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Community adaptation planning

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Rural, as well as urban, communities are increasingly confronted with the realities of climate change. Community based adaptation (CBA) supports communities in understanding the changes they face and take informed and appropriate actions that result in climate resilient development on an ongoing basis. Planning is an essential element of CBA because successful adaptation depends on ability to manage climate impacts, risks and uncertainty, which requires forward-looking and informed decision-making. The basic process of planning involves analysing information, identifying actions and relevant actors, prioritising and operationalising. These are critical skills that underpin adaptive capacity, enabling people to learn and use their knowledge and experiences to manage the risks and uncertainty that are associated with a changing climate. With these skills, people are able to process climate information, analyse their situation and underlying causes of vulnerability, plan for the future and make good decisions for their livelihood options and risk reduction strategies. Local institutions also require these skills to ensure that their activities and plans are resilient to climate change and support adaptation by communities.

Relevant CTCN Technical Assistance


For more information on the methodology described below see Adaptation Planning with Communities

The Community Adaptation Action Planning (CAAP) Process was developed by Adaptation Learning Program (ALP) and is an approach for building motivation and capacity for action on community based adaptation among communities, while also strengthening community participation and influence in local government decision-making. It consists of the following seven steps:

Step 1: Launching the community adaptation action planning process

Step 2: Context analysis and stakeholder mobilisation

Step 3: Participatory analysis of climate change vulnerability and adaptive capacity

Step 4: Development of community adaptation action plans

Step 5: Implementation and adaptive management of community adaptation action plans

Step 6: Integration of community priorities in local development planning

Step 7: Strengthening systems and institutions for CBA

When following the CAAP process the following guidelines should be adhered to:

  • Promote inclusive and informed participation and decision-making: Empowering local stakeholders, including members of particularly vulnerable groups, to participate in and contribute to adaptation processes is more likely to result in local ownership and sustained outcomes.
  • Integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment: Gender-responsive adaptation processes and plans help to ensure dialogue between and equitable benefits to men and women, and increased community attention to gender equality.
  • Context-specificity: The CAAP process is most useful and meaningful to communities when it is tailored to reflect local realities, including cultural norms and practices and the timing of livelihood and domestic activities and local planning cycles.
  • Work within existing systems and institutions: Integrating the different elements of the CAAP process within existing systems and institutions, rather than creating new mechanisms, enhances their sustainability and potential for replication. 
  • Combine different knowledge types: Integrating local and scientific knowledge along with information and knowledge from other sources ensures that decisions about adaptation strategies and plans are robust, locally relevant and responsive to climate change impacts.
  • Promote social learning: Because adaptation is an ongoing process of managing risks and changes, social learning is a good opportunity for enabling co-generation of new insights and knowledge among multiple stakeholders.
  • Flexibility: Flexibility in community plans and actions is critical to enable people to anticipate and respond to changes in climate conditions and trends, as well as other changes and opportunities.

Co-benefits of this enabler

  • Using participatory methods to assess community adaptation priorities incorporates site-specific and locally relevant criteria—in addition to stakeholder ownership—into adaptation planning processes.
  • Incorporating local perceptions of inputs, outcomes and associated costs and benefits of adaptation actions is helpful in establishing cost effectiveness and impact with regard to local contexts and improving uptake of interventions.
  • As community involvement increases, information about resources and opportunities will circulate more widely, reaching more people.
  • Sustainability requires individual behavioral modifications on a personal level. It can affect day-to-day living in subtle or substantial ways. If community members buy-in to sustainable programs from the concept stage, change is more likely to be accepted and lasting. 
  • Input from a broader cross-section of stakeholders allows for a fuller understanding of community-specific issues. Their on-the-ground perspective can provide a reality check for which ideas are most likely to work and which are not. Policies and their execution can then be tailored to fit the area's particular resources, skill sets, and population size and culture.
  • Giving stakeholders the opportunity for up-front involvement can help prevent potentially serious conflicts from arising later. Problems can be addressed proactively, avoiding emotionally-charged, damaging situations.  
  • Residents who are invested in shaping their community report a higher level of satisfaction with where they live. Involvement in local government can empower citizens, create a sense of belonging, foster an atmosphere of excitement and improve residents' confidence in their government.
  • Face-to-face involvement is an excellent way for local governments and stakeholders to monitor each other's health, gather valuable information and hold each other accountable for intended progress. Local governments will be in a position to better understand the complex issues in the communities they serve, and citizens will be in a position to better understand the processes of government, including the demands on city funds and staff. 

Relevant publications