Workshop participants broke into smaller groups to discuss key aspects of subnational assessments—for example, focusing on strategies for engaging stakeholders through the assessment process, development and sharing of tools and resources, considerations for sustaining climate assessments, characteristics of actionable assessments, and the role of boundary organizations in translating assessment findings to decision makers.
Jeffrey Dukes led a breakout group answering questions including the following: “Who are the stakeholders that subnational climate assessments are trying to reach and what strategies are most effective in engaging them? Are there best practices or principles for engaging stakeholders in climate assessment? What are examples of successful and unsuccessful initiatives?” In reporting back on their group’s discussion, Dukes explained that participants’ different perspectives resulted in a diversity of stakeholders identified. These included individuals who make personal decisions using climate information, such as farmers and landowners; decision makers and policy makers from federal to local levels; business stakeholders impacted by climate decisions or intending to market products and services related to climate adaptation; and members of the public who hold a variety of views on climate change. The group reported best practices in information sharing, such as making sure the information is timely and relevant to the individual, and shared through trusted communicators, he said. Information is more applicable when presented at a local scale and context, with compelling solutions and proactive steps identified, and through sharing relatable stories. Trust must be built with stakeholders, and using a trusted communicator can help, he concluded.
Nancy Thomas reported back from her breakout group, which focused on the question: “What tools and resources would be most useful to assist regions, states, and local governments to conduct climate assessments?” The group agreed that users of data and tools needed more information about the extent and nature of uncertainties associated with downscaled climate models, the applicability and underlying evidence for the projections shared with decision makers, and the data and tools they use. People producing tools need to understand how users will apply data and information, and to design tools to improve the user’s effectiveness, she said. For example, many decision makers need probabilities of events for their risk management actions, so tools that produce that output are desirable. Decision relevance of downscaled data needed to be balanced with generalizability of information, she concluded.
Zenia Grecni led a breakout group discussion exploring the questions: “How can climate assessments be sustained in funding and in structure? How often should they be updated? How might evolve, and should they always remain comprehensive or might they develop in certain directions?” The group deemed the diversity of
structures, approaches, and leadership across the United States to be valuable. Diverse funding sources were also a feature of sustained assessments, and Grecni suggested that the role of nonprofit foundations could be expanded, particularly in funding pilot projects that demonstrate success and measure progress of collaborations between the government, private sector, and nonprofit stakeholders. Grecni continued that creating and maintaining connections across assessment communities will help to sustain and improve assessment processes. Technology and innovation to automate some aspects of assessment and to engage the public and decision makers remains an area for improvement in the future. The sustainability of assessments could be enhanced by developing a national network of professionals who facilitate dialogue and translate between information producers and users, and identify major gaps across assessments over time, she concluded.
Jonathan Parfrey moderated a small group discussion on the question: “What are the most important factors or features that make climate assessments actionable in developing adaptation and mitigation strategies?” The group noted that there were many interpretations of what “actionable” means, but decided to focus on how to inform policy development, and they suggested that scientific assessments should be the foundation from which policies are developed. Assessments should promote common vocabulary and standard values and numbers, said Parfrey, and assessments should be streamlined toward their specific target audiences based on information for the near and long term. Local users may be looking for immediately implementable solutions, and state or regional users may be able to learn and act at a more strategic level. Parfrey explained that many participants believed a media-savvy strategy was critical to translating assessments into actionable policy. In concluding, Parfrey explained that assessment should offer solutions and leverage the roles of boundary-spanning organizations, which may better be called translational organizations.
Liz Whitman moderated a session on the role of boundary organizations, whose purpose is to create and sustain links between knowledge producers and users. Participants answered the question: “What functions do boundary organizations have and what roles do they play?” Whitman explained that the group focused on roles, rather than organizations, because different organizations may play a boundary-spanning role at different times. Boundary organizations provide trusted relationships, knowledge, and capacity to launch new assessments, and they facilitate discussion of needs of stakeholders to motivate collaboration in existing assessment processes, she said. Boundary organizations can provide education to support deeper understanding of issues and can establish academic rigor. They provide a forum and convening of diverse stakeholders and create processes and opportunities for communication, provide accountability, and evaluate assessments. The group identified a need for performance metrics for boundary-spanning functions, she concluded.