The 2014 Understanding Risk conference was held in London between 30 June and 4 July and gathered together more than 840 scientists, policy-makers, experts, academics, journalists and NGO representatives. The aim of this biannual event was to find ways of producing actionable information on disaster risk reduction and assessment. As part of the conference, ENHANCE dissemination partner ClimateWise, the global insurance industry’s leadership group driving action on climate change risk, organised a dedicated side event. The aim of this workshop was to explore ways to maximise opportunities to drive action on climate risks through communicating more strategically.
The workshop, was held at the British Library on 3 July and provided a space for participants to discuss and exchange ideas around responding to this challenge and ways of engaging stakeholders in this inherently complex topic. Amy Barry, Director of specialist media consultancy di:ga offered her expert perspectives on the value of strategic communication approaches, whilst Quentin Galland, EU Affairs Consultant at ENHANCE project dissemination partner Arctik, put the emphasis on the ENHANCE project to set the context for participants to consider addressing issues which require a multi-stakeholder response. The workshop focussed on three core themes: communicating internally; communicating with stakeholders and communicating publically.
Firstly, the workshop explored the views of participants on ways of making a business case within their own organisation for responding to climate risks. The discussions pointed out that although it may be unclear precisely how climate change relates to the core activities of the organisation, potential impacts should not be ignored – even though they may not have not been felt yet. By utilising strategic approaches that provide an open framework for encouraging conversation, this can help engage colleagues and build a shared momentum for taking action. Examples such as highlighting the consequences of inaction; grounding the business case in more accessible issues (e.g. supply chain resilience) and tailoring messages for different internal audiences were all raised as useful approaches.
When it comes to engaging in partnerships around climate risks, participants discussed the challenge of reaching out to new audiences who are often not engaged in the issue. Often different world views and language can result in frustration and mistrust. By using carefully considered communications which are clear, accessible and speak to the audiences’ own perspectives and concerns around the issues, opportunities for conversation can be created. When this leads to opportunities for working together, participants highlighted that the key for successful partnerships relies on defining the goals, roles and responsibilities to ensure a healthy working relationship in which expectations are in alignment.
On public communication, participants acknowledged that engaging in public debate can often be daunting and carry some risk, especially where there is a perceived lack of expertise or the likelihood for difficult questions. However, organisations being reticent to proactively participate in these debates can often lead to reactive, defensive and poorly prepared inputs. By using stories which connect with people, getting to know your audience and preparing responses to anticipated questions it is possible to use the opportunity to help shape the debate and engage public audiences in a positive way.
- The workshop concluded with three opportunities to be taken forwards individually:
- Log positive stories.
- Ask questions of colleagues and stakeholders.
- Keep language simple.
Note to readers:
This workshop was organised by ClimateWise as part of its activities and commitments as an ENHANCE project dissemination partner.