The fields of climate and development have undergone radical transformations over the past decades as the world has woken up to the perils of climate change. At the same time, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have revolutionized the way we communicate, bringing many benefits – but also new problems. An innovative global partnership of knowledge brokers has taken on the challenge of signposting and improving access to knowledge resources for end users.
Martin Hiller, Director General of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), opened the official side event of the Climate Knowledge Brokers (CKB) Group with an observation all too familiar to visitors of the 19th Conference of the Parties in Warsaw, Poland. “I am adrift,” said Mr. Hiller, “in a sea of publications, fact sheets, reports – overwhelmed by the flood of data, facts and figures.” Aquatic metaphors pervaded the event as representatives from the Climate Knowledge Brokers Group, a community of over 50 organizations managing online information resources, discussed the information challenges facing climate and development professionals, and presented some of the solutions the CKB group has created in response. REEEP’s own Florian Bauer presented the reegle Tagging API, one of the most successful outcomes of the CKB Group collaboration to date.
The fields of climate and development have undergone radical transformations over the past decades as the world has woken up to the perils of climate change. At the same time, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have revolutionized the way we communicate, bringing many benefits – but also new problems. A field once challenged by the lack of reliable and relevant data is now overwhelmed with oceans of information, pouring in from a multitude of sources inhabiting various corners of the climate development community. Today, the challenge is navigating and making sense of this information.
The CKB Group came together in 2011 as a result of the recognition that the existing knowledge landscape was ineffective in delivering the right knowledge to those who need it, when they need it. In response, the group is creating practical solutions to improve and streamline information sharing, to better steer the flow of knowledge to those who need it, and to engage and connect researchers, practitioners, policy actors and businesses to drive climate resilient development. Geoff Barnard of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), who chaired the event, set the stage for a discussion of four key areas in which knowledge brokers are working to transform data and information into real knowledge and action.
Anne Hammill of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) discussed the importance of understanding the needs of their users on the ground. “Curating content is really important in helping people identify the resources they need for their uses,” she said. “Targeting and tailoring resources on platforms can actually breed sharing,” she added. Fatema Rajabali of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) followed up by introducing the Knowledge Navigator, a tool to help users better understand their own needs and find the knowledge sources that best fit those needs.
But how can knowledge brokers know what types of information are available, and where, if it is stored in different types of formats and – more importantly – language? This is where the reegle Tagging API comes in.
One of the main successes of the CKB Group to date, the reegle Tagging API is a technical tool to help categorize and link content within and across platforms. The tool allows knowledge brokers to break down knowledge barriers both within their own organizations by linking information from various departments, as well as across multiple organizations by “tagging” key words and concepts, sorting them, and linking them to related terms in other languages or jargon. The resulting consistency helps reduce confusion among end-users, as well as avoid duplicating work that has already been done – a significant issue for the thousands of climate and development professionals working around the world. "Because a lot of Web sites are now using [the reegle Tagging API], we now have very consistent language between those sites," said Mr. Bauer. "We can easily interlink documents about the same topics from one Web site to another, and describe them in the same way."
Jane Ebinger of The World Bank gave participants an illustration of how CKB Group collaboration and integration of tools such as the Tagging API have yielded real results with the Climate Smart Planning Platform. “It’s a way to connect those that are looking for information with those that need it,” said Ebinger. Countries are looking to “grow [their] economy, do it with less emissions, and become more resilient,” she said, but “in order to answer those questions, these practitioners need a trusted set of tools, quality data, and … a community that can help them…”
CDKN CEO Sam Bickersteth concluded the highly-interactive and popular “Knowledge brokering is critical, and behind the scenes of the negotiations [and] policy development process, there are a growing number of people brokering, shifting information, trying to make it more accessible in real time … to policy makers, to researchers that work with them, and to negotiators themselves.”
The CKB Group and the climate development community, admits Mr. Barnard, are facing a “massive” challenge. “But I think we’ve laid the foundations, and we’re heading in the right direction.”