Climate Democracy Model
This solution was sourced in response to UKGBC’s Innovation Challenge: “How can communities and local authorities implement, maintain, and assess the impact of nature-based solutions to enhance climate resilience?”
The Model is Demsoc’s response to gaps they are witnessing in pan-European efforts to democratise climate action. Technocratic, transactional solutions are favoured by governments and industry but are not the answer for strengthened climate resilience. Demsoc assert that durable change requires democratic, relational approaches, putting diverse community voices and knowledge systems, and deeply-rooted collaboration at the heart of how governments, civil society and communities act for our collective futures.
The Model is a compass, not a map. It makes us think about and commit to steps we can take towards climate resilience, democratically. In the context of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), it provides language and tools for cities and regions to explore this question at a local level, to show, assess and celebrate progress, and reveal possibilities for changes in direction. It uses the analogy of tree canopies symbolising protection and durability for the climate resilience of where we live, work and play. Through practice, it draws us towards the social, as well as physical, resilience NBS provide.
Watch this video to learn about the Model in under 3 minutes!
The democratic, relational approaches fostered by use of the Model are important in all stages of the NBS lifecycle. The Model includes four tools for practical application:
- Canopy for Climate Democracy: To assess and see the big picture of a city or region’s climate resilience based on four segments for climate democracy derived from Demsoc’s work in the climate field: diversity of actors and knowledge, participatory culture, resourcing, and competencies. Shows how to map foundational conditions, emerging shifts, and future possibilities for change. The Actor Types & Interactions and Competencies tools feed into this tool for a ‘big picture’ view.
- Actor Types & Interactions: Deep democratic support for climate action requires collaboration between diverse actors. This tool helps to identify different types of actors present in action for climate resilience, reveal who is missing, and build inclusive and diverse engagement strategies. Feeds into the Canopy for Climate Democracy tool.
- Competencies for Climate Democracy: Taking action for climate resilience requires a spectrum of individual and group skills and capabilities. This tool provides reflection on competencies present in work programmes for climate action, and helps build team profiles and recruitment strategies. Feeds into the Canopy for Climate Democracy tool.
- Landscape Analysis: Addressing structural barriers to change means being able to identify what’s preventing transition to low-carbon alternatives while simultaneously weakening democracy. This tool uses lenses of democratisation, decarbonisation, and community and climate resilience to identify and map structural barriers within a qualitative framework. It is designed to expand thinking about a project or issue, helping teams progressively identify areas for change, build compelling stories about the impacts of making these changes, and celebrate progress made as programmes advance. It helps determine where teams could or should be focusing their efforts, and provides a way of continuously realigning priorities.
The Model and its tools are for use by anyone working in cities or regions on climate action or policy, including:
- Civil society organisations working with local authorities on large-scale, complex climate programmes, to build competency in democratic climate action and mindsets and methods for change;
- Public servants working in climate innovation programmes at the local, regional or national level;
- Funders of climate innovation programmes, to consider ‘conditions’ for long term, scalable and durable change, and which suppliers and sites are best suited to make this happen;
- Researchers and students examining ‘climate democracy’ and/or working in climate or democracy fields;
- Grassroots groups progressing change from the ground-up.
The Model has been used to date by local authorities to understand the underlying conditions for climate resilience in a city, which efforts and resources should be explored, and where there is a need to readjust activities for better impact.
The Model is an open-access prototype. Demsoc estimate that each NBS solution would benefit from an indicative range of 15-20% of project value to allow for the needed local project capacity to implement the Climate Democracy Model, assess progress and recalibrate efforts. This estimate does not reflect the costs required to develop new tools, implement engagement methods, institutions or forms of governance that might be a result of the implementation of the Climate Democracy Model.
The Model relies on the capacity of project holders to explore the question of climate resilience at a local level. The Model can be used at the project level, city-wide work or as a way to understand NBS impact on regional efforts towards climate resilience. The Model is not a blueprint but requires adaptation to local contexts and settings.
Verification & Case Study
One of the tools nested within the Model is the Landscape Analysis, designed to understand and assess the effectiveness of a democratic, climate intervention. By applying the Landscape Analysis at the start, during the implementation and evaluation stage, this analytical tool helps to assess if the democratic climate interventions are decarbonising, creating resilience and democratising, and which levers and systems are they targeting to do so. The Landscape Analysis combines climate governance and democracy literatures to understand how democratic climate projects are creating lasting and scalable pathways to decarbonisation, resilience, and democratisation.
In detail, the Landscape Analysis draws attention to whether an intervention’s impact at one scale (e.g. neighbourhood) affects multiple scales (e.g. household, city). Within the Analysis, one is able to assess the ways in which an initiative not only succeeds or fails by its own metrics, but has positive knock-on effects to create change.
For an NBS project in Madrid, Spain, the Model was used to guide the project’s implementation. The project specifically looked at citizen science to measure and increase air and water quality standards throughout the city as well as the reimagining of public spaces through NBS. The Model served as a guiding tool to map the structures and processes needed to progress towards climate resilience through NBS based on four major conditions: diversity of actors and knowledge, participatory culture, resourcing, and competencies.
Demsoc understood that mapping current stakeholders and capacities involved in the process and asking themselves which additional actors are needed to successfully implement NBS solutions was an essential first step. The Model was a guiding tool to think beyond technical expertise, to be able to connect and strengthen social networks in a community. By working with trusted multipliers within a community, they were able to create a network of physical and social experts that shared their respective expertise, knowledge and jointly work towards the broader vision.
These networks brought stakeholders together that did not usually cooperate. Developing a shared understanding of the interventions needed, the project transformed relationships between stakeholders, aiding a rebalancing of power dynamics within a city. These emerging transformative spaces have been appreciated and replicated by the city itself, activating transformative pathways to resilience and democracy. The city of Madrid is now looking to implement NBS in different neighbourhoods collaboratively with different partners, scaling-up NBS projects across the city.