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 Jenny Tröltzsch, Senior Fellow at Ecologic Institute and Climate Adaptation Expert, interviewed by Eva Boon (Msc), Advisor & Researcher at Climate Adaptation Services (CAS).
Hi Jenny! We usually meet every two weeks online to discuss the REACHOUT activities that involve engagement with the city hubs. We also met face-to-face at the kick-off meeting in Rotterdam in October last year. That was a nice way to get to know each other and get the project started (despite the typical Dutch weather). How do you experience the REACHOUT project so far, working together with partners from all over Europe, mostly through online meetings?
Thanks, Eva. I think REACHOUT is a really great interdisciplinary project. I’m very much enjoying that we have the possibility to bring together researchers and representatives of cities with such diverse backgrounds; working together towards strengthened climate resilience in European cities and aiming for the further improvement and practical use of climate tools and services. I think starting such a European research project based on online exchanges is very challenging. Therefore, I appreciate very much that we had the opportunity to meet in Rotterdam during the initial project phase and it was also great to meet many project partners again in October 2022 for the second project meeting in Milan. I think building up personal relationships is important for such a project endeavor. 😉
You have a lot of experience with engaging stakeholders in scientific research projects. Could you describe your experiences and share some of the main lessons from this?
For us at Ecologic Institute, involving diverse stakeholders in socio-ecological research is one of our core objectives. We see our role as brokers at the science-policy interface aiming to link research activities to actual policy needs and “translating” scientific information for policy makers. Therefore, we are using co-creation and transdisciplinary methods. In past work, I have co-created regional adaptation plans with stakeholders in the Mediterranean area using a series of stakeholder workshops to design and evaluate adaptation measures in the BeWater-project. Furthermore, we developed a co-creation process in the COACCH project, in which we included stakeholders already in defining research objectives for the economic assessment of climate impacts at the beginning of the project. For me, essential elements of successful engagement processes include having dedicated knowledge brokers to guide collaboration from start to finish, being open to feedback and flexible to adjust aims and processes if necessary, and having regular and above all transparent communication about needs and constraints.
For co-producing climate services together with the cities in REACHOUT, you have defined a co-production strategy with different roles and processes. Could you explain a bit on the rationale behind this?
In the REACHOUT project, co-creation is a core principle for developing and delivering climate services together with cities and other stakeholders. It describes a joint effort in design, implementation, and management of research. In REACHOUT we use co-creation to increase dialogue between climate service providers and city representatives to establish needs and opportunities for climate service development. Through this collaborative approach, the project aims to deliver tailored services that provide municipalities, businesses, and even individual citizens with direct support on decision-making and climate action.
The seven REACHOUT City Hubs serve as living labs for co-creation of the services with government, citizens and the private sector. They also serve as accelerators for further regional and national upscaling of the use of these services. The Hubs represent a regionally diverse portfolio of climate vulnerabilities and adaptation needs across stakeholders.
After one year of REACHOUT, how do you think we are doing with the co-creation process and involving City Hubs in REACHOUT?
During the first year of the project, we set up the basis for the co-creation approach in the City Hubs. The City Hubs have selected the first climate tools. Tool developers started to work on the climate services and are in regular dialogue with the City Hubs. The first round of local City Hub workshops is almost successfully finished. The City Hub workshops bring together local stakeholders to discuss needs and the interim versions of the climate tools. Furthermore, the first cross-hub learning workshop has successfully been hosted in Milan. This workshop focused on developing climate stories, which are used to communicate complex scientific information to the wider public through stories. Eva, you have already mentioned the climate stories in your interview.
I think we are looking back on a very successful first project year, having established relevant working relationships and dialogue between tool developers and City Hubs. We initiated exchange between the different City Hubs, including via the Co-creation exchange lounge. My impression is that the city representatives very much appreciate the possibility to discuss experiences and learn from each other. This exchange could still be strengthened in the project.
We have two more years to work on REACHOUT. What will make the project a success for you?
Very good question, Eva. I think for me the project would be successful if the City Hubs see benefit in using the developed climate tools and are using results in some of their decisions; if relationships are established between the different City Hubs, knowledge is shared and exchanged, and some contacts and exchanges would be continued after the project duration. Furthermore, it would be great to get some attention and interest by cities outside of the project on the REACHOUT toolkit and included tools.
I recently learned that you master many languages next to German and English, being Russian, Finnish, and Polish! That is impressive! Would you like to share how you learned them and to what extent you use them?
Yes, that sounds maybe more impressive than it is. 😊 I learned Finnish during my exchange year at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland. It is quite a difficult language, so I was very happy to establish some basic knowledge during this time. My motivation to learn Polish is that Poland is only a one hour train ride away from Berlin where I live. I think it is a great country with very warm-hearted people and a beautiful landscape. My school knowledge of Russian helped me to start with it as well. But unfortunately, I am using all of them very seldomly.
Jenny, 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?
Thanks a lot, Eva. As the cities and the discussion between tool developers and cities are at the heart of the REACHOUT project, I would like to interview Peter Tangney from UCC. He is a very experienced political scientist and one of our REACHOUT city liaisons. Peter supports our city partner Cork and connects tool developers with city representatives. I think that is one of the most challenging tasks in REACHOUT. Therefore, I would like to know how he is experiencing the REACHOUT project so far.