Networking communities: How municipalities can learn from each other and increase their capacity for adaptation

Kleinstadt in Deutschland

The summer of 2019 showed once again that the consequences of global climate change are already being felt at the local level. Heat records, heavy rainfall and flooding - all these climate impacts are already affecting key areas of municipal services. Consequently, municipalities have a key role to play in adapting to climate change. Despite support from the federal government and great pressure to act, however, small and medium-sized municipalities in particular are still taking insufficient precautions. According to a survey conducted by the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu) in 2018, 81% of the municipalities surveyed had already been affected by extreme weather events in the past 10 years, but only a third of these municipalities had already implemented measures to adapt to climate change.

Commissioned by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA), this research project supported municipalities in adapting to the consequences of climate change. In three networks, the project brought together municipalities that have already implemented adaptation measures and those that are still at the very beginning. In this way, inexperienced municipalities were able to learn from experienced ones (peer learning) and exchange information at eye level. Thematically, the project picked up where municipalities are particularly affected by climate change. This included the adaptation of municipal infrastructures, but also health and social care. The concrete topics and needs were identified together with the municipalities in the research project, thus making an important contribution to knowledge transfer.

adelphi, together with Difu and alpS, supervised three municipal networks as part of the research project. Using design thinking methods, the project team developed ideas for network activities together with local actors and promoted mutual learning in interactive "peer learning workshops". Different peer learning approaches and science-based learning and networking methods were tested. In addition, adelphi investigated to what extent these approaches can be used to motivate and empower municipalities that have not yet addressed climate adaptation or have done so only to a limited extent.