Please provide a brief summary of the initiative including the problems/challenges it addressed and the solutions that the initiative introduced (300 words maximum)
Climate change heralds a suite of changes in extreme weather events. The impacts of more frequent and extreme weather events as a result of a changing climate are accompanied by far-ranging economic, environmental and social costs and local communities, whether disadvantaged or not, are vulnerable. The Climate Wise Communities (CWC) program was developed by Ku-ring-gai Council after extensive consultation with emergency management agencies, the Local Emergency Management Committee, business and community groups, to build community resilience to the increasing threats of more frequent and extreme weather events. Through direct engagement, the CWC program assists the community to self-assess their vulnerability at a personal, property and neighbourhood level to the four extreme weather types as determined by climate scientists as the most relevant to Ku-ring-gai (being bush fire, storms / floods, heatwaves and drought), using locality maps, scenario planning and ‘Lego Serious Play’, and provides practical guidance on the development of action plans to reduce this vulnerability. CWC community workshops and events have attracted over 1,245 participants to date and with the program soon expanding into a digital format it will further extend its reach. Council has also trained other organisations to use the CWC project model, with several other NSW councils and emergency services agencies (the NSW Rural Fire Service and Red Cross) using all or part of the program in their own extension work within their local communities. In 2011, Council staff were invited to China to present the CWC project model to local government managers in Beijing and Tang Shan. Korea sent a delegation to Council in the same year to learn about the initiative and in 2012 the UNESCAP engaged Council to create a version of the CWC program suitable for use in poor nations in the Asia Pacific region.
a. What are the overall objectives of the initiative?
Please describe the overall objectives of the initiative (200 words maximum)
The overarching objective of the Climate Wise Communities program is to reduce the community’s vulnerability and increase its resilience to the impacts of more frequent and extreme weather events as a result of a changing climate. In the achievement of this overarching objective, the CWC program also aims to: increase community understanding of the key risks associated with bush fire, storms / floods, heatwaves and drought in a local context; promote a shared responsibility framework around disaster resilience and response within the local government area; increase community understanding of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) principles as a decision making tool for investment decisions around resilience building, including an increased understanding of the costs and benefits of increasing resilience from a social (for example, build local co-operation, foster independence in a crisis), environmental (for example, decrease impact on natural assets, reduce energy greenhouse gas emissions) and economic (for example, saving on insurance premiums, increase property values) perspective; build communication/social networks that enable communities to prepare, respond and recover from extreme weather events; and build capacity within the sector in their own extension work on community resilience building.
b. How does the initiative fit within the selected category?
Please describe how the initiative is linked to the criteria of the category (200 words maximum)
The CWC program is aligned with Category 2 - making institutions inclusive and ensuring participation in decision-making. Local government is the closest tier of government to the community and as such is in the ideal situation to work with a range of community sectors to build resilience to climate change. CWC provides a platform for participants to be guided in determining their own vulnerabilities and responsive actions to build resilience to extreme weather events, ensuring full participation in decision making processes and in being relevant to everyone in the community has been delivered to a range of community sectors and target audiences. CWC was developed in consultation with the Rural Fire Service, State Emergency Service, NSW Police, NSW Fire and Rescue, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Roads and Traffic Authority, City Rail, local business representatives, health care providers, Universities (Macquarie and RMIT), sporting and cultural groups and is delivered in partnership with many of these organisations. The implementation of CWC has included the two state government departments, NSW Department Health when delivering CWC to the aged care sector and NSW Department of Education when delivering CWC to child care providers and pre-schools.
The initiative should improve people’s lives, notably by enhancing the contribution of public services to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the realization of the SDGs
a. Please explain how the initiative improves the delivery of public services (200 words maximum)
The CWC program is an initiative now applied by NSW councils, the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Red Cross. The CWC program enhances the contribution of the public services of these organisations towards the realisation of a number of the SDG's, namely: SDG 9 - extensive consultation during the development and ongoing delivery of the CWC program included state and local governments, business and community groups. Their participation has improved CWC's transferability to a range of audiences around the world; SDG 11 – is enhanced by CWC as the program improves the resilience of human settlements to extreme weather events, using the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD). This is achieved by prioritising adaptations that score well against a set of social, environmental and economic indicators in the development of resilience action plans; SDG 13 - the CWC program encourages local communities to favour climate change adaptations that score well against environmental criteria and that reduce dependence on fossil fuels and generate the least possible greenhouse gas emissions; SDG 15 - he CWC program encourages local communities to favour climate change adaptations that have positive biodiversity impacts.
The initiative must impact positively a group or groups of the population (i.e. children, women, elderly, people with disability, etc) and address a significant issue of public service delivery within the context of a given country or region.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant issue related to the delivery of public services (200 words maximum)
The CWC program has positively impacted 1,245 participants from a number of sectors of the community, including those particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts in a local context. The CWC program addressed vulnerability based on the application of methods developed by University of NSW PhD candidate Daminda Solandaarachch. This research identified vulnerability either by location or by sector. Location based vulnerability included populations living on the bushland interface (14,000 homes in Ku-ring-gai) or in flash flood locations (based on Council's flood mapping). Sector based vulnerability includes aged care facilities, seniors living alone, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) groups, child care facilities, socially isolated people, including mothers with very young children, and those with no transport. Small business owners were also a focus as this group can play a pivotal role in disaster preparedness and recovery. The CWC program responds to the Council of Australia’s 2011 ‘National Strategy for Disaster Resilience’ which highlights the need for “an integrated, whole-of-nation effort encompassing enhanced partnerships, shared responsibility, a better understanding of the risk … and an adaptive and empowered community that acts on this understanding.”
b. Please explain how the initiative has impacted positively a group or groups of the population within the context of your country or region (200 words maximum)
CWC has provided 1,245 program participants with a suite of tools and resources to address extreme weather (bush fire, storms / floods, heat waves and drought) vulnerability in a local context at a personal, property and neighbourhood level. The development of tailored action plans that include a range of extreme weather adaptations or risk controls, the outcome of the CWC engagement, facilitates improved community resilience to the impacts of climate change. The impact of the CWC program on local residents is evident by the results of post workshop surveys. As a result of participation, residents have developed new Community Fire Units, installed gutter guards and metal fly screens, installed water tanks for fire-fighting and developed evacuation plans, to name a few. Aged care sector providers have developed transport plans to move residents to safer locations, action plans to house displaced residents and communication strategies to keep relatives informed of their loved ones whereabouts. An unexpected benefit of working across a wide range of emergency management agencies, as an example, was the explanation of which agency has authority in the re-location of nursing home patients, a clarification that was critical to preventing confusion in the next major event in Ku-ring-gai.
The initiative must present an innovative idea, a distinctively new approach, or a unique policy or approach implemented in order to realize the SDGs in the context of a given country or region.
a. Please explain in which way the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region (200 words maximum)
CWC developed from Council’s 2010 Climate Change Adaptation Strategy that was anchored in the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development. This award winning strategy prioritised community based adaptations against a set of Triple Bottom Line (financial, environmental and social) (TBL) criteria, as well as the capacity of the adaptation to reduce the weather hazard specific risk, an innovative approach for local government in Australia. The CWC project model utilised a method developed by RMIT and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Centre for Cooperative Research (CRC) using locality maps, scenario planning and ‘Lego Serious Play’ to immerse participants in their context, to facilitate the self-appraisal of their vulnerability and to assist in planning priority responses based on their performance against the TBL. In 2015, the RMIT researcher Yoko Akama won an Australian Design Award for this research, citing Ku-ring-gai as an excellent example of the translation of her research into practice. Council has since extended its project model by a) turning the method into a multi-hazard tool; b) re-developing the tools for use by poorer nations, other NSW councils and emergency management agencies and c) converting the tool into a digital application. CWC is the only program of its kind in Australia.
b. Please describe if the innovation is original or if it is an adaptation from other contexts (If it is known)? (200 words maximum)
Ku-ring-gai Council staff collaborated with some of the best minds to develop innovative methods to dissolve barriers to improving climate change resilience. Barriers included the limitations of presentation style workshops to engage, inform and collaborate; financial limitations; lack of neighbourhood communication networks; the historical failure of household wildfire survival plans; and an individual's personal capacity to cope in a crisis, particularly in way that minimises the risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a result, the CWC engagement methods and resources are continually refined and expanded to address known and emerging barriers. The program's innovation lies in its ability to contextualise the risk assessment process and make it personal and relevant for all participants. The residents have total control over the information they wish to share, the viability of the adaptations they select and the risks they choose to prioritise. CWC accommodates a range of motivations for participation including financial (saving money through return on investment when selling a home, reduced insurance premiums, reduced heating and cooling costs); social (contributing to neighbourhood safety, getting to know local people, caring for those more vulnerable, including pets) and environmental (reducing greenhouse gas emissions, resource efficiency, minimising waste).
c. What resources (i.e. financial, human , material or other resources, etc) were used to implement the initiative? (200 words maximum)
Climate Wise Communities was conceived as a result of the development of Council’s 2010 Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which involved an extensive community consultation process and the development and implementation of a methodology to prioritise community based adaptations against a set of Triple Bottom Line (financial, environmental and social) criteria, as well as the capacity of the adaptation to reduce the weather hazard specific risk. Apart from the staff resources involved in the development of the Strategy, Macquarie University was engaged at a cost of $20,000 to assist Council in developing an adaptation prioritisation methodology based on the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development. Since 2012, the CWC program has been delivered with an annual budget of approximately $105,000, supplemented by two grants totalling $150,000 (to support the extension of the CWC program to other NSW councils and the development of a digital platform - currently under development), which includes funding for program staff (31.5 hours per week). This equates to an investment of $780,000 over 6 years. In addition, a number of program partners provide in-kind contributions through attendance at workshops and contributions to development of program resources.
The initiative should be adaptable to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions). There may already be evidence that it has inspired similar innovations in other public-sector institutions within a given country, region or at the global level.
a. Has the initiative been transferred to other contexts?
The Climate Wise Communities program was designed to feature a high degree of transferability and flexibility and has been used around in Australia and around the world by organisations that wish to collaborate with their communities to improve resilience to increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events as a result of a changing climate. In Australia, Council has collaborated with 12 other councils to date in the application of all or parts of the CWC program. The NSW Rural Fire Service has trained several officers in the application of CWC and taken the program to their volunteer brigades to use within their own local communities across NSW. Internationally, Council staff have worked directly with the governments of the People's Republic of China (Department of Climate Change, National Development and Reform Commission) and with Korea (Korea Environment Institute). Council has also shared its knowledge with several other entities in foreign countries to assist them in their research using the knowledge we have gained through the implementation of the CWC program. CWC has also been featured by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission of the Asia Pacific as a program suitable for use by poorer nations.
The initiative should be able to be sustained over a significant period of time.
a. Please describe whether and how the initiative is sustainable (covering the social, economic and environmental aspects) (300 words maximum)
The longevity of the CWC program (developed in 2011 and ongoing) is testament to the sustainability of the program. In recognising the value of the CWC program for the Ku-ring-gai community, Council allocates an annual budget for program implementation and has sourced additional grant funding on two separate occasions to further enhance program delivery and program outcomes. The principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development as described by the 1987 Brundtland Report is the foundation and guiding philosophy of the CWC program. Through the CWC community workshops, presentations and events, participants are guided through a process in which they are able to prioritise the extreme weather adaptations they identify through their vulnerability assessment based on their performance across the Triple Bottom Line, hence ensuring that the outcomes of the CWC program (adaptations contained in action plans) are sustainable. This caters for the range of motivations for participating in the program, including financial (for example, saving money through return on investment when selling a home, reduced insurance premiums, reduced heating and cooling costs); social (for example, contributing to neighbourhood safety, getting to know local people, caring for those more vulnerable, including pets) and environmental (for example, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, resource efficiency, minimising waste). The program content (disaster resilience) and the design of the CWC community workshops, presentations and events (tailored to the locality context and / or community sector) ensures the program stands the test of time, as it is appropriate and relevant to everyone within the community.
b. Please describe whether and how the initiative is sustainable in terms of durability in time (300 words maximum)
The CWC program is a long term program of Ku-ring-gai Council which continues to enjoy great success. The sound project design on which it is based, including the integration of the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development, the interactive and effective community engagement methods, the supporting resources and materials, the capacity building component, the research and implementation partnerships and collaborations, the monitoring and evaluation frameworks and the continuous improvement model, have ensured its durability over time. Each year Council considers opportunities to further build on the capacity of the CWC program, with the latest initiative being the development of an online community platform to extend the program’s appeal and outreach (which will be completed over the coming months). This online community platform will also extend the transferability and durability of the CWC program, as two other NSW Councils (Hornsby and Wollondilly) will also develop their own online platform based on the Ku-ring-gai prototype.
The initiative should have gone through a formal evaluation, showing some evidence of impact on improving people’s lives.
a. Has the initiative been formally evaluated?
If yes, please describe how the initiative was evaluated? (200 words maximum)
In 2015, Dr Kirsten Davies from Macquarie University was engaged to do an independent, formal evaluation of the Climate Wise Communities project over the previous 12 month period, to provide a snapshot of how the program was progressing. Several smaller evaluations had been done in the form of participant surveys but this independent report was the first formal investigation. Dr Davies compared the outcomes of the CWC program to the objectives of the United Nations' Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015:2030 and Australia's National Strategy for Disaster Resilience and found that the CWC program fulfilled the requirements of both. Dr Davies evaluation involved a review of the post workshop participant surveys, phone and face to face interviews with a selection of workshop participants, interviews with seven other councils trialling the program and members of the Local Emergency Management Committee, interviews with representatives of the Local Emergency Management Committee and an evaluation of the resource materials developed for the program. The findings were published in a report titled 'Community Resilience Innovation Program Project Evaluation - Climate Wise Communities, Ku-ring-gai Council'.
b. Please describe the outcome of the evaluation of the impact of the initiative (200 words maximum)
Dr Davies found the CWC methods and materials to be rigorous and appropriate and the CWC program successful in preparing the community for extreme weather events. People were motivated to take action to improve their resilience and the materials and concepts introduced during the workshops were useful in establishing a process to build local community resilience. Over the course of 2015, a total of 15 CWC events were undertaken, with seven involving staff from other councils. Each council then trialled the CWC workshops in their own communities. Dr Davies found participants thought the CWC program gave councils an important commencement point for a whole of community resilience program. Another CWC benefit was that it brought together all the emergency services, government agencies and NGO's into one place, enabling them and the community to better understand the integrated nature of disaster resilience planning. The evaluation highlighted some of the activities undertaken as a result of CWC participation included planning future street meetings with the Rural Fire Service, the development of household emergency response plans, reducing flammable materials around homes, the development of mutual aid programs for similar small businesses, such as aged care facilities, and education programs for residents in retirement villages.
c. Please describe the indicators that were used (200 words maximum)
CWC evaluation indicators were derived from the objectives of the United Nations' Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015:2030 and the Australian Federal Government's National Strategy for Disaster Resilience. The 2015 independent evaluation found the Sendai Framework had four objectives: (i) understanding disaster risk - CWC provides spatial and chronological risk assessment, explaining to participants the frequency and magnitude of local extreme events (ii) strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk - CWC has included an internal capacity building program to strengthen Council assets and improve the resilience of services for disaster responsiveness (iii) investing in disaster reduction for resilience - CWC addresses resilience on the personal, property and neighbourhood scales using a cost/benefit tool that encourages investment in resilience; and (iv) enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to "Build Back Better" in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction - CWC evaluates properties and supports planning to improve resilience, including post disaster retrofitting or re-builds. The National Strategy focuses on shared responsibility and long term risk reduction measures both of which are integrated into the CWC concepts, materials, resources and partnerships between community, government and emergency managers.
The initiative must demonstrate that it has engaged various actors such as from other institutions, civil society, or the private sector, when possible.
a. The 2030 Development Agenda puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, coordination, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe what stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative. Please also highlight their roles and contributions (300 words maximum)
The CWC program has been developed with the input and guidance of a multitude of agencies and organisations. Emergency management agencies, including the NSW Rural Fire Service, NSW State Emergency Services, NSW Police, NSW Fire and Rescue, provide expert local knowledge in resource development and at workshops on the strategic management of emergencies and how local communities can become more resilient and better prepared. A range of government agencies, including the United Nations, Macquarie University, Western Sydney University, RMIT, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, NSW Department of Health, NSW Department of Education, Office of Emergency Management, Office of Environment and Heritage, National Parks and Wildlife, Roads and Maritime Service, Energy Australia, Sydney Water, NSW State Rail and ten local government authorities, have provided input into legal requirements, existing educational resources, disaster management strategies, and a review and evaluation of CWC resources and program delivery. Non-Government Organisations who have assisted in the development of resources include the Red Cross, Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Australian Veterinary Association, Sydney Primary Health Care Network, Bushfire Architects Association, Windows Association of Australia, Ku-ring-gai Bushcare and Streetcare Associations, dog clubs, Community Fire Unit representatives, primary schools, small businesses and community groups. The CWC program design was based on two community workshops with local experts, followed by design input by RMIT School of Design under the instruction Dr Yoko Akama. Their work is central to the success of CWC as they provided the tools for 'Lego Serious Play' which has had phenomenal success as an engagement method.
a. Please describe the key lessons learned, and any view you have on how to further improve the initiative (200 words maximum)
The key challenge for the CWC program is getting people to attend workshops and community events, which is true of any local government program. While people that attend CWC workshops and events are generous in their praise of the program, consistent feedback is that there should be more people attending due to the importance of disaster resilience to everyone in the community. In an effort to further broaden community engagement, Council is currently working on the development of an online community platform that will act an extension to the current CWC program. This interactive platform will enable users to conduct an online 'Ready Check', to determine their vulnerability to extreme weather events at a personal, property and neighbourhood level, and will provide templates and resources for users to complete a severe weather event plan. The platform will also enable users to 'Ask the Experts' questions relating to disaster resilience and connect with other members of the community and Council. By making the CWC program widely available, digitally, it is hoped that the restriction imposed by requiring attendance at workshops will be solved without losing the unique qualities that have made the CWC program such a success.