The REACHOUT series of interviews aim at collecting more personal views from colleagues developing and applying climate services for urban adaptation and resilient development, get more insight on the state of knowledge, the main ongoing discourse, and get a more concrete view of what their work encompasses. A sneak peak, so to say, behind the jargon and throbbing sentences used in policy documents and research proposals. Throughout the project, team members will complete a round of interviews. One colleague will interview another, and the interviewed colleague then conducts the following interview of the next team member and so on. As each member interviews and gets interviewed in this manner, all topics will be covered over the duration of this project.
Read our latest interview featuring Eva Boon (Msc)(F), advisor & researcher at CAS.
Interviewed by Elissavet Bargianni (left): Landscape architect, MLA – Climate Change Adaptation Coordinator, Resilience & Sustainability Department, Strategic Planning, Resilience, Innovation & Documentation Division, City of Athens
Question 1: Eva, first of all I would like to thank you for your participation so far and the added value you offer to REACHOUT with your contribution. Could you share with us your impressions on your experience working in the project so far?
Thank you Elissavet! I enjoy participating in the REACHOUT project a lot and it has been a pleasure to work with you and your colleagues on the climate story for Athens. I think it is very inspiring to work together with cities, researchers, tool developers and knowledge brokers from all over Europe – all aiming to develop usable climate services. I have already learned a lot from the challenges that the different cities are facing. It is quite diverse in terms priorities, data availability and capacity related to climate adaptation. We have high ambitions with REACHOUT and I really hope that we can contribute to the process of adaptation in each city.
Question 2: You combine working in Climate Adaptation Services (CAS) projects with your PhD research and you to aim understand how successful climate services for adaptation can be produced and evaluated. Can you please explain a bit more about the process and your conclusions so far?
Yes, CAS has given me the opportunity to perform PhD research next to my work and I really enjoy this combination. I have been working on the research for two years now. I started doing a systematic review study of scientific literature. This study shows that there are many different views about what makes a climate service successful. Success perspectives relate to, for example, how the service is produced, the qualities of the service itself, how the service is used, or the long-term impacts of the service. Few scientists give a clear definition of what a successful climate service is. That is why I am now working on a second study, where we are developing a definition together with climate service experts from all over the world. I have also started a third study that focusses on REACHOUT. In this study I am trying to better understand the end-users’ perspective on a successful service. I hope that in the end my research can contribute to better understanding how we can develop successful climate services; What should we aim for? And what are the do’s and don’ts?
Question 3: You already work on the climate story map for the City of Athens. As the city is increasingly at risk from heat waves, from your personal perspective how the City of Athens could strengthen even more its climate adaptations services? And what is different from other cities with similar challenges in REACHOUT?
That is a difficult question, I am not sure if I am aware of all the services available in the cities. I think we are still learning from the cities what their main challenges are and what solutions might be most useful. From what I have learned from you and your colleagues (and using translation websites to further understand your work – Greek by no means resembles Dutch J ) is that Athens has been working on planning and preparing for heatwaves with high ambition. You have the EXTREMA application that provides tailored risk information during heatwaves for citizens. And you have defined a classification for heatwaves, based on the associated health risks. Also, you have a land surface temperature map for each building block of the city. I think the main challenge for Athens is to make this information accessible for all actors in the city and to continue mapping in greater detail the vulnerable populations, to be better able to prioritize adaptation actions and design tailored emergency campaigns. And I can imagine that it will also be a challenge to implement more green-blue infrastructure – as Athens is densely built and there will be many interests competing. From our experience in CAS, using services to build a shared vision on risks and potential solutions across all relevant departments can be helpful.
Question 4: Eva can you please describe your work with cities and other stakeholders in creating the climate stories and also tell us how far this process can really go?
Basically, what we try to do is to make complex scientific information relatable for the wider public through stories. Stories are easier to understand and to remember than just data and facts. Together with each city we are developing such a story, and it is a creative and iterative process. We start with selecting one main message that the city wants to communicate to a specific audience. Then we start brainstorming for possible story ingredients. For example: Do people have personal experiences with the topic? Are there events from the past that everyone from the city remembers? Are there cultural aspects important to the city that could be related to the main message? With the ingredients we start sketching a possible storyline. We have just started, and we can already see draft storylines emerging in each city. They are quite divers. The story of Athens shows what a summer in 2030 could look like through the eyes of a grandparent. In Cork the story revolves around the question what the city should do, now that the city flood expert who always knew ‘what to do’ is retiring. It is great to see how the knowledge and ideas of the city and the city liaisons contribute to making the storylines realistic, interesting, and locally relevant. In the meantime, we are starting up conversations with the tool developers to explore how data and insights from the tools can be included in the stories, using for example easy-to-understand visuals and infographics that fit the story. I am very excited to see how the stories will develop in the coming months.
Question 5: Story telling is a dynamic and powerful tool and can become an inspiration for citizens and engage them even more. Can you please describe us the challenges you face working in this field?
What I think is both a strength and challenge of storytelling is that we really need to develop it together. The input from the city is critical. This requires time and effort, and the cities often already have very limited capacity to work on adaptation. Furthermore, I think there is a thin line between a convincing story and a story that feels somewhat contrived and insincere. So, it will be our challenge to develop something that is appealing to the audience we try to reach. Engaging our audience early in the process will be key in this. Also more practical, finding free to use and suitable photos to strengthen the story is sometimes difficult. I think it will be useful that after the first round of climate stories in REACHOUT we reflect on the challenges and lessons learned so that we can further improve our approach.
Question 6: Eva thank you for this conversation. Can you tell us who will be the next person to interview and what would you like to find out from that person?
Thank you so much for your interesting questions! I really like how we have defined specific roles in REACHOUT for the co-development of services. The city liaison, for example, functions as a bridge between the city and the activities of REACHOUT. Therefore, I would like to interview Jenny Tröltzsch from Ecologic. She is leading the work package on co-creation and has a lot of experience in designing stakeholder engagement processes in research projects. I would be really interested to learn from her perspective on the process in REACHOUT so far, how it differs from other large projects she has run, and what we could learn for the next years of REACHOUT.