working paper

Locally Led Adaptation

From Principles to Practice

Tamara Coger Ayesha Dinshaw Stefanie Tye Bradley Kratzer May Thazin Aung Eileen Cunningham Candice Ramkissoon Suranjana Gupta Md. Bodrud-Doza Ariana Karamallis Samson Mbewe Ainka Granderson Glenn Dolcemascolo Anwesha Tewary Afsara Mirza Anna Carthy
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Recommendations for Supporting the Principles for LLA

Funders, governments, intermediary organizations, and local grassroots and civil society organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of locally led adaptation and are seeking to implement it at scale. A selection of these commitments to scaling LLA are illustrated in Box 2, and the practical actions that institutions can take to implement LLA will vary according to context. The approaches to implementing the locally led adaptation described in this paper highlight a range of opportunities for institutions interested in decentralizing adaptation finance and decision-making power to local actors across sectors and regions.

These recommendations are structured to promote comprehensive application of all eight of the Principles for LLA together, rather than recommend actions for each principle in isolation. This section provides some recommendations that are most relevant to individual groups of actors (funders, governments, and grassroots and intermediate organizations), but the majority of recommendations apply to all groups and make the most sense when the whole of society is involved.

Recommendations for funders

Funders that have already committed to the Principles for LLA or that come forward to join early champions can look to these examples of LLA implementation to help make their commitments more concrete and integrate LLA into their investments. The examples provide models that can be used to inform funding commitments and design programs that aim to give local actors and institutions authority over decisions about adaptation. Such funds take account of the structural barriers to access faced by local actors at different levels and provide patient, predictable, flexible, and easily accessible funding to help ensure that local actors can deftly manage uncertain risks. Offering materials and holding exchanges in multiple languages, including local languages, addresses a specific barrier local partners may face. Funders can acknowledge and, as much as possible, compensate time and resources that local partners invest in designing and delivering adaptation interventions (Carthy et al. 2022; Soanes et al. 2021). They can also choose to invest in organizations and approaches that offer alternatives for local communities, especially groups that have been marginalized, to access finance and inform decisions, as many of the examples in this paper demonstrate.

To promote cost-effective adaptation solutions that shift power to the local level, funders can also adopt direct funding mechanisms and mechanisms for downward accountability including reporting to local partners on funding and other commitments and inviting local partners to inform programmatic targets, objectives, and metrics (Patel et al. 2020; Coger et al 2021a). As funders transition to simplified and direct funding mechanisms, they can also offer tailored support for local partners to navigate application and reporting processes.

In addition to funding programs explicitly focused on climate, providers of climate finance can also fund programs that mainstream climate resilience into other locally led development or social justice efforts to better align with local priorities (Gupta et al. 2022). Similarly, other funders can integrate LLA approaches to help mainstream climate resilience in social and development programs.

Recommendations for governments

Governments that are seeking to support LLA can similarly adapt the examples to their respective policy and investment contexts and can encourage others to step forward more confidently as champions of LLA. Governments can advance implementation of LLA by integrating it into existing policies and public institutions and dedicating public finance to it. They can use existing planning processes to devolve decision-making to subnational governments and communities, allocate funds specific to LLA or ensure funding for adaptation aligns with the LLA principles, and partner with local and grassroots organizations to ensure that resilience benefits reach the local level (Coger et al. 2021b). These techniques promote consistent inclusion of and responsiveness to local perspectives. Establishing formal roles for local representatives within governance structures can also help. Integrating LLA into existing policies and structures also requires deliberately addressing barriers that historically marginalized groups may face in accessing adaptation finance and governance processes (Carthy et al. 2022).

Recommendations for grassroots organizations and intermediaries

Grassroots organizations and intermediaries that support them operate within their own unique circumstances. These organizations can learn from the examples to strengthen their own LLA efforts and propose scaling these efforts to funders and governments. Local civil society and grassroots organizations can learn from approaches to leveraging decentralized processes; conduct peer-to-peer learning; and use monitoring, evaluation, and learning processes for regular reflection, adjustment, and continued learning. Collectively, grassroots organizations and local intermediaries have an important role in sharing experiences from LLA and advocating for greater commitment to locally led action through engagement in relevant international, regional, and national convenings and networks.

Recommendations for all actors involved in LLA

The following strategies for supporting effective, equitable LLA at scale are applicable to all actors.

  • Pursue opportunities to scale LLA. Existing LLA efforts, including those discussed in this paper, show the potential for LLA to be scaled and become a new standard for adaptation interventions. This will require significant increases in the quantity of climate finance currently supporting LLA. It will also require climate finance to be made more accessible, patient, predictable, and supportive of flexible programming (Patel et al. 2020; Coger et al. 2021b). Quick and regular access windows, locating funds within communities, and limiting bureaucratic complications and other potential barriers are some of the approaches to improving quality of finance (see Section 4). Improved MEL processes can also support and manage risk that may arise from more flexible, longer-term funding schemes (Coger et al. 2021a). Aligning existing climate finance commitments with the Principles for LLA can also support scaling by integrating LLA into adaptation programs, policies, and interventions.
  • Address the Principles for LLA holistically. This paper has broken down the concept of LLA by examining diverse approaches and practices for implementing each of the eight principles. A holistic approach for LLA would entail a combination of multiple efforts across the eight principles to begin to balance asymmetries in power and address financial access barriers faced by local actors. The principles link with and can support each other. For instance, Principle 3 on patient and predictable funding makes Principle 6, on flexible programming and learning, possible. Funders, governments, and others seeking to encourage implementation of LLA should not pursue these approaches in isolation, but rather consider how the approaches can come together to ensure equitable distribution of power and resources for adaptation.
  • Advance active learning and research about LLA processes, outcomes, and impacts. This paper aims to contribute to the growing evidence base on LLA, to which grassroots and local civil society organizations, research organizations, and funders have also been contributing. Research questions and evidence gaps on LLA remain, however. Examples of areas for additional research include outcomes and impacts of LLA approaches, how LLA can address social inequities and injustices, and knowledge and evidence on LLA from more regions, including North America, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and West and Central Africa. Building the knowledge base of approaches and good practices that ensure that local actors have access to the information, tools, finance, and other training and resources they require remains a critical area for future research (Tye and Suarez 2020). This includes further understanding very specific barriers to funding LLA and approaches to overcoming them, such as due diligence requirements, obstructive intermediary channels, and other procurement policies. An active learning agenda will also require more examples of LLA to learn from, and therefore more scaling and replication of approaches like those described in this paper. This active learning agenda can leverage global convenings and existing adaptation research and learning initiatives such as the growing global LLA community of practice, the Adaptation Action Coalition’s workstream on LLA, and the Adaptation Research Alliance to facilitate peer exchange. As LLA approaches are implemented and scaled over time and more data about the results of these approaches become available, it will become more feasible to assess the outcomes and impacts of LLA.
  • Integrate social equity in LLA efforts. Deliberately involving groups that have traditionally been excluded and changing power dynamics to give voice and agency to people who experience marginalization and disproportionate vulnerabilities fosters more effective adaptation measures that build resilience equitably for populations (Hiwaski and Hill 2018; Eriksen et al. 2021). The examples of LLA described in this paper provide practical approaches to integrating social equity into standard processes and decisions, such as procurement processes (e.g., integrating into selection criteria); capacity-building processes (e.g., providing training on equity topics or providing accommodations for parents to participate in technical trainings); and monitoring, evaluation, and learning processes (e.g., setting goals related to equity and tracking progress). Funders and governments can also invest in mechanisms designed to support groups that experience disproportional vulnerabilities, such as social safety net programs and funds dedicated to supporting specific populations, such as Indigenous peoples or women working in informal sectors. Valuing and integrating local, experiential, and Indigenous knowledge and expertise is another way to start addressing historic inequalities in determinations of who is qualified to advise on and engage in adaptation.
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