How CCA and DRR communities use strategic narratives for joint purposes: preparedness, accessing funding, improving health & ecosystem-based services

16:15 Wednesday 29 May


Room S1


Julia Bentz (Portugal) 2; Gabriela Michalek (Germany) 3; Reimund Schwarze (Germany) 3; Julia Barrott (United Kingdom) 4; Sukania Bharwani (United Kingdom) 4; Rob Swart (Netherlands) 1

1 - Wageningen University and Research; 2 - Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon; 3 - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research; 4 - Stockholm Environment Institute

Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) communities have much in common. They deal with floods, heat waves and droughts and strive both to minimize their impacts by improving. They try to foster community preparedness. They aim to deal with health impacts. They develop ecosystem based solutions and access funding to implement solutions. However, the actual collaboration between these CCA and DRR holds off.

Narratives are stories in mind with a purpose behind. Narratives can be applied as a ‘strategic’ tool to help overcome the gaps between the communities and foster joint collaboration to achieve these purposes. Sociological and psychological studies have confirmed that well-crafted stories that draw on target groups’ joint values and norms, can influence the perception of an issue and evoke respective actions.

In this session, we would like to share PLACARD experiences with ‘strategic’ narratives in different contexts. In particular, we want to explore with session participants how narratives can be used to increase:

  1. community preparedness
  2. ease access to funding
  3. develop joint health initiatives and
  4. foster the implementation of ecosystem based solutions.

Target audience

The target audience includes practitioners, academics, business and policymakers that want to learn how to use narratives to achieve a specific purpose (see points 1-4 above). In this session, the participants will first learn about the building blocks of a successful narrative. Consequently, they will have the opportunity to test the new skills by working on 2 out of 4 ‘practice cases’. The condensed training will help them to make first experiences with strategic narratives in the CCA & DRR context and to build the capacity to apply this in their work back home.

Proposed format for the session

This session is a science-practice session. Its aim is to show how to construct narratives that shape the perception of a problem at stake and guide respective actions. The session will start with a plenary introduction to the topic – why narratives matter and the role of art in developing narratives (10 minutes). Then, we will discuss some terminology issues that matter when working with CCA and DRR communities (10 minutes), followed by a presentation of the main building blocks of successful narratives (10 minutes). Then, the four joint purposes and cases are pitched by the table chairs:

  1. community preparedness
  2. ease access to funding
  3. develop joint health initiatives and
  4. foster the implementation of ecosystem based solutions.

In the next step, the participants will form four groups and select two cases(?) a case according to their personal interests. At the table, they will conduct an experiment on how to construct a specific (strategic) narrative under given circumstances with the overall aim of increasing CCA & DRR collaboration (2 x 20 minutes). Finally, the groups will present their narratives and we will jointly reflect on the feedback and discuss lessons learned (20 minutes). At the end of the session, the participants will receive the PLACARD recipe book for developing narratives, that is full of practical tips and tricks. Contributing Authors abstracts

Julia Bentz, FFCUL – Creating narratives of change: Arts-based approaches to climate and behavior change

Addressing climate change in its complexity requires new ways of thinking, creating and acting. Arts-based approaches have the potential to challenge current thinking on climate change, presenting new ways of approaching complex problems and engaging commonly ignored stakeholders including youth. Project Art For Adaptation aims to challenge habits and empower youth for new narratives. It engages students of a Lisbon Art High School in a 30-day-experiment with change and facilitates group discussions. Being provided with reflection questions through a dedicated online-portal, the students examine and share their experience with change. Then, students produce artworks reflecting the change experience. The obtained qualitative data (visual data, recordings, posts) show an increased sense of empowerment, critical thinking and interest in climate change and in contributing to mitigating it. Results show also that some students develop new insights and relationships such as a shift of values, priorities or a shift in how the own behavior is evaluated. This shows that the approach of practical involvement, accompanied with regular reflections and art making has the capacity to not only raise awareness about complex issues such as climate change, but also support reflexivity and value shifts and thus contributes to the creation of new narratives.

Julia Barrott and Sukaina Bharwani, Stockholm Environment Institute – Understanding disparities in language: How terms are used differently across subject areas and geographic boundaries

Strategic narratives can be powerful forms of communication. A critical element of building successful narratives is speaking the same language as the audience receiving it. This doesn’t just mean using the right dialect and cutting out the jargon (though these are important), but also understanding how the audience interprets relevant terms.

This has important consequences when it comes to climate action. It can be seen from research, policy and practice communications within the disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation communities that these communities often use the same words, but attach different meanings to them. This can result in confusion and misinterpretation of key issues and varied (and unintentional) interpretation of narratives used to communicate to and between these groups of actors.

This presentation will use visualisations of the use of language across the landscape of climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction to highlight the importance of understanding how people conceptualise key terms, and use this as a foundation on which to discuss ways forward for harmonising or increasing awareness about our use of language.

Ingrid Coninx, Wageningen University & Research – How to build successful narratives?

In project PLACARD we brought together and analysed different experiences with the use of narratives and explored a set of common criteria that have resulted in change and action. The common criteria were combined in a ‘recipe book’ for narratives. These building blocks will be presented in this section of the session and are based on literature on success criteria for narratives, as well as focus groups and participatory workshops. Building blocks are amongst others relate to the perception and worldview of the specific target group, their trusted networks and their experiences with the topic. In the presentation, building blocks are shared that can be used in the experiments.

Gabriela Michalek, UFZ – Learning about narratives

The interactive session gives the participants an opportunity to put the acquired knowledge into practice and to construct their (first) strategic narratives to strengthen CCA & DRR collaboration under given circumstances. Depending on the professional background and interests, the participants can choose to work on (1) increasing local community prevention and preparedness, (2) acquiring access to joint funding, (3) tackling health impacts of climate-amplified extreme events (e.g. heat waves) and/or (4) fostering the implementation of the ecosystem-based solutions (e.g. in an urban area). The work will be conducted in groups to encourage ideas brainstorming and exchange of professional experiences. We also have 1 table to experience the terminology game. In the final discussion the group leaders will present the narratives and we will provide feedback and comments. Common pitfalls and issues of particular attention will be summarized in the lessons learned.