Partnership is a decision to work together. It’s not easy but the rewards are worth it. Adaptation partnerships have a crucial role to play in locally led, fair and just adaptation. By developing this capability, you will create the conditions needed for people to work together effectively. Key aspects include:

  • Create a healthy culture
  • Partnerships with a healthy culture are built on trust and shared understanding. They share power and influence fairly, and enable partners to contribute fully and equally. Conflict and emotion are acknowledged and addressed as an opportunity to learn and grow.

  • Build strong governance and supporting structures
  • Governance and structures are in place to provide a clear process for decision making, accountability, roles, and responsibilities. They evolve as the partnership develops and matures over time and should enable rather than restrict change.

  • Collaborate
  • Effective partnerships focus on collaboration and co-development. They create inclusive spaces where partners and wider stakeholders can actively contribute to establish the case for a place-based adaptation partnership, agree ways of working and build a strong set of actions.


Place-based adaptation initiatives often begin through informal discussions that take place among a small group of individuals.

Sometimes people are motivated to develop place-based adaptation initiatives after one or more trigger events, for example repeated severe weather events, or a major issue affecting the community, for example coastal erosion affecting homes or transport routes. It is important to be aware of the physical, emotional and psychological impacts of experiencing trigger events and to be mindful of the personal challenges that those involved in building these early-stage relationships may be experiencing.

Other times place based adaptation initiatives are set up proactively because partners recognise that the place faces multiple climate risks and that there are clear benefits to addressing these in a joined-up way.

At this stage it is important for partners to build positive relationships and explore if and how they would like to work together. Activities that can support progress include:

  • Learn from others - There are place based adaptation partnerships in place across Britain and Ireland covering cities, regions, islands and individual communities. The TalX resources include case studies that can help you earn how others have taking forward similar work. You can also contact the TalX Partners and we can put you in touch with contacts that you can speak to directly.

  • Stakeholder mapping - build up a picture of the people, networks and organisations that could influence or be influenced by the adaptation challenge that you have identified and are looking to address in partnership with others. Power and influence mapping is a visual tool that can be used to show the influence that different individuals and/or organisations have over decision-making and can be used to visualise changes in stakeholders’ power.

  • Organisational Charts;
  • Local Authority Adaptation Support Wizard, Ireland;
  • Net-Map tool
  • Adaptation Scotland power and influence mapping resources

Intention setting - The early stage of developing a place-based adaptation partnership is an important opportunity to set intentions for the future. Developing a systematic and shared understanding of enablers of change can help partners plan how to progress adaptation and support the case for change.

The Traction project sets out a framework for advancing climate change adaptation action and includes a set of questions that place based partnerships can use to help set intentions for the future. Setting and documenting intentions at an early stage provides a strong foundation for evaluating progress and learning as the partnership begins to operate.

Business case/ case for change - Establishing a place-based adaptation partnership or initiative is a big commitment. Compiling a case for change or business case document can help partners to make a final decision on whether to progress with establishing a partnership and working together over the long term.

The process for developing the case for change or business case should be open and transparent. You can lay the groundwork for building towards system change and transformation by adopting a co-design process that enables stakeholders to work through their preferences for the partnership and develop an approach that is fair and represents their shared views and priorities.

Interviews, surveys and workshops can be used to explore specific challenges and priorities and can also explore potential levers of change. This can be quite a messy and wide-ranging process; it should go beyond the usual technical stakeholders (e.g. climate change experts) and include new and different voices. Feedback can be pulled together and used to create a to a business case document, support funding bids and/ or develop a detailed work programme for the partnership.

Adaptation partnerships and initiatives should deliver locally led, fair and just approaches to adaptation. It’s important to discuss and agree how this will be achieved in practice during the early stages of the partnership.

Eight principles for locally led adaptation - Governments and major institutions around the world have begun to adopt eight principles for locally-led adaptation. The principles were developed by a partnership of peers, formed under the Global Commission on Adaptation and including IIED and the World Resources Institute. They have been developed to help ensure that local communities are empowered to lead sustainable and effective adaptation to climate change at the local level. The principles aim to give vulnerable and excluded communities greater agency over prioritising and designing adaptation solutions.

  • Discuss the principles and identify how they can be applied by your partnership:

Agreeing and implementing a partnership model, operating principles and governance arrangements will provide the structure needed to build a strong partnership.

Collaborative governance - Adaptation partnerships that hope to drive system change and transformation are likely to require collaborative governance. This form of governance involves multiple actors including citizens and major organisations working together on an ongoing basis. It involves moving away from more traditional, hierarchical, public sector or public-private partnerships and creating space for communities and citizens to be actively involved and have influence over decision making. Collaborative governance shifts the emphasis away from consulting with communities to deeply involving communities in different ways throughout decision making.

The power dynamics involved with collaborative governance are complicated and often shift over time. Managing this type of approach requires facilitatory leadership and long-term relationship building (see Leadership Action 1C). It relies upon participants committing to a process of dialogue and deliberation - using creative and innovative approaches to exploring different perspectives and reaching decisions.

The rewards of collaborative governance are potentially huge. By bringing different people together, building trust and addressing imbalances in power and influence partnerships can come up with new and different opportunities and solutions.

Suggested actions:

  • Discuss and document the principles and values that are important to the partners. This will help partners explore their current views on power and influence and their willingness to alter existing ways of working.

  • Discuss the ways of working that are acceptable to partners. There can be the expectation that citizens and communities will adapt to the working practices of public institutions when in practice this may not be the case. It is important to create a space where partners can share different views and preferences and work through a process of dialogue and deliberation where they can reach agreement on how partners will work together.

The process of co-developing and putting in place governance arrangements, operating principles and a partnership model can be messy and challenging. Learning to mediate and resolve the tensions and conflicts that may arise at this stage is a valuable learning experience for partners. Handled thoughtfully and sensitively it is an opportunity to build trust and experience that will help the partnership navigate future challenges.


Highland Adapts is a major adaptation partnership covering the Scottish Highlands. The partnership has developed collaborative governance, find out more about at their story and ethos here:

See Action 3a ‘Strengthen partnership for an example of a move towards collaborative leadership from the Climate Ready Clyde initiative

Transitioning to a climate ready future will require systems change and transformation - we all need to do things differently and do different things. Adopt ways of working that support systems change and transformation.

Theory of change process - Theory of change processes can be used to develop a deeper understanding of the changes required to achieve the vision that the partnership has developed (link to leadership capability vision action). They can be a powerful vision setting, planning, and monitoring and evaluation tool. They can also guide systems thinking and the criteria used to identify and prioritise actions.

Systems thinking - Systems thinking offers a way to identify improved policy solutions for complex issues. Such approaches can provide a better representation of a complex system, and they allow decision makers (or problem owners) to see the bigger picture and to identify underlying drivers of vulnerability or key leverage points. They offer more potential to develop innovative or integrated solutions, which would be typically associated with transformational change.

In practice, systems thinking involves work to:

  1. Identify and map the system of interest
    Define where the system starts and ends. This initial step is important to make the analysis manageable (otherwise the complexity becomes too great).

  2. Explore and understand its components and connections
    Build up an understanding of the system, including connections and inter-relations. This requires a multidisciplinary approach, combining multiple information sources, and can be facilitated with system maps, or even more formal modelling methods.

  3. Elicit potentially very different stakeholder perspectives and explore possible intervention points
    Understand the perspectives of the actors in the system and the governance arrangements around decisions.
    Explore possible intervention points that can lead to systemic change, in this context for transformational adaptation.

Social Network Analysis is a tool that is often used alongside systems thinking. Social networks and institutional actors (organizations, individuals, interest groups, etc.) and their linkages (socio-institutional relationships) are analysed, mapping the influence and the exchange of information to assess adaptive capacity. This explores socio-institutional processes, and identifies the context and governance around decisions, including institutional arrangements and structures.

This content is taken from Glasgow City Region adaptation strategy and action plan annex 5 portfolio blueprint

Relevant resources and examples:

Working in partnership should enable you to achieve much more together than you can achieve alone.

Your commitment to developing a strong, healthy and dynamic partnership should result in progressive, impactful and transformative actions that achieve clear benefits. Targets and monitoring and evaluation should be included in the action planning process.

Co-design actions - Actions should be co-designed with stakeholders and should build on earlier work to set intentions, develop the evidence base, map out the changes that the partnership is working towards, identify levers of change and develop resourcing options. Securing commitment and investment will require consensus building, influencing and work to develop the business case for individual and collective actions.

Examples of adaptation action categories:

Adaptation actions should be developed based on the unique culture, context, and risks faced by different places. As the partnership works towards transformational change, it is likely to develop a range of actions which include incremental actions as well as actions that seek to alter existing systems and ways of doing things. A portfolio of activities that span multiple scales and systems can collectively contribute towards addressing the root causes of climate risks and influence transformation. This is likely to be a messy process because influencing system change is complex, non-linear process.

The scope of adaptation actions adaptation partnerships commit to will develop over time as partners build trust and gain skills and experience.

Whilst there are no ‘off the shelf’ adaptation actions the table below provides examples of different categories of actions.

Action category Examples
Physical interventions

Engineered solutions - for example flood defences, building retrofits or engineered solutions to reduce landslide risk

Nature based solutions - for example sustainable urban drainage, blue green, infrastructure, protection of coastal ecosystems such as sand dunes, and tree planting to reduce flood risk, improve biodiversity and/ or improve land stability.

Policy and risk disclosure

Embedding adaptation into local policy making - for example in planning, economic, transport, housing, and net zero policies and plans

Working with the private sector - for example engaging with companies that must disclose climate risks as a result of economy wide climate risk disclosures and involving them in local action to adapt.


Addressing imbalances in power and decision making - for example by committing to involving under- represented and vulnerable groups or communities in governance and decision making.

Recognising the importance of culture and creative practice in transformational change - for example involving artists and creative practitioners in developing and implementing adaptation actions.

Creating space to address shared challenges - for example local authorities committing to sharing expertise and taking join action to adapt.


Developing a pipeline of investment ready projects

Identifying public and blended finance options for projects

Working with insurers

Tools and resources

Early warning systems and improved local emergency and resilience plans

Climate resilient design principles and guidelines

New and emerging technology - for example remote sensing to track climate impacts and risk, interactive community mapping to record stories and local evidence of climate impacts


Independent advice and scrutiny - Bring in people who can help improve your ideas and approaches and support transparent monitoring and evaluation

The table above Includes content drawn from Table 1 Categories of beneficial adaptation actions for the next five years for the UK, Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk Advice to Government For the UK’s third Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3) and Climate Ready Clyde Adaptation Strategy, section 3.2 flagship actions.

Monitoring and evaluation - Effective monitoring and evaluation is an essential part of the adaptation process. It should include:

  1. The process of adaptation - to the activities and decisions being taken for adaptation. Is implementation and action occurring?
  2. The outcomes of adaptation - the condition of adapting. Have the intended adaptation objectives been achieved?

Agreeing targets, outcomes, indicators and monitoring and evaluation processes should be integral to the process of identifying and agreeing adaptation actions.


The CO-designing the Assessment of Climate CHange costs project have developed useful guidelines for best practice on co-design. Find out more about the COACCH project here:

Examples of adaptation actions for different places include:

As the partnership matures, partners will grow in confidence and experience. You may need to strengthen the partnership model, operating principles and governance to reflect changing ambitions and priorities of the partnership.

Review and Reflect - Major milestones such as agreeing a portfolio of adaptation actions or completing a theory of change process may be followed by a time of learning and reflection where the partnership considers whether the existing partnership model, operating principles and governance are still fit for purpose.

Resource constraints or opportunities are highly relevant to this action and should be considered as part of reviewing arrangements for the partnership. The legal structure and governance arrangements for a partnership can influence the sources of funding that can be accessed.

You may wish to form a sub group to explore options for further strengthening the partnership. It is important that this process is open and transparent and that the group focuses on identifying the best arrangements for the partnership as a whole rather than prioritising the needs of individual partners.


The Climate Ready Clyde initiative published a transformative adaptation Strategy and Action Plan in 2021 and has recently completed a process of developing new operating arrangements - an overview of their updated governance structure and operating principles is available here:

By this stage the partnership will be focused on implementing ambitious, locally led adaptation actions. The pressure is on to deliver the actions that partners committed to.

Working effectively in partnership to deliver ambitious actions will require a fundamentally different way of working - breaking down internal and sectoral silos and building a strongly collaborative approach, and willingness to experiment.

Securing resources for adaptation actions, either embedded within broader projects or as standalone activities requires significant expertise, relationship building and influence. The resource capability provides links to resources and case studies exploring opportunities for funding adaptation actions

There are also very strong connections to leadership. Leaders within your partnership will need to champion the adaptation actions that have been agreed and push for them to be implemented, ensuring that they are retained within project and investment planning cycles. It is also important to celebrate and communicate success when project milestones are reached and benefits delivered.

The partnership will have clear targets and metrics in place to enable effective monitoring, evaluation and learning and will be open to independent review and scrutiny of progress. The adaptation planning process should include a specific focus on target setting monitoring, evaluation and learning.

It is important to demonstrate how the projects, actions and activities that you are implementing are/will contribute towards reducing climate risks and/ or increasing adaptive capacity. Indicators should be identified to enable you to identify if climate risks are reducing or increasing. There are a wide range of example indicators and approaches to target setting, monitoring and evaluation that can be used to inform your work:

Monitoring and evaluation is an integral element of theory of change processes that identify how change happens. Where a theory of change has been developed monitoring, evaluation and learning should include reflecting on the change process, including questioning what has changed as a result of your specific projects or intervention. The briefing linked below includes helpful prompt questions to support reflection and monitoring and evaluation.

The Traction project sets out a framework for advancing climate change adaptation action and is recommended in stage 1 as a resource that can help partnerships set intentions for the future. Traction is also a valuable evaluation resource and can be used to enable partnerships to reflect on their progress to date, and define next steps in their adaptation journey.