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Supporting climate justice through collaborative learning

Our work with Porticus is highlighting the value of collaborative learning to shape climate justice initiatives more effectively.  

‘Two African men inspecting lettuce crops and a mango tree nursery on the fertile banks of the Niger river close to Niamey’ © Shutterstock

Bridging the evidence gap for fair transitions

Climate change exacerbates inequalities. It typically has the greatest impact on the most disadvantaged and marginalised people, who have contributed the least to climate breakdown. Acknowledging this is central to climate justice, which requires that we find solutions that not only reduce carbon emissions, but foster a more equal world in doing so.

We need policies that lead to a regenerative, post-carbon economy in a way that is as fair and as inclusive as possible for everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind. This approach is referred to by some as Just or Fair Transitions.

Achieving fair transitions – and any form of climate justice – depends on inclusive policymaking that takes into account the voices of those most affected by climate change. But this is not easy and there is little evidence to show what works and why. Our work with Porticus is beginning to bridge that evidence gap.

Embedding inclusive learning processes

Porticus is a private philanthropic organisation that aims to create a just and sustainable future where human dignity flourishes. We are working with Porticus to support strategic collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptive management on its Fair Transitions programme in urban and rural contexts.

Itad’s ‘accompanied learning’ approach is a good fit for programmes like the Fair Transitions Programme that are working to support climate justice. It is a complex area which requires partners to experiment, learn from successes and failures, and share promising approaches with others.

By embedding participatory learning processes into the programme, we are generating and sharing learning and evidence with regional partners, including citizens, government officials, civil society and global research organisations. This is enabling more effective adaptation and implementation across the programme in Asia, Latin America and Europe.

Hugo Hooijer, Global Programme Manager at Porticus said: “The transition to a post-carbon future has to be fair. Otherwise it is no future at all. This work helps to amplify the voices of those not invited to the table.”

Sharing best practices for meaningful citizen engagement

Learning events can be a powerful mechanism for inclusive policymaking. Itad is experienced in facilitating participatory events that bring together numerous and diverse perspectives.

In September 2022, Itad supported the first of many learning events for Porticus’s programme partners. The event brought together civil society organisations and research institutions, operating at both global and city levels. It provided a much needed opportunity for partners to exchange lessons, strategies and experiences in their work to promote fair urban transitions.

For example, when discussing their approaches to meaningfully engage marginalised communities in their work, partners highlighted the importance of first identifying and mapping vulnerable groups to ensure that inclusive engagement strategies and activities are tailored and targeted. A representative from the The Mahila Housing Trust, which supports women slum dwellers in Bengaluru to organize and engage in policy, shared their success in creating vulnerability profiles for each slum in the city.

Throughout the event, partners emphasised how gaining the trust of such communities, and investing the time to build a rapport with citizens, is paramount to promoting buy-in from project participants. Several organisations also noted that working closely with governments in their work has facilitated a meaningful entry point through which to reach marginalised communities.

The event provided an important space in which to share best practices across organisations and cities.

Strengthening programme design through Theory of Change processes

Theory of Change processes, when done well, can ensure programme design is grounded in local realities, by supporting a diverse set of people to share their expertise about what they do, why they do it and how change happens in their contexts. When used in adaptive ways they can also provide a flexible ‘compass’ (rather than a rigid map) to help navigate the enormous complexity and many unknowns around the climate emergency and how to tackle it in a fair way.

In March and April 2022, we convened a series of Theory of Change (ToC) workshops with programme partners from particular rural regions. The sessions allowed partners working with similar actors to identify and share effective influencing approaches to support fair transitions towards a regenerative agricultural system.

During the sessions, the different partners identified focus areas and points of overlap. Together, we then shaped aspects of the Theory of Change to accurately reflect these commonalities, allowing us to better assess change in future stages of the programme. For example, partners identified the importance of including private funding sources into the ToC as well as government funding, which stimulated learning for other partners that did not consider this as a focus area.

The workshops also identified areas for partners to collectively explore in future. For example, unlike Brazilian partners, EU partners work less directly with grassroots groups, and rather work with them to target the policy and funding space. Partners identified this as a point of further discussion and learning.

Another lesson from the ToC workshops is the importance of reaching alignment on potentially fuzzy terminology, to make sure partners are on the same page and not talking at cross-purposes. For example, partners used the workshops to establish a common definition of ‘grassroots’ groups and actions. This enabled them to better understand each other’s work and ensure it was accurately reflected in the ToC, which further increased the potential for more effective collaboration.

Our ToC workshops also provided partners with an opportunity to feedback on the Fair Transitions Programme so far, through a participatory approach.

By facilitating the sharing of these critical reflections, and mapping them within the broader context of regenerative agriculture globally, the Itad team is helping to guide programme partners in their journey to learn how to affect positive inclusive change in rural settings.

Catalysing change

As our work with Porticus progresses into 2023, we will continue to generate knowledge and share learning across our study cities and rural contexts with programme partners. By helping them to reflect, learn and adapt their activities, we will in turn support the scaling of similar activities in other locations and contexts.

Through this work, we hope to help catalyse the transition to an equitable, regenerative, post-carbon economy that has a positive impact on the lives of poor and vulnerable people.

Read more about our action on climate change.