Social innovations for equitable and climate resilient landscapes in Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Earth and Environment


This project will develop innovative approaches that strengthen institutional capacity to improve resilience of vulnerable groups to multiple interacting climate and non-climate risks in Africa. The project brings together six networks and projects, currently working independently at landscape scales across Africa. We will build an international, multi-stakeholder community of practice to advance multidimensional understandings of the role, impact and effectiveness of social innovations that promote climate action and reduce risk across landscapes.

Recurring climate change hazards and shocks, alongside other stressors on livelihoods, overwhelm marginalised communities' abilities to cope and adapt to climate change, with significant repercussions for implementation of SDGs and poverty alleviation. To date, development and landscape management interventions and adaptation options typically neglect local inequalities and risk trade-offs and tend to be siloed and sectoral. There is a need for more innovative, relational and pluralistic collaboration for landscape governance to deal with conflicting interests, inequality and unequal power relations. In this project, we use the concept of 'social innovation' to advance this knowledge base.

We will identify, characterise, evaluate and share existing evidence and experiences of social innovations that support integrated risk reduction and resilience across different sectors, land uses and societal actors within African landscapes. By exploring different social innovations we will provide understanding of what works or not, why, and importantly for who, in landscape planning and governance. We will provide new ideas and perspectives to facilitate novel approaches for social innovation to tackle climate change in the context of multiple interacting risks. By learning from existing social innovations, we will identify new paths for practitioners to develop fresh collaborations, in order to find better solutions for climate risk reduction and landscape governance.

Our proposal is particularly relevant to the 'institutional capacity for decision-making across risk domains' theme of this call. The knowledge gaps we identify will form the basis for development of a Network+ bid for further knowledge development and capacity strengthening across Africa. The longer term findings and multi-stakeholder collaborations established by this project will generate new understandings for integrated landscape level solutions that reduce multiple risks and that leave 'no one behind'. By integrating interrelated climate and development challenges, we will be able to explore links and feedbacks between SDG13 (climate action) and other SDGs that act as barriers to SDG achievement. Goals 1 (poverty reduction), 2 (zero hunger), 3 (health), 5 (gender equality), 10 (reduced inequality), 15 (land), and 17 (partnerships) are particularly relevant. Such appraisal is key in supporting the longer term future envisioned in Vision 2063 agenda of the African Union, particularly aspiration 6, on people-driven development relying on vulnerable groups, 1 (sustainable development) and 3 (good governance). We will co-implement and expand on workshops co-funded by related landscape projects that put stakeholder engagement and impact at their core. In these workshops we will co-develop an analytical framework to evaluate social innovations at a landscape level in terms of their process and outcomes, considering equity across different disadvantage groups. We will use this to develop the Network+ proposal, craft an academic paper, as well as popular article and web content for wider audiences.

Our team comprises UK and African researchers with expertise in landscape approaches, environment, gender, governance and wellbeing. The core African team members are based in Kenya, Ghana and South Africa and work more widely across Africa through the six networks that this project brings together.


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