A Consortium Collaborative Program

Climate Adaptation Mission

The Climate Adaptation Mission led by BehaviourWorks Australia and its partners explores how systems thinking, knowledge co-production, and behavioural public policy experiments could help Australian communities reduce harms from climate change.

The Climate Adaptation Mission is part of the BehaviourWorks Australia Consortium, which has a focus on identifying shared policy challenges between partners and tackling them with behavioural approaches. 

This Mission leverages the combined reach, resources and expertise of the following Consortium partners: the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action , Sustainability Victoria, The Shannon Company, and the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

Mission overview

The Climate Adaptation Mission is called a Mission because it uses an international model that brings together a grand challenge, a specific and achievable goal, collaboration between multiple actors relevant to the challenge, and is implemented through co-designed research and innovation projects.

The Mission has four Phases: (1) determining the challenge and goals; (2) Prioritising climate adaptation issues in Australia; (3) Co-designing behaviour change approaches; and (4) Testing and evaluating behaviour change approaches in the field.

Phase 1: Determining the grand challenge and goals for the Climate Adaptation Mission

The first phase of the mission involved working with our partners and conducting a scoping review to identify a challenge and define a specific goal over the period 2021-2023.

A scoping review involves reviewing research literature and speaking with experts in the area of climate adaptation to identify where we could apply behaviour science to make concrete progress. The resulting report, Behaviour Change in a Changing Climate, provides a useful survey of evidence and practice as of 2021, and makes recommendations for applying behaviour change methods in this complex space.

Phase 2: Prioritising climate adaptation challenges in Australia

The second phase of the mission involved investigating and collating a list of climate adaptation challenges in Australia, and applying an evidence-based participatory prioritisation process to agree on 4-6 adaptation challenges to take forward into later phases for co-design of behaviour change interventions.

The process involved an evidence review of existing climate adaptation reports and strategies in Australia, as well as asking relevant stakeholders to identify climate adaptation issues. This 'long list' of about 700 issues had duplicates removed and a short list of 34 issues was created. We also worked with partners to agree on prioritisation criteria.

We held a prioritisation summit with more than 20 climate adaptation stakeholders from across Australia, including NGOs, Commonwealth, state, and local governments, community representatives, and others with an interest in climate adaptation. These stakeholders applied the criteria to the short-list of issues, and identified a final list of issues.

Phase 3: Co-design behaviour change approaches to address the most important climate adaptation issues

The third phase of the mission involved working through a version of the BehaviourWorks Method in teams composed of people and representatives of interest for the prioritised issues.

BehaviourWorks Australia recruited and designed the co-design process, and also conducted supporting research for teams to use in their design of a behaviour change approach. The co-design process took place over 12 weeks and five online workshops, with weekly team meetings.

During this phase, two teams were formed around the prioritised challenges:

  • The first team focused on communities dependent on natural resource management and natural capital in the context of climate change, especially changes in economic activity and environmental degradation.
  • The second team focused on communities in areas with increased climate hazards and Traditional Owners. Through the co-design process, they coalesced on investigating local government climate adaptation planning and response, and how adaptive capacity could be improved through better relationships and partnerships with Traditional Owners.

More information:

Phase 4: Testing and evaluating behaviour change approaches in field

The fourth phase of the mission involved refining the behaviour change approaches and designing a behaviour change trial and evaluation.

In many challenges, it's not self-evident 'what works' to change behaviour and address problems. For a complex, multi-faceted challenge like climate adaptation, it's even more important to test interventions and approaches to determine whether, for whom, under what conditions, and how they are (or are not!) effective in changing behaviour to increase adaptive capacity.

We evaluated both the impact of a behaviour change intervention, but also the process of its implementation. Testing what works - and what doesn't work - in a trial setting allows us to learn what to keep the same and what to change when scaling up or disseminating our findings for other settings and contexts.

Trial 1: Supporting farmers to engage in environmental market transactions to build natural capital and improve resilience to climate change

This trial evaluated an approach led by Regen Farmers Mutual in collaboration with community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) groups, in the Traprock region of South-East Queensland. The approach, called the Regen Farmers Mutual Accelerator, aimed to help CBNRM groups adopt inclusive governance and engagement approaches to enable farmers and landholders to participate in environmental market transactions, build natural capital through effective land management, and ultimately increase adaptive capacity.

Trial 2: Supporting climate adaptation planning and response by improving cultural awareness and partnerships between local government and Traditional Owners

This trial evaluated an approach led by Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DJAARA) to bring together 11 local government councils on Dja Dja Wurrung Country (Central Victoria) and other land governance bodies in a workshop that shared climate adaptation challenges, ideas, and concrete ideas for partnerships. This approach, called the Adaptation Forum, sought to help local government climate change and sustainability officers to build cultural awareness of Dja Dja Wurrung climate resilience approaches and support the development of partnerships for climate adaptation planning and response in the region.

Interested in getting involved?

Whether you're an academic with research that aligns with our Missions, a leader looking to spearhead a transformative initiative, or someone with unique insights and experiences in the field of climate change adaptation, your contributions could play a critical role in addressing some of the biggest challenges our world is facing today.

Your expertise and perspective could be crucial to building needed adaptive capacity in Australia. If you're ready to lead, participate, or contribute to our future work, we invite you to contact us.

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