Reflections on the Role of Dialogue and Engagement in Climate Adaptation

What do We Mean by Strategic Dialogue and Engagement?

It is likely that each course participant has their own perspective on this question. And, of course, there are many possible responses, with no one ‘right’ answer. For the purpose of this course, definitions of strategic dialogue and engagement include a process that:

  • Asks critical and curious questions, instead of working from assumptions;
  • Works with a consciously articulated purpose;
  • Aims to align methods and activities with that core purpose; and
  • Is guided by ongoing learning and reflection that responds to changing conditions and emerging insights, rather than strict adherence to a pre-determined plan.

What is the Role of Dialogue and Engagement in Climate Adaptation?

Again, there are many ways that this question could be answered. Some recent guides offer ways to recognize the role(s) of these skills in climate adaptation practice. For example, within ICLEI’s Five Milestones for Climate Adaptation Planningframework (ICLEI Canada, 2019, p. 8) the stages of: Initiate, Research, Plan, Implement, and Monitor/Review all offer opportunities to implement the skills and teachings from this course. The Municipal Climate Services Collaborative’s guide Talking it Through offers this perspective on the need for dialogue and engagement, pointing out that “In order to advance climate adaptation across your community, many conversations, discussions, and disagreements will be had. Knowing how these conversations will vary, and how to prepare for each is key towards building awareness of potential climate change impacts and related adaptation actions…” (Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 2020, p. 15).

Further links on the inter-relationship between the skills embedded within dialogue and engagement practice, adaptive capacity and resilience are described by Tyler and Moench (2012), who write that, “Key aspects of resilience addressed in relation to hazard assessment and disaster risk reduction in cities have included flexibility and diversity… and capacity for learning and innovation (Leichenko, 2011). The capacities of social agents therefore comprise an important part of any urban climate resilience framework” (Tyler & Moench, 2012).


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