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Published Date:03-07-2017
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Guide to Writing Community Climate Change Adaptation Case Studies Introduction Most Canadians are aware that climate change is underway and that we are already beginning to feel its effects. We realize that in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we need to better understand impacts of more severe storms, sea level rise, heat waves, more frequent droughts, thawing permafrost and other climate variables on our communities. Local governments and community leaders also want to know what practical actions they can take to adapt to climate change – to reduce the risks and impacts and create more resilient communities. There are a growing number of resources to help in this process. These include: national, regional, local and sectoral assessments of the likely impacts of climate change; manuals for climate change risk assessment; and guides for local community adaptation. Many of these resources include short case studies to illustrate adaptation measures being implemented in practice. Case studies are also being produced as stand-alone reports, made available electronically, in print, or in presentations at workshops and conferences. In case studies of community climate change adaptation, writers describe and analyze the real-life experiences of community members and local governments and agencies that have begun to adapt to climate change. Case studies provide observations and reflections on these experiences to help readers understand the real life processes of taking action to adapt to climate change (as opposed to theories about how it should happen). These case studies have many benefits. They can:  Motivate communities and local governments that have not yet committed to action with examples of others who have shown such leadership  Demonstrate a variety of possible approaches to assessing community vulnerabilities and adapting to climate change  Help identify barriers to climate change adaptation and sometimes demonstrate innovative ways to get around these barriers  Increase our ability to use a variety of tools that have recently become available for assessing risk and vulnerability and undertaking adaptation planning. Community adaptation case studies can make a major contribution to the knowledge needed to move the adaptation agenda and create more resilient communities. 1 Types of Community Adaptation Case Studies There are five main types of case studies of community climate change adaptation, as summarized in the table on the page 7. Each type serves a somewhat different purpose and each has benefits and limitations, described below. 1. Introductory ("Gateway") Case Studies Gateway studies introduce readers to new information about communities taking action on adaptation, meant to encourage them to undertake a similar journey. Many of the case studies produced in the last decade are gateway studies. They offer relatively short descriptions of individual community processes and are often found within a larger report. Example: Natural Resources Canada included eleven short case studies, such as the one shown below, in Adapting to Climate Change: An Introduction for Canadian Municipalities. The case studies illustrate adaptation actions in six regions of the country. Some of the case studies outline general community and municipality adaptation planning while others focus on efforts to reduce specific climate change impacts. 2 Uses: Gateway case studies are valuable for illustrating the range of community adaptation processes. They can motivate community leaders to work on adaptation themselves. They can alert practitioners to new approaches that might benefit their communities and provide contact information and references for more information. Limitations: Lack of detail and information about barriers to action limits the usefulness of these case studies for replicating adaptation strategies. 2. Worked Examples Worked examples are used to demonstrate the experience of communities in using tools which have been developed to aid in impacts assessment and adaptation planning, including:  Web-based tools for analyzing local climate trends and projections  Climate change risk assessment and risk management tools  Visualization tools, such as maps, to support community engagement  Step-by-step guides for community and municipal adaptation processes. Example: The Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee of Engineers Canada has posted on their website several case studies of the application of their risk assessment tool for evaluating the potential impacts of climate change on different types of public infrastructure (water treatment, sewage treatment, roads, bridges, buildings). Example: UBC's Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning recently published the guide Local Climate Change Visioning and Landscape Visualizations, which included a short case study of how the visioning process was used in the City of Kimberley. (The 2-page case study was based on a longer version published in 2009 and shown on the right.) Uses: Worked examples illustrate concretely how others have interpreted and used a generic tool and how it contributed to adaptation processes. This can improve practitioner insight into how to use the tool as well as its different applications. Limitations: The value of worked examples that are written by creators of a tool may be limited by the reluctance of the tool's creators to admit difficulties or ambiguities in its use. 3 3. Process Case Studies These case studies focus on the processes that communities and local governments use to assess their vulnerability to climate change and/or develop adaptation plans and programs. There is a gradual increase in the number of process case studies as more communities and organizations undertake vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning. Typically, these case studies describe:  Community context  Climate changes expected in the region  Ways in which the community is vulnerable  How the adaptation project developed and who was involved  What results or recommendations stemmed from the process  Actions taken to date, and future plans. More detailed process case studies may also include information on:  Circumstances that led to development of the adaptation project  Strategies used to engage stakeholders and community members  Challenges and barriers to the process and how they were dealt with  Resources of various kinds that were mobilized  Limitations of the project. Example: Northern Climate Exchange (NCE) has worked on adaptation planning with several communities in Canada's North. The NCE website includes adaptation plans for three of these communities as well as a description of one adaptation planning process which has not yet resulted in a plan. The completed plans incorporate good descriptions of the adaptation planning process in each community. Uses: Process case studies can help practitioners understand the ways in which different communities have prepared to tackle climate change and become more resilient. These studies provide enough information that the processes they describe can be replicated at least in part by other communities. Limitations: It is not easy to achieve a balance between enough and too much detail in these case studies, making some too superficial and others indiscriminately detailed and cumbersome. 4 4. Learning Histories A learning history (or “lessons learned”) case study discusses the strengths and weaknesses of a community assessment and planning process, what went right, what did not, and why. It will try to draw clear lessons from the experience for anticipated readers. An emphasis on what was learned from the community adaptation process being studied differentiates learning histories from process case studies. Ideally, a learning history will invite the participants in an adaptation process to reflect on what they have learned from the experience, and what they would do differently or advise others to do differently. Example: The Clean Air Partnership recently produced Climate Change Adaptation in the City of Toronto: Lessons for Great Lakes Communities, a case study of the adaptation process in the City of Toronto. The case study had as its goal producing "Lessons for Great Lakes Communities" from the experience of the City. Consequently, the report described and highlighted a number of specific lessons from the adaptation process, including the following: LESSONS  It takes time and a concerted “inreach” effort to have the key departments understand what adaptation is, why it is necessary, and to get them to incorporate climate change into their thinking and planning. An explicit strategy of communications and engagement with staff is advisable.  Take advantage of the growing number of external conferences, workshops, seminars and webinars to introduce staff to issues related to climate change impacts and adaptation.  Organize internal workshops and learning events to get staff familiar with the concept of climate change impacts and adaptation.  Ensure availability of on-line resource/reference collections to become more informed about existing knowledge and best practices (See Toronto’s Climate Change Adaptation Reference Collection.) Uses: Learning histories are potentially valuable resources because they evaluate real adaptation processes, describing their strengths and limitations, and drawing explicit lessons for practitioners who may, after reading a case study, be better able to reproduce successful aspects of an adaptation process and avoid the pitfalls. Limitations: The challenges of learning histories include the difficulty bringing participants together to reflect on the process and the nature of the analysis. An added challenge is that many participants are happy to say what went well, but may be more reluctant to discuss problems or limitations of an adaptation process in a case study meant for publication. 5 5. Comparative Case Studies Comparative case studies compare and contrast processes in two or more communities and usually draw some generalizations about characteristics of effective adaptation processes that are harder to make from a single case. Example: In 2007, the Clean Air Partnership produced Cities Preparing for Climate Change: A Study of Six Urban Regions, a comparative case study of six urban regions – in Canada, the US and the UK – that had embarked on climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning. Based on the detailed information gathered, the study made a number of generalizations about what contributes to both successful and unsuccessful adaptation processes in large, predominantly urban regions. Uses: Comparative case studies provide practitioners with a variety of different experiences with adaptation in a single report. The comparison that is part of such a case study can be very helpful to practitioners in identifying alternative strategies that might be most useful for their own communities. Limitations: To date, there have been relatively few comparative case studies of community adaptation aimed at practitioners. The time and resources required to research and write such case studies are onerous. Academics have produced some comparative case studies, especially about adaptation in developing countries, but tend to write for peer reviewed journals in a style and language that may be inaccessible to practitioners. 6 Summary Table: Five Types of Community Adaptation Case Studies Type Description Purposes/Uses Examples Introductory Short descriptions Motivates practitioners Case studies in: ("Gateway") case (usually 1½ - 2 pages) of by showing that others From Impacts to studies adaptation processes have taken action Adaptation: Canada in a typically found in a Provides examples that Changing Climate longer report, such as a alert practitioners to Adapting to Climate national or regional different adaptation Change: An Introduction for assessment or an processes Canadian Municipalities adaptation guide Worked examples Step-by-step Practical detail can help Adapting to Climate descriptions of how a practitioners in their own Change: A Risk-based community / local application of the tool Guide for Local government used a Governments in British particular tool for Columbia impact assessment Climate change risk and/or adaptation assessments of public planning infrastructure on the Engineers Canada website Process case Detailed descriptions of Can help practitioners Reports from the Columbia studies how a community is understand and Basin Trust and Northern undertaking impact potentially replicate Climate Exchange about assessment, adaptation adaptation approaches adaptation processes in planning and/or taken by others several communities implementation May save practitioners Case studies of time and effort collaborative climate "reinventing the wheel" change impacts research projects on the Canadian Institute of Planners website Learning histories Evaluations of what Helps practitioners Climate Change (“Lessons learned” participants learned in understand how they Adaptation in the City of case studies) an adaptation process, might reproduce the Toronto: Lessons for Great and recommendations strengths of specific Lakes Communities for others adaptation processes, and avoid the pitfalls Comparative or Case studies that Provides practitioners Cities Preparing for Climate multiple case compare adaptation with a suite of examples Change: A Study of Six studies processes in two or that can be helpful for Urban Regions more communities, and identifying strategies that Planning Climate Resilient generalize about will be most useful in their Cities: Early Lessons from successful (and not-so- own communities Early Adapters (a more successful) approaches academic example) 7 Scoping the Case Study 1. Defining the Type of Case Study to Write The type of case study that will be most useful will depend on the specific audience of practitioners that the study is intended to reach. For example:  If the case study is intended to show decision-makers such as elected officials or department heads that it is important and possible to protect against climate change impacts, then brief gateway case studies of what is being done by leading communities are likely to be the most appropriate option.  If the case study is meant for staff in local government or other community organizations that are responsible for implementing adaptation processes, then a more detailed level of description and analysis will be needed and in-depth process case studies or learning histories may be of greatest value.  If practitioners need to be encouraged to use specific tools for climate change risk assessment and risk management, then worked examples may be the most appropriate type of case study.  If the case study is meant to help communities understand options for conducting a vulnerability assessment, then a comparative case study of several communities who have conducted such assessments may prove to be most useful. 2. Choosing Cases to Study If the case study writer has several possible cases to choose from, then he or she may wish to consider the following to guide the selection:  Uniqueness of the adaptation process  Outstanding leadership  Location, size or economic characteristics of candidate communities  Climate change impacts of concern  Level of public/community involvement  Successes achieved  Duration (longer duration processes may provide more useful information)  Whether other studies have been done of the same adaptation process. 8 3. Identifying a Focus Many adaptation processes are too complex to describe in their entirety. It may be easier to gather information, analyze and write a case study if the writer focuses more narrowly. The writer might choose to focus on one or more of the following:  The stages and timeline of a community adaptation process  Processes that communities have established to assess and avoid impacts of specific hazards such as sea level rise, flooding, heat or drought  Steps that municipalities have taken to integrate climate change into infrastructure planning and the results  How science has been used and scientists participated in a community adaptation process  Ways in which adaptation leaders communicate with and engage members of the community. It will be particularly important for the authors of a series of case studies, or a comparative case study to clearly articulate the focus of their work in advance, and establish a set of common themes, questions or headings to guide the research and writing. Appendix B contains a sample case study outline used by Natural Resources Canada for its municipal gateway case studies. Appendix C provides a list of potential questions that a case study might address. 4. Identifying Authors and Other Contributors to the Case Study Case studies can be written by participants in (insiders), or by outsiders to an adaptation process. The knowledge of insiders who have participated in an adaptation process is crucial for a case study. Insiders will have a wealth of information that is available nowhere else. Outsiders can also add value to a case study. They may be able to bring a wider perspective to a case study, especially if they have investigated adaptation processes in other communities. They may be better situated than insiders to write about barriers that arise as a result of organizational structures and culture, or historic conflicts within a community. Writers who are insiders might take advantage of the insights of knowledgeable outsiders by consulting them when planning and drafting a case study. Outsiders will have to identify and interview key insiders as part of the research process, and should provide them with opportunities to review drafts of the case study to ensure its accuracy and as a check on interpretation. 9 What Practitioners Look For in Adaptation Case Studies Several common themes emerged in a recent informal survey to ask practitioners what information they look for in a community adaptation case study. These were further articulated during a webinar on Community Adaptation Case Studies for Canada's six Regional Adaptation Collaboratives and are outlined below: Where does the  Location  Social and economic context case study take  Natural features place?  Champion(s) Why did the  High level of awareness community start  Extreme weather event working on  Legal requirements adaptation?  Long-term investment decisions  Availability of funding Who was involved  Initiators  Leaders and how?  Participants  Funders  Climate experts  Contacts for more information How did the  Organizational structures  Learning and engagement activities and materials process develop?  Climate information and impact resources used  Processes to assess climate change vulnerabilities and risks  Decision processes and criteria used to select actions  Workplan, timetable and cost What were the What?  Worked in the process (and what could be improved) initial results?  Enabled actions  Barriers to action arose  Goals and actions were selected  Plans and timetables were developed  Actions have already been implemented  Further actions are planned for the future  Is the monitoring process for implementation For longer term  Did climate scenarios project actual changes?  Were impacts accurately predicted? processes …  Were actions effective in reducing vulnerabilities/risks?  Were actions adjusted in response to changing circumstances? 10 Steps for Writing an Adaptation Case Study 1. Identifying Sources of Information There are a variety of potential sources of information that case study writers should consider, including:  Documents  Interviews  Visual materials such as maps, charts, videos, photos  Knowledge derived from participation by the author(s) in the process  Conferences, workshops, and other events held as part of the adaptation process  Questionnaires or surveys of participants in an adaptation process to gather information such as their views about the process. The main sources of information are likely to be documents and interviews. 2. Collecting and Reviewing Documents Although interviews will be very important for the case study, most authors will collect and review relevant documents first. The documents that are likely to be most relevant include:  Descriptions of the adaptation process written by participating organizations  Climate change information used by participants in the process  Background reports, white papers, fact sheets or other materials used or developed in the process  Vulnerability or risk assessments  Minutes of Council or other meetings that discussed the issues  Materials used in workshops or public meetings  Reports of workshops or meetings  Adaptation plans, if any, that resulted from the process. Depending on the depth of the case study, the writer may also want to review scientific reports and academic articles relevant to the impacts and adaptation issues of concern to the community. These may help in evaluating the adaptation process being written about. A process case study, learning history or comparative case study may involve the collection of a large amount of information that will require a well-organized system for cataloguing and retrieving materials. 11 3. Developing an Outline and Preparing a Preliminary Description The document review should provide the writer with enough information to allow him or her to develop a preliminary outline or to revise one that was prepared previously. It will also be useful to write brief descriptions of what has been learned so far. The outline and descriptions will likely contain information on:  The context of the case (community in which it is set; impacts of concern)  When the adaptation process started and how long it has been going on  Who is involved  What's been done so far  What more is planned for the future  What appears to be unique about the case  Who the key contacts appear to be. Writing up a preliminary description will help the writer see the gaps in information in the available documents, and help formulate questions for key contacts. 4. Developing Interview Questions Interview questions should not be about factual information that is publically available and that the writer should know before interviewing begins. (Though sometimes there is not much available documentation and the interviewer will have no choice but to ask basic factual questions.) If the interviewer already has a good grasp of the facts, then the interview questions can focus on:  What happened behind the scenes: to get the project off the ground, to get decision-makers interested in the project, to develop the capacity of participants, and so on; and  The perceptions of participants about how the process unfolded, barriers that arose, assessments of what went well and what didn’t, and other information that is important, but unlikely to be included in available documents. Because informants will have taken different roles in the adaptation process, some questions will vary. However, it can be useful to have some common questions for different informants, to gauge the extent to which perceptions of the process are shared or different. The interviewer should hone questions to a manageable number that can be answered in an interview of an hour or so – maybe 10 to 12 main questions, with follow-up questions that might be needed to tease out important details. Most questions will be open-ended and non-judgemental, inviting the informant to reflect on the process. For example: 12  What motivated you to become and to stay involved?  Who played key roles in the process, and how did they make a difference?  How knowledgeable were participants in the process about climate change and its impacts at the beginning and how did this change over time? What more could be done to build the knowledge and capacity of participants? 5. Interviewing Interviews can provide important information and perspectives for a case study that are available nowhere else. Even insiders writing a case study about in which they have participated can benefit from interviewing other participants. Some practical issues to consider when preparing to interview include: Relationship Building: The interview often establishes – or reinforces – relationships that will continue by virtue of a common interest in community adaptation. This relationship will be off to a good start if the questions demonstrate that the interviewer has done their homework, and if he or she is clearly interested in the knowledge and views of informants. This doesn’t mean avoiding challenging questions. But these should be put respectfully. Meeting Face-to-Face: If possible, the interview should take place face-to-face, on the informant’s turf. This can increase the comfort and openness of the informant. It is not a good idea to interview in coffee shops or other public places where there are too many potential distractions and interruptions, though sometimes this is unavoidable. Recording the Interview: Some informants are uncomfortable and may be more reticent to speak openly when being recorded. Consequently most experienced case study writers settle for handwritten notes, though it is possible that they will fail to capture something that turns out to be important. Individual vs. Group Interviews: An hour’s interview with each of two people will usually give the interviewer more information than an hour’s interview with two people together. However, interviews with more than one informant may provide an enhanced opportunity for discussion and new insights. Often the interviewer doesn’t have a choice, particularly when interviewing local government staff, who may bring several people to an interview. Questions in Advance: Sometimes informants will ask for the questions in advance. This could be a time-saver – the informant can reflect on the questions and gather necessary information ahead of time. But it may also indicate that there are some touchy issues that the informant is concerned about discussing. In this case, the interviewer may want to revisit potentially sensitive questions that could set off alarms. 13 At the End of the Interview:  Ask the informant who else they think should be interviewed  Ask for documents that are mentioned in the interview but that you haven't seen previously (and offer to keep the contents confidential if that is an issue)  Ask the respondent if you can call or email with further questions of clarification if need be  Offer to send a draft case study for informants to review and correct. After Interviewing: It is good practice to find somewhere quiet and fill in notes that you didn't have time to complete during the interview. This is also a good time to identify questions that didn't get answered or new questions that occur to you and that you might ask in later interviews. 6. Analyzing and Writing the Case Study The worked example may be the easiest case study to analyze and write, because it will logically follow the "There are few fixed process suggested by the tool being used. formulas or cookbook Although the analysis and writing of other types of recipes for analyzing community adaptation case studies can be more challenging, the task is much easier if the writer started and writing case the research with a specific focus and questions and has a clear sense of what the practitioner audience for the studies." case study wants or needs to know. Robert Yin, 2009 Some writers find during their research, and especially during interviews, that important issues came up that they didn't expect, and that don't fit in a preconceived outline. The writer should be open to incorporating new themes and insights. The academic literature describes several approaches to writing case studies, but the main approaches for community adaptation case studies are:  Chronological narratives, or  Description and analysis of themes (e.g. drivers of adaptation, characteristics of leadership, use and interpretation of science, barriers...). Whichever approach is taken, the case study author will have to trawl back and forth between documents, interview notes and other materials to identify issues and answer key questions, gradually building up the evidence for each section of a narrative or each theme. The case study author will also have to verify or “triangulate” key facts and interpretations by cross-checking materials. Several activities will contribute to this: 14  Visiting the community where the adaptation work is taking place and meeting with people there  Using a variety of information sources rather than relying on a single avenue of information  Corroborating key statements made by interviewees and other commentators. The following practical activities may help in solidifying an analysis, as well as providing good visuals to help the reader of the report:  Creating a visual timeline of activities and events in the community through to the creation and implementation of an adaptation plan. The following example doesn't provide the timeline for an adaptation process, although it was included in a report that addressed adaptation in New York City: New York City Infrastructure Timeline Source: The City of New York (2007). PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York, p. 7. 15  Creating a flowchart or influence diagram which shows the development of various aspects of a case from the initial awareness of the potential impacts of climate change and the influences and activities that contributed at different points in the process. See an example on the next page: Process for Screening of Climate Impacts and Identifying Recommendations for Adaptation Source: Liepa, I. (2009). Adapting to Climate Change in Kimberley, BC: Report and Recommendations June 2009, p. 37. 16 7. Presentation Just as with other types of publications, a case study will be more effective if it is written in accessible language and packaged in an attractive format. Some of the features that practitioners look for include:  Plain language: avoidance of technical terms unlikely to be understood by the intended audience, and plain language explanation of terms that can't be avoided  A summary at the beginning of longer case studies: to help decision-makers and other readers decide if they need to delve into the in-depth report  Informative heads and sub-heads: to guide the reader to the content and to break up text  Use of tables: to present and summarize information  Judicious use of bullet points: to present information quickly  Attractive format: including use of white space, colour, and callout boxes  Use of graphics such as maps, charts and photos which appeal to visual learners and help all readers understand the context. It takes more time and effort to prepare a case study with these features, but the end result will be a valuable contribution. Challenges for Adaptation Case Study Writing The writers of community adaptation case studies face some of the same challenges that arise for others who do other forms of practical research, including: Time and Resources Needed: It takes considerable time and effort to write a good case study. It can also be costly, if the writer has to travel some distance to visit the community involved and do interviews. Researchers often have difficulty getting the time and/or the funding to do an in-depth case study. Keeping the Case Study Current: Most adaptation case studies are written about ongoing processes. By the time some reports are released, some case studies are already outdated. Organizations that have a mandate and resources to support community adaptation should consider providing periodic updates to their case studies (as the Columbia Basin Trust has done). Difficulty Balancing Depth of Information and Length of the Report: There is no doubt that practitioners and other readers prefer shorter, succinct reports. The challenge for the case study writer who has investigated and done a careful analysis of a complex community adaptation process is to keep the report short enough to keep readers engaged but not to oversimplify what happened. 17 Difficulty in Providing a Critical Perspective that is Helpful to Communities: The case study writer needs to be able to evaluate adaptation processes without being overly critical of communities that are the subject of the case study. The best way to accomplish this is to invite critical reflection on the process by its participants, and to convey it in their own words. This may not always be possible. Benefits of Community Adaptation Case Studies Community adaptation case studies have many benefits. They show that communities can tackle climate change adaptation in a variety of ways, often with creativity and aplomb. Community case studies value leaders and doers. Case studies document real-life experiences. They can enrich and broaden an understanding of adaptation processes that often differ from those suggested by adaptation guides and other tools. They help identify barriers to climate change adaptation and sometimes demonstrate innovative ways to get around these barriers. Case studies make a major contribution to the knowledge needed to move the adaptation agenda and create more resilient communities. 18 Appendix A: A Short List of Resources For General Information on Adaptation: Those case study writers who are new to climate change impacts and adaptation may want to familiarize themselves with the following resources:  From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate (Lemmen, Warren and Lacroix, 2007)  Adapting to Climate Change: An Introduction for Canadian Municipalities (Richardson, 2011)  Changing Climate, Changing Communities: Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation (ICLEI, 2010)  Cities Preparing for Climate Change: A Study of Six Urban Regions (Penney, 2007)  The website for the Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Division of Natural Resources Canada ( For More Information on Case Study Research and Writing: Most of the existing guides for case study research and writing have been written by academic researchers and have limited relevance for the writer of community adaptation case studies meant for practitioners. However, the following resources may provide helpful information and examples:  What do you want from a case study? (UKCIP, 2010) UKCIP also has a number of short case studies and worked examples on their website.  Writing Guide: Case Studies (Colorado State University, no date)  Preparing a Case Study: A Guide for Designing and Conducting a Case Study for Evaluation Input (Neale, Thapa and Boyce, 2006)  The webpage Learning through Case Studies for LEAD International provides guidance intended for case study writers about sustainability processes. 19