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Dhaka Tribune

Mainstreaming Climate Services into Higher Education in Bangladesh: The efforts from Bangladesh Academy for Climate Services (BACS) through ARA Micro-Grant for Bridging the Climate Information Gap for Adaptation

These programs look to develop and integrate topics on climate services into university-level curriculum

Update : 09 Jan 2023, 05:50 PM

Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA) micro-grants initiative

The global collaborative effort, Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA), was launched at COP26 with a vision for action-orientated research to inform effective adaptation for vulnerable communities, through a diverse group of partners and collaborators where funders, researchers, and practitioners are working together to co-create, innovate, and develop solutions. The Adaptation Research for Impact Principles focuses on addressing the barriers to action research, such as -- a disconnection between research, actions, and needs; duplication of efforts in adaptation research; misaligned incentives and institutional barriers; and limited learning from implementation, by better aligning and linking the knowledge to action. 

With the purpose of addressing burning adaptation issues, particularly for developing countries, through knowledge and research, the ARA launched its micro-grants call in November 2021. The idea was to enable access to financial, technical, and collaborative support for driving country-level small-scale initiatives. A total of 25 projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have been awarded by the ARA micro-grants initiative.

Insights from the micro-grantee BACS on the need for identification and coproduction of curriculum on climate services

While Bangladesh is renowned for constantly improving adaptation capacity, much of the focus has concentrated on long-term climate change scenarios and short-term weather forecasts; less so on the use of past, present and short- to medium-range future climate information. Prior activities and discussions related to climate services in Bangladesh had highlighted that there is a gap between the producers and users of climate information. Many users are not aware of the full range of climate information available. Even when they are, they often lack the knowledge and skills to understand and use the information (past, present, short-, medium- and long-term future) in ways that can help support locally-led adaptation, loss, and damage, etc. To address this gap, the Bangladesh Academy for Climate Services (BACS) co-founded by International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) partnered with selected faculties from five universities across Bangladesh (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Independent University, Bangladesh and Patuakhali Science and Technology University) to design a project which aimed at co-producing climate services. Through a participatory approach, this consortium developed a shared understanding of climate services and its potential for various climate-sensitive sectors and identified the needs, gaps, and opportunities to integrate the topic into the university-level curriculum. 

Strategies and approaches supporting the co-creation process 

Throughout this project, the BACS co-founders created an environment enabling all the professors to develop ownership of the project and feel comfortable sharing their voice in activities through participatory learnings and group exercises. The BACS team offered introductory presentations on climate services to ensure a common basis of understanding and encouraged the professors to actively engage in the discussion. Though most of the meetings and workshops were held virtually due to the duration and size of the funding, the BACS team organized a one-day-long in-person workshop for participatory group exercises to enhance engagement and strengthen personal connections. Professors shared perspectives from their different backgrounds, helping the group reflect on the subject from different angles, which further guided the joint definition of topics on climate services across various universities' curriculum. The enthusiasm from the professors, the diversity of the group, value addition by the BACS co-founders acted as enabling factors in this regard. Once the scope, needs, gaps, and opportunities of integrating climate services topics in the university-level curriculum had been analyzed, the group designed a detailed roadmap with short-, medium-, and long-term action points. 

Key lessons and elements for undertaking a successful co-production process

Key lessons for undertaking a successful co-production process include: 

Firstly, the involvement of multiple stakeholders with a wide range of backgrounds, perspectives, and expertise. The BACS team provided technical expertise on climate services: Information producer (BMD) with training from relevant experts on the 4 pillars of climate services (IRI), information translator and working with the user (CIMMYT), and knowledge broker (ICCCAD). The professors offered a wide range of backgrounds (science, social science, environment) and experience (junior, mid-level, and senior) -- which helped to bring in different important perspectives to the table.

Secondly, dealing with a common burning problem -- in this case, the lack of skills and knowledge on climate services.

Thirdly, investing in social capital: Requires a strong community build-up where everyone can work for a common cause. In this case, the BACS team targeted specific professors from the selected five universities and developed activities aiming to promote the development of a team relationship and trust among the professors.

Lastly, enabling a good environment to make the co-production process effective: The activities consisted of a mix of a few foundational short lectures and a number of participatory and group exercises, and also planned sufficient time to hear reflections from the professors.  

Co-production and transparency are critical to a successful microgrant process. To inspire participants to take on locally-led actions, they must be engaged in a co-production process from the beginning in a transparent manner. Group participants must be diverse, motivated, and have a targeted focus. We acknowledge that microgrants should be implemented over a relatively short period of time to create momentum, but there is a need for the second phase of seed funding to continue the process for at least 2-3 years to make that initiative sustainable. Moreover, it is also important to offer simple and fast financial procedures and processes, which was true in this ARA microgrant. Overall, open communication between facilitators and the targeted community is critical to implement all the activities successfully in a microgrant process without skipping any important steps.

Way forward to make the efforts sustainable 

The ARA Microgrant demonstrated that our process and activities are ways to bridge this critical gap for the successful identification of climate service topics to be added to the national and local university curriculum. Not only did the microgrant achieve all its goals and deliverables, but as a side benefit, it also helped build professor capacity in understanding the importance of climate services. Professors were able to analyze and design climate services content that could be developed and implemented at multiple universities under future funding. The next phase of funding would allow the team to include further voices and stakeholders in the process, as well as collaborate on the development of climate service content for integration into the university curriculum, to enable training of future climate scientists and practitioners for improved use of climate services across climate-sensitive sectors. 

Tasfia Tasnim is the Coordinator for the Nature-based Solutions (NbS) Program at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). Can be reached at: [email protected]

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