This week, a range of climate impacts happening across the globe have been making headlines – from flooding in Yellowstone, USA and Bangladesh, hailstorms covering Mexico City in ice to the heatwave in France.  Extreme weather events have severe impacts on society and ecosystems in our current climate and pose an increasing threat as the climate changes. These threats make climate adaptation a top priority.  

Adapting to our changing climate falls squarely in the domain of wicked problems. Wicked problems are problems which are challenging to scope, are complex in nature, meaning there is no sole solution, and every attempt to address them is important as they have knock on consequences (Rittel and Webber, 1973).  Wicked problems, such as adaptation, necessitate collective learning and new modes of collaboration.  

Adaptation remains a new challenge for many. That is why at Sniffer, we recognise and value the importance of knowledge exchange and learning. It is also why we facilitate, and contribute to, a number of learning exchanges and communities of practice.  

For example, we set up the Adaptation Scotland Benchmarking Working Group in 2019 to support organisations to adapt to climate change. It provides a space to share knowledge and ideas, highlight best practice, facilitate peer support and find opportunities to collaborate. Members have access to training and support, as well as the opportunity to network and learn from people working across different sectors and organisations. Members are encouraged to ask questions, discuss challenges and share experiences.  

Peer learning, or the “acquisition of knowledge and skills by peers helping each other to learn and learning themselves by doing so” (Adaptation Professionals, 2020), can support practitioners to learn from each other and apply new knowledge within their own context. The importance of peer learning for climate adaptation has been recognised internationally, including by the German Government and the American Society of Adaptation Professionals. Here in Scotland, we also believe that everyone has something to give and gain from their peers, to support climate adaptation. Peer learning doesn’t assume one person has knowledge, while others don’t. Instead, it’s about appreciating divergent experiences and perspectives, and working together to influence change (Fisher, 2022).  

The Benchmarking Tool and other resources supporting the use of the Adaptation Capability Framework provide a clear and logical framework to progress adaptation - but we realise that tools alone are not enough. Given the complexity of adaptation, there is significant value in creating space to unpack and work through challenges and solutions together.  Networks and working groups provide facilitated opportunities for such conversations and sharing to take place. Importantly, the Benchmarking Working Group is brought together with a shared purpose of benchmarking progress using the Adaptation Capability Framework. The collective process helps bind the group and supports momentum. Transport Scotland, members of the working group, feel that “the continued support from Adaptation Scotland and peers gives you a sense of community and provides assistance along your adaptation journey.”  

Feedback from participants has shown the benefits of using the Adaptation Capability Framework, participating in the Benchmarking Working Group and contributing to peer learning events. The positive impacts of the group include:   

  • Providing networking opportunities and strengthening relationships amongst those working on adaptation in the public sector – Bringing together stakeholders to work together to address specific issues has demonstrated the value of knowledge exchange between individuals and organisations.  Member feedback shows that the group: “allows knowledge exchange with other organisations, a comparison of progress across the sector and helps maintain a focus on adaptation as part of a broader work remit.Aberdeenshire Council, a member of the first cohort of the Benchmarking Working Group, reflect on their experience of collaboration to enable Climate Ready Aberdeenshire in a case study here 
  • Sharing and improving use of evidence – The working group provides the space to support ongoing processes for learning, knowledge generation, uptake and evidence sharing, progressing the Understanding the Challenge capability. The working group has strengthened knowledge of adaptation amongst members, with one organisation stating, “learning from the Group has informed most of my work on adaptation”.   

Commitment to continuous and reflective learning is central to developing knowledge, learning and confidence related to adaptation planning. We support organisations to mature from single-loop learning, where organisations learn from their own experiences and then adjust their immediate actions, to double-loop learning which involves efforts to redefine the organisational norms and restructure strategies to address root problems. The effective synthesis and use of knowledge has also been identified by the Traction framework as a key enabler for climate adaptation. Our adaptation actions need to be supported by the best knowledge and evidence available at the time of taking action. We believe this should build upon scientific evidence and data, as well as what is important for peoples and places.  

  • Putting learning into action - Learning from others about their experiences of both good and bad practice can inform organisation’s own adaptation planning and implementation, as shown by the Scottish Parliament planning for business continuity. Forestry and Land Scotland, an active member of the group, suggest that “the framework provides and identifies key actions to help my organisation mature in terms of adaptation – as a result we have put governance arrangements in place, set a vision and identified strategic climate change outcomes”. You can read more about Forestry and Land Scotland’s adaptation journey here 

That is why we are delighted to be welcoming our third cohort of the Benchmarking Working Group – including Creative Scotland, EAUC, Edinburgh College, Ministry of Justice, Moray Council, North Ayrshire Council, Police Scotland, Registers of Scotland, Scottish Parliament, Shetland Islands Council, South of Scotland Enterprise and Stirling Council. We look forward to working with new and existing members to support each other in benchmarking their progress in using the Adaptation Capability Framework, our award-winning resource to help public sector organisations adapt.  

In addition to the Benchmarking Working Group, Sniffer also provides or contributes to: 

Keep up to date with events and working group opportunities: