Pathways and Frameworks for Change: Pathways

A Pathway Towards Change

 Assessment of the current state

This phase helps you identify to what degree the desired change is already manifesting in the organization, as well as key challenges you might face. It is the pause before action or implementation in which we build understanding of the system so that we can start to identify factors such as:

  • Parts of the system in which the desired change might already be occurring (existing policies and procedures, leadership support, risk assessments, etc.…);
  • Existing capacity that could be mobilized (grants, data, new positions, co-benefits, etc.…)
  • Potential allies and collaborators (see tools for this kind of analysis described in Module three);
  • Frameworks (see above) that might be most useful in thinking about and advancing the change;
  • Goals in specific parts of the organizational system and surrounding environment that reflect the desired change;
  • Approaches or points of leverage that might have the most impact; and
  • A place to start.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (n.d.) Climate Adaptation Maturity Scale is one example of a tool to use in the assessment phase. It employs a specific framework for thinking about change, structuring it around three competency areas: Policy, Human resources and governance, and Technical and risk management capacity. However, any of the frameworks above, or one developed for a specific organization, can be used as a structure to guide your understanding.

It’s important to note that assessment in a climate adaptation planning process also involves an analysis of anticipated climate impacts on the organization itself. While this course is not focused on adaptation planning in this sense, an analysis of these impacts could be part of the assessment phase, or could be conducted as part of the goal setting and implementation phases. In other words, developing a plan that includes an assessment of climate impacts could be one of the first goals. This will depend on the current state in the organization and work conducted to-date.

Goal setting

The next phase that is common among many of the frameworks is some kind of goal setting process. At this stage, it can be helpful to know which framework you’re using to organize your thinking about the change process, as well as the timeline(s) you want to work with.  You can then identify what change you hope to see in each of the identified components of the framework. It might be useful to do this with multiple time scales, identifying short, mid and longer-term goals.

Useful examples of these kinds of goals can be found in the FCM Climate Adaptation Maturity Scale, as well as Moser and Ekstrom’s (2010) diagnostic tool. For example, goals in the areas of governance might include a new policy that needs to be in place, or a mandate from senior leadership. Goals in the area of people might include the development of a cross-functional team, changes to job descriptions or a series of information workshops. And goals in the system or organization itself might include the development and adoption of an adaptation plan, a risk assessment or the implementation of flood mitigation strategies.

Both the required and optional readings for this module provide many specific examples of the kinds of goals you might develop when working to mainstream or embed climate adaptation within an organization.

While goal setting and planning can be easy to treat as a linear process, organizational change is complex and unpredictable. It’s useful to use this goal setting phase as a way to set a course in a desired direction and not as a set of immovable objectives. Ideally, this phase supports you to identify points of leverage and action, and to see how parts of the system fit together in order to plan your next steps. However, it will be important to review this phase repeatedly throughout the process to re-assess and adjust activities.

Identifying points of leverage

Points of leverage describe the places in which, if something shifts or is introduced, it is likely to enable other shifts across the system. The assessment and goal setting phases are important steps towards this one. Once again, it is useful to use a sense-making framework that enables you to look at different parts of the organizational system and consider points of leverage in each part, as well as the relationships between them.

Factors to consider when identifying points of leverage include:

  • Where are you encountering the largest barriers to achieving your change goals? (keeping in mind that barriers can exist in all parts of the system, including within individuals themselves).
  • What factors are holding these barriers in place? Which of these are you able to influence?
  • Can you identify early wins or quickly achievable forward movement? How can you make some part of the change seem achievable?
  • Where are the ‘open doors’? Often, we aren’t able to access the bigger levers for change (such as mandates from senior leadership) right away. Consider what you can do, who you can work with, and what movement you can create in the desired direction, while also keeping an eye on the bigger goals you’ve identified.
  • How might you connect your goals with existing priorities in the organization?
  • Where has similar kinds of change occurred? What can you learn from it? Can you build on it, or use it as an example to support the current effort?

Implementation and evaluation

While separated out as its own phase, implementation can be woven in throughout the assessment, goal setting and identifying points of leverage phases. For example, you might consult people within the organization to conduct your assessment, and start building engagement and buy-in for the process in that way. Goal setting might also be a process you conduct with others and which might reveal new information about the current state.

Similarly, an evaluation phase is often conducted separately from implementation. In practice, while there may be formal evaluation processes that are required, or that are used to further engagement among senior leaders or others whose support you need, evaluation is an important tool to consider throughout implementation. Whenever possible, it’s helpful to look at what is working and the challenges you’re facing, and to course correct as needed. Perhaps new barriers emerge that you need to understand more deeply? Perhaps the environment or context in which the organization is embedded changes, revealing new opportunities and points of leverage? When moving into the implementation phase, it’s important to consider how you will find a good balance between staying the course with the plan you’ve developed and pausing to assess and adjust.


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Strategic Dialogue and Engagement for Climate Adaptation Copyright © by Simon Fraser University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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