and networks – from community leaders to government officers to business strategists to scientists and researchers – is increasing.

Knowledge portals and platforms are websites that focus on curating, collating and sharing data, information and knowledge so that it can be more readily used by target stakeholders. They have the potential to enhance collaboration and learning, and to build on relevant good practice across the two domains, and actively support learning and collaboration by better connecting related content, increasing discoverability, relevance and accessibility.

This requires going beyond sharing research outputs towards promoting a culture of deeper reflection and analysis, encouraging more detailed and honest exchange on challenges and failures and the resulting learning and specifically curating, collating and packaging content to make it more accessible and comprehensible to non-experts, to support capacity development.

For collaboration, this involves enabling peer-to-peer connections through providing (1) accessible information on who is working on what and where (see also recommendation 4.5.2); and (2) the means by which actors can connect with one another. This connectivity is especially important for decision-makers wanting to connect with peers in similar contexts and/or find specific expertise e.g. the PLACARD Connectivity Hub .

Platform or portal managers must be mindful of making registration and sign-ins as simple as possible. Importantly, promoting increased interaction and reflection requires additional time and effort by both platform or portal managers and contributing actors, and needs to be provided for. Providing more time and resources requires a deeper understanding by senior managers within organisations of the value of knowledge platforms to enhance learning and collaboration and requires a transformation in how knowledge management is currently undertaken (see recommendation 4.5.2).


Platform managers must:

  • Ensure shared content is correctly attributed to the actors and organisations who undertook the work
  • Use maps to quickly show users what relevant CCA and DRR work is being undertaken, and where
  • Undertake regular analysis of active and target users and their needs, and use this information to inform the design and content of the platform or portal
  • Tailor how content is organised and described to meet the needs of users
  • Create spaces for honest reflection on and discussion of approaches and results.

Funders should:

  • Stipulate that research and project outputs must be shared on specific, relevant regional or global platforms or portals.
  • Promote a culture of learning through encouraging and sharing honest and reflective analysis of project approaches and results (both failures and successes, Young et al. 2017), so that future efforts can benefit from past experiences.


Platform and portal developers and managers have influence over what is communicated and how, and thus in a position to enable deeper learning, networking and dialogue.

Individual actors, project coordinators and funders who utilise these platforms and portals to instigate and maintain a culture of learning, which is then reflected in the way the knowledge is curated and shared.

Achieving a culture of reflection and learning requires that individual actors, project coordinators and funders perceive this as a valuable undertaking; and dedicate or stipulate appropriate resources specifically for this activity.

4.5.4 From information to knowledge-action networks

Develop knowledge-action networks to advance quality and usage of CCA/DRR-related information.

Juergen Weichselgartner (Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin, Germany) and Emilie Brévière (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, Norrköping, Sweden)

This recommendation focuses on adjustment in the modes of production and use of CCA and DRR-relevant information, and evaluation of the effectiveness of this information in decision-making. Achieving the first goal requires agreed forms of conceptualisation, operationalisation, and evaluation; achieving the second goal requires mapping and monitoring information use in decision-making processes to trace the impacts of applied information and its success in CCA and DRR. Both goals call for transformative changes in knowledge infrastructure and producer-user interfaces.

An initial suggestion is to distinguish different forms of knowledge and qualitative levels of comprehension. A precise use of terms prevents incorrect labelling of the process of ‘providing information’ with the term ‘knowledge’. It also clarifies that an increase of information does not inevitably result in an increase of knowledge. The advancement of information technology progressively produces facts and data, but much of the information remains unorganised, closed, or untapped, and as a result is not turned into applicable knowledge. A second suggestion is to combine understanding from multiple sources and provide mechanisms for linking solutions proposed by research with the defines needs and problems of practitioners: this reduces the discrepancies between activities of different actors, and results in more timely and context-appropriate solutions.

Developing knowledge-action networks with multiple layers of producers and users from different sectors is an effective method of tailoring decision-relevant information to different decision environments, and of allocating resources where they are most effective in order to bridge science and practice, and integrate CCA and DRR strategies. These can entail high costs for participants, particularly in terms of financial, human, and time resources. In addition, integrating different knowledge systems across spatial-temporal scales requires concerted action in capacity and skills development.


Developing the capability for contextual understanding and decision-making is a more effective way of dealing with uncertainty and complexity than reliance on extrinsic frames of reference and categorical technical expertise, which is siloed into disciplines.

Applicability, comprehensiveness, timing, and accessibility of scientific research have an influence on decision-makers, and that relevance, credibility, and legitimacy are critical attributes for effectively informing policy and decision processes.

More meaningful decisions can be taken where different actors provide knowledge of specific domains and that the emergence of new knowledge can be sustained by combining scientific and policy expertise. Locally embedded and socially contingent actionable knowledge is required, involving scientific know-how, place-based wisdom of practitioners, and indigenous sensitivities.

Interactive knowledge- and decision-making bodies at local levels require more effort and resources to create an agreed collaborative workspace and incentivise the production and use of knowledge, but have significant benefits with regard to institutional stability, learning mechanisms, and identification of decision needs and critical decision points.


CCA/DRR-relevant data, information, and knowledge are produced and provided by universities and research centres, public and private bodies, civil society, governments and non-governmental organisations.

Knowledge-action networks include a diversity of actors and their learning practices involved in knowledge production, transfer, and use, but also the values, beliefs, and visions underlying their knowledge, as well as the modes of framing, contesting, and applying knowledge in policy and practice.

Boundary organisations operate at the interface between science and policy to create and sustain mutually beneficial connections between producers, providers, and users with lines of responsibility and accountability to each.