The CLAAR Project

COMMUNITY LED ADAPTATION AND RESILIENCE

The climate crisis and related impacts are worsening fast. National responses are inadequate, and this looks unlikely to change soon. Responses at community level may be the best option currently, and even though many communities don’t have the critical mass for significant action, there are some infrastructure actions which would enable this when conditions worsen and more people want to take action.

At present, CLAAR is an emerging project, with a number of organisations informally involved. Currently the two main areas of exploration are:

1. Resource Toolkit: This could be a website, searchable on multiple dimensions, and progressively expanded and updated. We are not aware that anything suitable exists for the UK, and the North American counterparts we’ve seen focus on disaster response (e.g. wildfires) rather than systemic failures (e.g. food supplies, IT systems).

Alan Heeks first saw the need for this in 2012, when he commissioned an action research project by Reos Partners on how to raise community resilience. This research showed that for most issues, a few good role models were up and running, and the problem was reproducibility. One way to help this would be to document successful projects to show others how to emulate them. For a summary of the Facing the 2020s report, click here.

In 2023, Seeding our Future commissioned desk research from Schumacher Institute exploring the major challenges likely to hit communities in the UK over the next 10 years. This gives a useful indication of the scope for a Toolkit: see report here, or summary here.

2. Connecting and enabling network: At present, the number of individuals or groups ready to engage practically with these issues seems small and scattered. One aim of CLAAR is to connect up those already involved in these issues, and to make it easier to access resources and mutual support as more individuals and groups move into a desire for practical action. We aim to gather a list of those already actively involved, and to explore whether there is an existing organisation who could provide a point of connection.

Through collaboration with one of our informal partners, some members of Network for Social Change have provided funding for a study on the following brief, to understand the current situation and future needs in the community resilience sector.

COMMUNITY RESILIENCE SCOPING STUDY BRIEF

1. Overview:

The climate crisis and related issues are worsening fast, and community-level responses may be the best practical option in the limited time ahead. The UK has large numbers of local projects, several networks, and some information resources, which may be relevant. The aim of this study is to get an overview of what’s out there currently, to help our stakeholders identify needs and gaps, and decide how to respond to them.

2. The Specific Brief:

Our area of exploration is resilience and adaptation capacity, primarily for local, i.e. place-based, communities in the UK. The threats we want to help them address are particularly these:

  • the climate crisis in general, and extreme weather events (heat, drought, storm, etc.) in particular;
  • food shortages and severe price inflation;
  • failures in electricity and energy supply;
  • breakdown of internet and mobile networks;
  • breakdown in social cohesion;
  • mental, emotional and spiritual impacts of rising disruption and future outlook.

The two specific issues we want to scope out are:

2A. Information Resources:

We want to know what specific advice, models, toolkits are available for UK community groups wanting to raise their resilience and adaptation capacity, especially for the six issues above. In particular, resources which would be of easy practical use to a community group, rather than primarily political or philosophical approaches. These resources should include the use of local assemblies. We would also like to know whether most local community groups are addressing both ‘inner and outer’ issues (i.e. emotional/spiritual and logistical), or focus only on one of these aspects.

2B. Connecting and enabling networks:

There are some networks already active in this sector, such as Climate Emergency Centres, although this is focussed on one very specific model. However, exploration so far suggests that many local community groups operate largely on their own, and that there is no ‘broad church’ network enabling sharing of resources and mutual support for groups engaged with the big issues listed earlier.

We want this scoping study to provide an overview of what networks are already out there, including any which may currently be small but whose aims and organisation might enable them to grow into a larger connecting and enabling role.

3. Outputs and timing:

We envisage the output as a 20–30-page written report, with extensive use of web links to websites for resources, networks, etc. Our target timing for a first issue of the report is the end of March 2024.

4. Stakeholders:

There are several organisations exploring this issue, who will use this study:

  1. Network for Social Change: a group of around 100 individuals who provide funding for a range of projects, and whose members are funding this study .
  2. Seeding our Future:  a project led by Alan Heeks, focussed on resilience and adaptation for communities, individuals and NHS staff. See website here.
  3. Schumacher Institute: a registered charity and environmental think tank, website here.
  4. XR – Being the Change: Gail Bradbrook is part of a team guiding this XR follow-on project. Community resilience in the UK and internationally is one of their priorities, and they are working with a number of UK projects on it. Website here.

Next steps: The report on the scoping study will be made available online free of charge in April. If you would like to be involved or kept informed about the project, please contact Alan Heeks: .