Effective weather and climate services need to provide information that is tailored, targeted and communicated meaningfully to users, enabling informed decision making and adaptation to the adverse impacts of weather and climate variability and change. Developing credible and salient climate services requires producers to take an inclusive approach, including cross-sectoral collaboration in the development and communication of services. Key to this is the bringing together of all stakeholders in mutual cooperation to jointly develop and communicate weather and climate services. This is achievable through a process of co-production which enables them to develop an understanding of their respective needs, preferences, barriers and enablers. WISER East Africa is committed to the inclusion of such co-production processes within its program. Within its framework it defines the co-production process as “the bringing together of different knowledge sources and experiences to jointly develop new and combined knowledge which is better able to support specific decision making contexts.” The Wiser East Africa program strategy to co-production aims to enable the effective communication and interpretation of uncertainty through guidelines and key principles, which are key to developing trust and strengthening capacities to cope with future weather and climate variability, extremes and changes.
As the field of climate services evolves, there has been a marked change in behaviour towards a more inclusive, iterative, co-produced process to service development rather than the more traditional top down approach of scientists to users. There have been several examples within the first phase of the WISER East Africa program where users have been directly targeted and involved in the production of tailored, sector specific climate information and services. These users are typically planners, whether in the public sector (including national and local level government) or private sector (including in the energy, water and agriculture sectors) and boundary organisations. Users at the grassroots level across different sectors such as farmers have also directly been targeted. This has particularly been the case in developing countries where livelihoods and wellbeing are often very closely tied to natural resource availability.
However despite a move towards programs supporting co-production processes within their frameworks there remains many challenges to overcome, to successfully achieve a fully inclusive, co-produced, flexible and sustainable service development process. Some potential challenges faced are:
- There is often confusion about how to incorporate co-production within practices and activities to do so effectively.
- Practitioners who are attempting to facilitate a co-production process often vastly underestimate the amount of time that is required to identify who should be involved, for developing relationships, jointly defining the vision and goals of the project, and for building trust among all actors.
- There is confusion surrounding the term ‘co-production’ itself or the “co’s” which has a multitude of definitions.
- There is no “one size fits all” approach and very little guidance on what approach may be appropriate for a given service.
- Power dynamics among stakeholders can also be challenging.
- The process of identifying users, the process itself and it sustainability has rarely been critically assessed and as a result there is very little available in terms of learning from past examples of co-production
There is therefore clearly a need for concrete guidance on integrating co-production within programs and examples that emphasise the importance of ensuring that there is sufficient time included within the project to enable development. Given its fluid nature and the fact that there is no “one size fits all” approach, there is also a need for more reflective learning-based assessment of the co-production process itself.
Moving into phase 2 the WISER East Africa program hopes to address some of these key challenges. The program hopes to ensure that:
- Co-production is integrated from the proposal stage;
- Co-production is not a top down approach from producer to user but a continuous iterative process that includes continual communication, feedback and flexibility;
- The co-production process is inclusive, recognising and understanding the different information needs of different users especially the needs of women, girls, the poorest and disabled;
- The role of indigenous and local knowledge within the process is recognised and is critically important in the development of trust in and communication of the ‘scientific’ service;
- The process enables the effective communication and interpretation of uncertainty which is key to developing trust and strengthening capacities to cope with future climate variability, extremes and changes.
Here we present the WISER East Africa principles for gender-sensitive and socially-inclusive co-production of services; decision-driven, inclusive, collaborative, process-based, iterative and flexible, time managed and monitored and evaluated. We also present guidance on their application within projects and how projects within the program can implement a suitable co-production process based on decision requirements. This process aims to enable the effective communication and interpretation of uncertainty, which is key to developing trust and strengthening capacities to cope with future weather and climate variability, extremes and changes. We will also present learnings and challenges encountered by Phase 1 projects as well as how phase 2 projects are applying the guidelines presented here.