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Planning for an uncertain future: promoting adaptation to climate change through Flexible and Forward-looking Decision Making

Research report

Written by Lindsey Jones, Eva Ludi, Natasha Grist, Elizabeth Carabine

Research report

The need for decision making that is flexible, forward-looking and able to adapt to the unexpected is clear. One approach for acheiving this is 'Flexible and Forward-Looking​ Decision Making' (FFDM). But what is it, and how can it be operationalised in practice? In its simplist terms, FFDM is defined as the ability to anticipate, incorporate and respond to the changes with regard to governance, structure and future planning. To deal with uncertain futures, FFDM cannot base its decisions solely on evidence from past or existing capabilities and structures; it must also consider possible futures.

However, a transition towards supporting FFDM is likely to face significant obstacles. In some cases, it will require a complete transformation and an overhaul of current practices, recognising that organisational structures, mindsets, priorities and incentives of development actors are deeply ingrained and often slow to change. Promoting principles of FFDM within development policy will also require tailored guides, participatory tools and practical case studies to help ensure successful uptake and implementation.

This report documents the activities of the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance (ACCRA) in seeking to strengthen FFDM among district development actors. It describes research carried out while trialling an innovative and interactive tool to promote FFDM – a ‘game-enabled reflection approach’ – accompanied by capacity-building activities. ACCRA undertook case studies at the district level in three countries; Uganda, Ethiopia, and Mozambique. Building on these three case studies, this report outlines key findings and makes recommendations on how to better support decision-making processes for an uncertain future. It does so in view of helping to understand the use of FFDM as well as the effectiveness and limitations of a game-enabled reflection approach.

Lindsey Jones, Eva Ludi, Elizabeth Carabine, Natasha Grist, Aklilu Amsalu, Luis Artur, Carina Bachofen, Patrick Beautement, Christine Broenner, Matthew Bunce, Janot Mendler de Suarez, William Muhumuza, Pablo Suarez and Daniel Zacarias