Community and policy adaptation

An assessment of current policy and the adaptive capacity of a community is critical to create a blueprint for adaptation to change. This is because barriers to adaptation may exist in current structures and can determine how successful an adaptation strategy may be. Path dependence or ‘lock-in’ is an example of a potential barrier to adaptation where decisions to adapt (e.g. made by upper management, decision-makers, councils or governments) are hamstrung by past decisions and existing processes. For example, adaptation may not be possible without substantial change to company or government structure, which takes time and money. There may also be unwillingness or inability to change if funds are scarce. Small communities may also struggle to find a lead actor – someone to take charge and manage the process, which often assists successful adaptation.

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Identify strategies

A recent guide to climate adaptation for fisheries (Ogier et al., 2012)  details a process for effectively developing successful adaptation strategies given the adaptive capacity of the community and current policy. This process uses community and stakeholder input and involves:

  1. describing the structure and function of a fishery as a system including its biological, ecological, economic, human, and social components (Step A)
  2. identifying aspects of this system that can be most effectively improved through specific forms of collective action (Step B)
  3. developing a legitimate and clear plan of action that will assist with ongoing adaptation in a fishery and can be modified and updated as required. This includes the identification of strategic adaptation strategies as well as barriers and constraints to adaptation (Step C).

Step A, the description of structure and function, allows the identification of variables that are crucial to adaptation and how they are influenced by change. This part of the process essentially provides an overview of an entire system in an accessible format to begin discussion about entry points for adaptation. This information can underpin scenario development and social risk assessment.

“What do we know & not know,

& what matters for climate adaptation?”

Ogier et al. (2012), pg. 7



Step B, the identification of aspects to be improved, assesses key issues in the context of specific groups of stakeholders as well as the broader community.

“…what enables and constrains adaptation?”

Ogier et al. (2012), pg. 8



Step C, the development of a working action plan, assesses potential adaptation options and barriers, and ultimately allows the identification of agreed pathways for effective adaptation. These adaptation strategies must then be embedded into policy. Any future planning should include review of this process.

“How do we enable adaption?

What are workable ways to adapt?”

Ogier et al. (2012), pg. 10