Influencing for systemic transformative change: The ACCRA model

Margaret Barihaihi Climate Change


Ruth Mhlanga

In this blog, Margaret Barihaihi tells Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance’s (ACCRA) story to inspire development practitioners and partners in making long term impact in the lives of men and women affected by climate change and disasters.

Transformative change takes time. Before it can be called transformative, real change in people’s lives has to result from shifts in systems, attitudes, traditional norms and behaviours. After 5 years of experience in resilience programming, ACCRA country teams have started to understand the key ingredients needed to sustainably transform systems. It is essential to get the context evidence right and tailor capacity enhancement efforts of potential change makers within the systems. As well as to empower women, men, girls and boys with knowledge and skills to effectively engage and participate in their governance systems. But how can development partners and practitioners ensure that systematic change comes within and not outside? Here is ACCRA’s learning journey to bring about long term change.

Changing the game through relationship building and learning packages

I joined ACCRA in January 2010 as a National Coordinator at World Vision in Uganda as the programme was being established in the three African countries of Mozambique, Uganda and Ethiopia.

ACCRA’s first 3 years (2009 -2012) which were focused on researching how development interventions support or reduce adaptive capacity to climate change and what it takes to plan for an uncertain future, were not all that pleasant. I remember resistance from a number of government officials in Uganda when we introduced the ACCRA research methodology and programme. According to them, investing in climate change research was a waste of funds but thanks to flexible donor funding, ACCRA eased this resistance with a new, game changing approach.

Through an interactive approach decision makers started to think differently to make sustainable development investment decisions

We introduced a “learning and relationship building package” for government technical staff, policy makers and local CSOs to make climate change a concrete development issue which needs long term and systemic solutions. Using a mix of sensitisation, tailored skills-enhancement training embedded into community visits, trainers’ training, inter-country exchange visits and regional learning events. ACCRA reached a step ahead getting government decision makers to appreciate evidence based planning. They started to think beyond their traditional out-put based planning cycles to long term and outcome impact level thinking and to understand that contextual and differentiated vulnerabilities are key for planning for uncertainty.

ACCRA took 8-10 government officials to its research sites, allowing communities and their leaders to interact. Most of the officials confessed it was their first time visiting such hard to reach and underdeveloped areas. As Meteorologist James Bataze, says in his blog, ACCRA research also came alive in  Flexible -Forward looking-Decision Making (FFDM) games. Through this interactive approach, planners and decision makers started to think differently and to make long-term plans around climate change as they strive to make responsible, sustainable development investment decisions.

How is ACCRA’s influencing model transforming systems?

The diverse learning and multi-level-sector connections ACCRA established at the beginning of the programme anchored strong relationships and trust between ACCRA and national states and positioned ACCRA differently to other actors in the adaptation work. Indeed, the government officials that participated in ACCRA’s research and learning exchange events, who we refer to as “champions of people-centred programming”, have become our influencing entry points. As the State Minister for Environment in Uganda stated, its time to re-think the governments approaches.

Without understanding the associated risks, we have no option for the complexities brought by climate change

As a result, ACCRA has started registering systematic change at country level. In Uganda, the Meteorological Authority has adopted a seasonal forecast model that has made a huge difference in the livelihoods of the rural women and men farmers who can now access weather information in their local languages. The innovation has attracted other donors such as GIZ, USAID, and UNICEF to scale up ACCRA’s model.

In Mozambique the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development (MITADER) has adopted the Tracking Adaptation and Measuring Development (TAMD) process as a climate-resilience planning tool for developing local adaptation plans. This is evidenced in the FY2015-2019 government plan to develop 10 local adaptation plans per year- 11 have already secured government funding. The initiative has attracted other donors like DANIDA and USAID to scale up ACCRA model. The Ethiopian government under the Ministry of Agriculture has boldly taken steps on gender mainstreaming in the Climate Risk and Green Economy strategy. This is part of nation-wide capacity enhancement efforts at regional and local levels.

Globally and regionally, ACCRA’s success stories and evidence of engaging and influencing national systems are getting high recognition. Since 2011 we have been active in annual events like the Community Based Adaptation Conferences, the SDGs, UNFCCC COPs, Sendai Framework discussions and the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum. Our impact has even been demonstrated by the quoting of our research on adaptive capacity in the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report on Adaptation (Chapter 22).

This systematic transformation process is exciting. The fact that it is emerging after more than 5 years provides a critical reflection for programme designers, implementers and donors in resilience work.  I strongly believe that, without understanding the associated risks and vulnerabilities, we have no sustainable option for the complexities brought by climate change. This is why all development actors need long term and flexible funding that allow innovation and adaptive management to respond to the evolving priorities of the most vulnerable.

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