A Note on Common Barriers to Change

The pathway described above, along with the frameworks for thinking about organizational systems, are all models of what is, in reality, a messy and unpredictable process.

This following section identifies some common, real-world barriers that can get in the way of the best laid plans for mainstreaming climate adaptation in organizations. These include:

  • A lack of time or money to focus on something that is considered to be outside the core duties or business of the department or organization;
  • Perceptions that assessing climate risk and developing solutions will be time and resource intensive;
  • An absence of role clarity around who is responsible to lead on climate risk assessment and preparedness;
  • An absence of direction from senior leaders or of policy to guide priority-setting and action; and
  • Lack of understanding around the urgency of climate change and risk to the organization.

Note: a more thorough assessment of common barriers can be found in the readings, particularly Moser and Ekstrom (2010).

While every solution will be highly context-specific, some options for addressing these barriers can include:

  • Find common ground or synergies through co-benefits and between actions to support climate preparedness and other organizational priorities. The Low Carbon Resilience model (Harford & Raftis, 2018), developed by Simon Fraser University‚Äôs Adaptation to Climate Change Team, is a good example of this co-benefit approach;
  • Look at the communication and engagement tools in Modules two and three to support buy-in and connection among potential allies and supporters. This includes, in particular, the use of trusted messengers;
  • Return to the assessment and points of leverage phases to understand the barriers and their sources so you can identify places where you might shift them;
  • Consider which factors outside the organization can be drawn upon to influence change within. This might involve finding similar organizations who are taking steps towards climate preparedness, reaching out to content experts who can provide recommendations, conducting risk assessments to the organization, pointing to current events that reinforce the urgency and relevance of climate change to the core business of the organization; and
  • Remember to attend to the people side of change. Is resistance the result of a need for safety (certainty, clarity, reassurance), connection (others like me are also doing things, I am not alone) or authentic action (I will be able to do what is being asked of me)? How might those needs be addressed?


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