Re-configuring Local Governance for Community Resilience: social learning for flood adaptation under a changing climate

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

This project aims to provide a more effective way for communities to become resilient in the face of changing risks associated with anthropogenic climate change. It will focus on the issue of flooding in a rural Devon community as a way of exploring the potential for using 'co-learning' between community members, academic researchers and local agencies to understand the flood risks associated with current climatic conditions and how those risks and associated vulnerabilities are shifting as a result of climate change. In so doing, the project will work towards a community flood resilience plan that will seek to represent the different types of knowledge demonstrated by the different constituencies.

The project has the following objectives:
1. To adopt a deliberative and collaborative approach for engaging a range of community participants in a dialogue for co-creating knowledge for understanding risks associated with fluvial and surface water flooding;
2. To use this social learning process as a way of promoting informal learning about public engagement for representatives of the local state, environmental agencies and climate researchers across the physical and social sciences;
3. To enable a collaborative and jointly agreed assessment of current levels of flood resilience between the research participants and to develop place-based strategies to flood risk management within the context of future impacts from anthropogenic climate change;
4. To consider the role this methodology can play in promoting community resilience at a time of local government service re-structuring.

The project will be developed in collaboration with two main partners. First, Devon County Council, as the co-ordinating local authority with responsibility for emergency planning, will provide knowledge, expertise and access to the community flood planning process for the selected case study community of Crediton. Second, in order to meet objective 2 of the project, the Climate Outreach Information Network (COIN) will participate to ensure that the wider policy and practitioner community can benefit from the learning gained by the project. The project will also include contributions from statutory agencies (Environment Ageny and Fire authority).

The project will use a competency group approach to build knowledge and confidence amongst the different stakeholders in the community for developing a flood resilience plan. Over the course of six months four group meetings will be held at intervals of two months at which there will be representatives from the community of Crediton, Devon County Council, the Environment Agency, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and a small group of physical and social science academics. These meetings will explore current understandings of flood risk and associated vulnerabilities, the ways in which such vulnerabilities will change in the future and the most effective way of making the community resilient to future flood events.

The purpose of the competency group approach is to overcome many of the current barriers to effective community resilience, which is often framed by a top-down, government-led approach to policy making and implementation that can hide or distort vital local knowledges of risks and how to deal with them. The project therefore provides an opportunity to explore the potential for re-configuring risk governance that re-balances knowledge and decision-making between the local state and publics.

In this way, the project aims to explore the potential role of social learning about an environmental hazard to assess the role such a methodology could play in re-configuring relations between the local state, statutory agencies and communities. In so doing, the project has the potential to demonstrate the value of a deliberative and knowledge-based approach to tackling a range of changing vulnerabilities.

Planned Impact

Impact summary:

The project aims to create three types of impact. First it will produce a community flood resilience plan through a negotiated process within a specific community, involving publics, local agencies and academic researchers. Second, the project will explore the viability of co-creation as a tool for generating forms of knowledge that are both accepted and form the basis for local decision making on controversial environmental issues. Third, the work will demonstrate how the involvement of climate researchers in the process of knowledge co-production can be used to re-frame the ways in which scientific knowledge is produced and communicated by including them in dialogues with policy makers and publcis about climate change knowledge, its validity and use.

Beneficiaries:

First, there will be a direct benefit to the case study community of Crediton in Devon, which does not currently have a community flood resilience plan and is designated as being a community where flooding is likely to become a serious problem. The plan will be a pragmatic instrument, designed to be recognised by all stakeholders in the community to enable them to prepare for and deal with a flood event, placing particular emphasis on how the community can become more resilient through existing networks. This will be placed within the context of anthropogenic climate change and the plan will offer the opportunity for the community to discuss and deliberate on how it will cope with higher frequencies of intense rainfall events and consequent flooding. As such, the co-production of a flood resilience plan seeks to impact upon the physical, social and economic environment by facilitating changes in public awareness and behaviour within the community and in so doing provide an improved framework for the management of flood risk.

Second, the project will benefit statutory agencies, including Devon County Council, the Environment Agency and Fire Authority. These agencies are the co-ordinating bodies for flood risk communication, disaster prevention and response. In a period of financial restraint, the governance of emergencies is undergoing review, with the outcome that agencies will need to re-configure their relationships with communities. The project will aim to explore how agencies can become enablers, rather than controllers, of preparation and response in time of community need. In so doing, the project aims to impact upon practitioners and professional services in the following ways:

1. To use the research process (co-production competency groups) and findings to stimulate and inform debate between practitioners within agencies and between practitioners and local stakeholders;

2. To stimulate debate among practitioners on the utility of 'conventional wisdom' on flood preparation and risk management within Crediton;

3. To assist in shaping policy development by statutory authorities through 1) the development of resources to enhance the effectiveness of professional practice and 2) providing evidence on the viability of existing approaches to flood risk management under anthropogenic climate change.

Third, the involvement of the Climate Outreach Information Network (COIN) will produce impact for academic researchers working in the field of climate change. In essence, COIN will facilitate a discussion within the academy on how climate scientists can have greater appreciation of the end use of their research by different constituencies. In so doing, this element of the project seeks to inform the behaviour and future practice of researchers and teachers by 1) providing experience of the potential challenges and opportunities for engagement of academic and non-academic partners, 2) generating a greater appreciation of different 'ways of knowing' between a diverse range of communities and 3) using such understanding to better understand opportunities for effective impact generation in collaborative projects.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This project was an impact-facing award, which aimed to assess the value and potential of using knowledge co-production as a tool to understand the risks associated with flooding in Crediton (Devon) and the surrounding rural area. In doing so, the project used what are termed 'competency groups' of publics, agency representatives and local stakeholders to progressively discuss and research flooding as an issue, with the desired outcome of better understanding and engaging people with the vulnerabilities associated with flooding problems.

The following provides a summary of the key findings from the Competency group's research, which will form the basis of working with Sustainable Crediton to take the work forward (see following sections of this report):

Flooding can often be a very localised but nonetheless very severe problem in areas that do not necessarily appear on published flood maps. Indeed, in many cases, flooding can be regarded as a 'hidden' issue in cases where householders don't want to disclose flood events for insurance purposes;

Surface water flooding, associated with excessive runoff, can often be a major challenge and there is often too much focus placed on riverine flooding at the expense of on-going challenges associated with intense rainfall events;

The project found widespread agreement in the group that farming practices, highway / storm drain maintenance, riparian maintenance of waterways and new development in the built environment all play a major part in the number and severity of flooding incidents;

The group acknowledged the body of evidence on climate change and how this might affect the intensity and frequency of severe weather in the future and concluded that it would be wise to plan for the possibility of increasing problems associated with severe weather;

The group recognised that for the foreseeable future, public sector spending will continue to be restricted. As a result, local communities might need to become more proactive and self-reliant in managing these issues.

Intellectually, these findings demonstrate the ways in which competency groups can deliver both new insights and act as places of legitimation and discussion of controversial issues, such as flood risk and climate change.
Exploitation Route The work of the competency group is being taken forward locally through conversations with the local Transition group, which may act as a home for flood related resilience work in the town. More broadly, the grant holders have obtained additional University of Exeter funding to hold a day workshop for regional stakeholders, to showcase the competency group's work. In addition, the impact of the project is being evaluated through a series of in-depth interviews with participants. As a result of these initiatives, a 'state of the art' report has been produced by the group, available from July 1st 2016.
Sectors Education,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_463699_en.html
 
Description This project has generated a range of impacts within the broad fields of increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy, and enhancing the quality of life of publics. These impacts are evolving and are likely to increase and become more widely distributed over the coming years. Through adopting a deliberative and place-based approach to exploring the relationships between anthropogenic climate change and flooding, the research has demonstrated the potential for engaging publics in potent place-based environmental issues as a means to examine the impacts of climate change. Specifically, the ongoing impacts generated from the research can be grouped into four major themes. First, we have engaged local agencies, most notably Devon Country Council's Emergency Planning Department, to explore new ways of re-configuring local governance for resilience. In practice, this means promoting models of public engagement that can re-distribute expertise, knowledge and action to local communities. Through a process of dialogue led through competency groups, Devon County Council's Emergency Planning Officer has played a key role in framing the research and gaining understanding of how deliberative processes for dealing with environmental controversies can function. Specifically, we have been able to demonstrate the ways in which different types of place-based knowledge can be used to promote locally sustainable actions for dealing with current and future threats posed by anthropogenic climate change. Second, we have worked closely with Climate Outreach, a UK based organisation that aims to promote effective communication and learning about climate change. As a key partner in the project, Climate Outreach have engaged in the competency group process and have gained valuable understandings about the ways in which place-based knowledges can be used to explore the controversial issue of climate change science and its communication. The research has provided Climate Outreach with new evidence on which to develop their portfolio of work and expertise. Third, we have generated and cultivated community capacity in the town of Crediton, Devon for both understanding anthropogenic climate change and doing so within the context of localised flooding. Through the establishment of the Crediton Community Flood Resilience Group, the research has demonstrated the ways in which deliberative and co-productive methods can be applied in a place-based setting. This has increased understandings of localised flooding issues, climate change science and also the methods and techniques that local people can adopt for investigating the impacts of climate change through the lens of a potent issue like flooding. Indeed, the group has also been able to increase community capacity and confidence for dealing with contentious issues like the flooding implications of new urban developments and how these connect to the increasing risks posed by anthropogenic climate change. Community capacity has been strengthened further by formally establishing the Crediton Flood Resilience Group as an element of Sustainable Crediton, the local Transition group. The flood resilience group is in the process of promoting an increased understanding of the risks posed by flooding and climate change amongst people in and around Crediton and has recently published an accessible report, with sufficient copies for every household in the town, which will be distributed to raise the profile of the group's work and to provide practical suggestions for reducing personal flood risk. This builds on the group's public engagement work through a public exhibition of the research in September 2015. Representatives of the flood resilience group continue to develop their work and this may involve the development of strategies to fully integrate flooding considerations into local decision making and to promote localised ways for enabling residents to engage and partly manage their own flood risks. Fourth, we have raised awareness of, and demonstrated practical approaches for developing community-based resilience plans beyond the specific issue of flooding through engaging a wide range of stakeholders from South West England (local authority representatives, public representatives, voluntary organisations, publics and specific interest groups). This has provided inspiration and impetus for emergent groups, such as the Saltash Flood Resilience Group. It has also promoted cross-sectoral learning and knowledge sharing. This area of impact is likely to develop as groups who have engaged with the research progress their own plans and work.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Community resilience engagement event (Crediton) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A community engagement event to showcase the research undertaken as part of the project, involving the production and display of five AO posters, which formed the basis of an exhibition. This was held in Crediton Community bookshop and lasted for 2 hours. The event was widely publicised in print media, by posters and through the Town Council.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_463699_en.html
 
Description Crditon Flood Resilience group: introductory meetng 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An introductory workshop for the newly convened Crediton Flood Resilience Group, at which training and context was provided for engaging in the co-productive work on the group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_412733_en.html
 
Description Crediton Flood Resilience Group: first meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A first formal group meeting, at which key challenges and problems associated with flooding in and around Credition were discussed and the formal research and working for the group was discussed and agreed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_412733_en.html
 
Description Crediton Flood Resilience Group: meeting three 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A final meeting of the group to discuss the key factors influencing flood risk and vulnerabilities in and around Crediton and to explore how the work of the group and its findings can be pursued in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_412733_en.html
 
Description Crediton Flood Resilience Group: second meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A second formal meeting of the group, at which the key issue of historic flood analysis was discussed. The discussion focused on identifying areas of recent and historic floods, alongside understanding where future vulnerabilities could lie.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/news/research/title_412733_en.html
 
Description Seminar at the University of the West of England 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This was an invitation to give a seminar to disseminate the findings from the research as part of the University of the West of England's seminar series in the Centre for Floods, Communities and Resilience, on Wednesday 15th February 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop on understanding the participation of publics in environmental initiatives 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A workshop of 45 people was held at the University of Exeter to showcase the project's work and to draw publics, voluntary organisations, professional practitioners and policy makers into a conversation about how to promote and sustain the participation of publics in environmental initiatives. The workshop saw the launch of the Crediton Flood Resilience Group's report. A report of the workshop's findings has also been compiled and sent to participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016