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Strengthening locally-led adaptation and resilience programs: Takeaways from Gobeshona 2024

ISET-International reflects on key takeaways on climate resilience programs, from the Alliance to Gobeshona.

ISET-International attended the fourth annual Gobeshona Global Conference, held this year from 27 March to 1 April. Our key takeaways, from sessions on urban resilience to building resilience to extreme heat, are:

  1. Meaningful community participation is key for climate change impact.

  2. Intensely local solutions make scaling a challenge.

  3. Sustainability beyond the project timeline remains a work in progress.

Alliance coordinator (Seona Dillon Mcloughlin) and project officer (Elvas Munthali) interacting with community members during the inspection of a communal nursery in Mbenje community T/A Mbenje, Nsanje district, Malawi in September 2023. Photo: Stanley Thyoka Phiri-Driverteam

We see these points mirrored in our work.

Meaningful community participation

As the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Lead for the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance (the Alliance), ISET has seen the impacts of meaningful community participation accumulate over the past five years. Impacts range from successful community advocacy in Kenya, to saved lives and assets during flood events in Nepal, Peru, and Malawi, to groundbreaking legislative changes increasing local financing and/or action on resilience in Albania, Bangladesh, Malawi, Kenya, and Nepal. This was accomplished in part through the use of the Alliance’s resilience measurement framework – the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) – a participatory tool which requires more than just having people show up to meetings. The highly involved process of communities learning and implementing the FRMC is an investment that can build an evidence base and common language around community resilience. The result: high alignment in understanding resilience needs and opportunities between diverse stakeholders, including communities, government, and community organizations. In the Alliance, this has also facilitated further joint learning and action. You can read more about this in our Year 5 Learning Report.


The challenge of scaling

A challenge that remains for us – and evidently, climate adaptation leaders attending Gobeshona – is how to scale climate solutions that are necessarily local. We’ve seen this, time and again, from all perspectives, having implemented, supported, and evaluated a range of locally-led climate resilience actions. While we don’t have a silver bullet solution, our evaluation of CJRF’s Phase I portfolio highlights that having partnerships with national and international partners who have access to national decision-makers improves the likelihood of successful scaling.


Sustainability: a work in progress

Often seriously considered only in the exit phase of a project, sustainability remains narrowly understood. Typical conceptions encompass handover of project interventions to local government, organizations, or communities, regardless of their involvement in a project.

Based on our experience, climate adaptation projects can benefit from a wider definition of sustainability. Sustainability should be considered not only for interventions but also “softer” aspects such as relationships, community dynamics, and long-term engagement, and can be explored from project inception. The Alliance’s Case Study on Red Cross Mexico, in the second Foundations for Change Report (an annual report highlighting emergent learning across the Alliance), describes a salient example from our work. The Mexican Red Cross began in 2013 by organizing community brigades in select communities in Tabasco, training them in disaster risk reduction, preparedness, and response. These brigades worked closely with local government in the lead up to and during flood events. This type of community-government relationship was unusual at the time and its success caught the attention of state and national authorities, eventually receiving a national-level award. Now, beyond 2023, in addition to community brigades having successfully supported communities during flood events, the number of brigades has expanded and the system has been institutionalized in national policy, supporting growth beyond the Alliance.


Our key takeaways from this year’s Gobeshona conference are resonant. In our view, they can be effectively addressed, by being considered by climate adaptation and resilience programs from the program design phase onwards.


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