Learning how to effectively convey complex research

As part of the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project, in January 2017 Mary Thompson-Hall attended a workshop on Experiential Learning aimed at training participants in conveying complex climate-related information to diverse audiences using participatory games.

Interactive games can increase understanding of complex issues, facilitate constructive discussion and encourage collaboration. Conveying research results and concepts in an effective, interactive way is key to ensuring that lessons learned from the project are taken up as concrete actions.

Watch the video produced by ASSAR:

The workshop was aimed at building the capacity of the ASSAR Research into Use (RiU) coordinators from the West African, East African, Southern African, and Indian ASSAR study region. It was facilitated by Bettina Koelle and Margot Steenbergen of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

Read more on the ASSAR website

Critical Thinking and Visions of the Future with ASSAR in West Africa

assar-wafricaThe second round of Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) workshops were held near the end of 2016 in Ghana and Mali as part of the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project. These workshops built on a set of scenarios developed through a collaboration of ASSAR researchers and stakeholders from Upper West, Ghana and Koutiala, Mali. These scenarios facilitated participants to think critically about what the future may hold in terms of climate change, agriculture and food so that more legitimate actions can be designed and taken in the present.


In Ghana, the second workshop was held the 2nd and 3rd of November at the Nouyong Empire Hotel in the city of Wa in the Upper West Region. Dinesh Budhram from Reos Partners and Margot Steenbergen from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre facilitated the workshop. Participants were reacquainted with the scenario stories that had been developed over the preceding months through use of a set of scenarios videos prepared by the ASSAR communications team. The facilitators then led participants through at process of critical thinking and collective visioning that ultimately resulted in a set of prioritized themes or action areas. These included 1) disaster risk management, 2) improved market systems, 3) ecosystem management, 4) sustainable food and livelihoods empowerment, 5) climate smart water resources management, 6) and dissemination of the group’s shared vision for Upper West region, termed “Vision 2035”, to larger audiences and integrating it with national policy documents. Action groups were formed around these key action areas by those participants interested in and committed to shaping these ideas further, and remaining in touch with the ASSAR team to carry forward.


In Mali, the 2nd TSP workshop was held on the 13th and 14th of December in Koutiala, Mali. There, participants from the Sikasso region along with two national level stakeholders worked to develop a common vision: “A l’horizon 2035, faire des investissements dans l’agriculture et la conservation des ressources naturelles afin de garantir la sécurité alimentaire et améliorer le revenu des ménages dans le cercle de Koutiala” – translated as: “By 2035, strategic investments will target agriculture and natural resource conservation to ensure food security and wellbeing in Koutiala Region”. Based on this common vision, the socio-cultural context of the Region was analyzed to identify existing opportunities and barriers. Three groups of stakeholders were formed: public workers; civil society and farmers (farmer organisations). Each group was asked to list relevant strategies for achieving the vision, and for each of those, resources needed; problem to be addressed; actors to engage, and short and long term actions neede. From their lists, participants prioritized the following strategies, 1) management of rainwater on farms, 2) improvement of soil fertility, 3) promotion of improved seeds, 4) promotion of good nutritional practices, 5) secure land tenure, 6) forest resource management, and 7) production and post-harvest management. The Mali team is now working with the stakeholders on ways to put these strategies into action.

Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) Workshops held in Mali and Ghana

TSP Workshop in Wa, Ghana

TSP Workshop in Wa, Ghana

The month of June was a busy one for START and the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project, which held Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) workshops in both Mali and Ghana. Facilitated in Ghana by Reos Partners from South Africa and by our partners at ICRISAT in Mali, the workshops brought together a range of different stakeholders from the ASSAR study-sites and different levels of government. The aim was to build relevant, challenging, plausible and clear stories around what the future of adaptation may look like through the year 2035. Driving forces that were prioritized in the workshops were availability of water,

TSP Workshop in Koutiala, Mali

TSP Workshop in Koutiala, Mali

level of political commitment, access to water and land access and ownership. Currently START, Reos Partners, our team members from the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies at the University of Ghana, ICRISAT Mali, and Michigan State University are carrying out an iterative process of revising the draft stories with participating stakeholders. This is in preparation for a 2nd round of follow-up workshops that will be held in each country in August. Stay tuned for updates as we move forward with this exciting process!

Click here to read a more in-depth article about the Transformative Scenario Planning workshops.

ASSAR Mali Team Identifies Stakeholders Involved in Agricultural Intensification

ASSAR story B 03-30-16The Mali team of the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project conducted a one-day meeting on 17th March to identify new stakeholders involved with agricultural intensification, a core focus of the ASSAR West Africa research. During this meeting, relevant connections between these stakeholders and the different dimensions of the West Africa team’s Regional Research Programme on climate change adaptation were identified and power relations among these stakeholders were assessed to better inform the Research into Use (RiU) work of ASSAR. This type of assessment helps to illuminate which stakeholders are most influential in matters regarding agricultural intensification, but also highlights those whose voices may be marginalized and therefore need to be given greater attention. Lastly, this meeting helped to identify and engage the reference group for the Mali team’s transformative scenario planning (TSP) workshops to be held in June and August. This group will play an active role in the participatory TSP process, which aims to bring a wide range of stakeholders together around problematic issues and to envision ways forward for addressing those challenges. In total 19 participants attended the workshop.

ASSAR story 03-30-16

How can climate change adaptation in the semi-arid regions of West Africa be more effective and widespread? Evidence from Ghana and Mali

Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) is a research project being undertaken in the semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia, examining the dynamics and drivers of vulnerability, while exploring ways to enhance the resilience of people, local organisations and governments. ASSAR aims to promote climate adaptation policies and practices that are effective, widespread and sustainable. In West Africa, ASSAR focuses on the dry sub-humid band that extends from the Upper West Region of northern Ghana through to southern Mali, referred to as the Wa-Bobo-Sikasso transect. This briefing note summarizes the key findings from the Regional Diagnostic Study (RDS) recently conducted in Ghana and Mali, as part of the ASSAR project.

Planning for Climate Change in the Dryland Areas of West Africa

Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) is a research project being undertaken in the semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia, examining the dynamics and drivers of vulnerability, while exploring ways to enhance the resilience of people, local organisations and governments. ASSAR aims to promote climate adaptation policies and practices that are effective, widespread and sustainable. In West Africa, ASSAR focuses on the dry sub-humid band that extends from the Upper West Region of northern Ghana through to southern Mali, referred to as the Wa-Bobo-Sikasso transect.

Engaging Stakeholders and Initiating Fieldwork in West Africa: ASSAR Update

Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) is one of START’s newest programs. In the last several months, ASSAR regional teams in West, East, and Southern Africa as well as in India have been busy disseminating the findings of the Regional Diagnostic Studies (RDS). This diagnostic research is aimed at understanding what people in semi-arid regions currently know about climate change, and what they’re doing to adapt to these changes.

In West Africa, district level RDS dialogue events have been held with stakeholders from Lawra and Nandom districts in Ghana and from Koutiala in Mali. National level events have also taken place in Accra and Bamako. These events provided opportunities for stakeholders to learn about RDS findings and to give feedback to inform the second phase of the ASSAR project, the Regional Research Phase. More information is available here.

ASSAR stakeholder RDS dialog in MaliStakeholder RDS dialogue participants in Koutiala, Mali in July, 2015.

START has been working closely with graduate student researchers and others from the West Africa team to prepare for the fieldwork of the Regional Research Phase. This work has already gotten underway with a preparatory field visit to research sites in northwestern Ghana and will continue to roll out from October through January. This work will be focusing on ASSAR’s three research streams of social differentiation, governance, and ecosystem services along with two crosscutting themes of gender and knowledge resources. In order to generate creative and novel thinking about adaptation futures in the region and to inform our ongoing research, a Transformative Scenario Planning exercise will also be undertaken as part of the West Africa team’s Regional Research Phase. For more information on ASSAR, theTransformative Scenario Planning and the work of the regional teams please visit START’s ASSAR web page or the global ASSAR website.

ASSAR TSP training in Accra

West Africa student researchers participating in a Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) training exercise in Accra, Ghana in September 2015. Photo Credit: Lucia Scodanibbio  

Call for Applications: Post-Doctoral Fellows in Climate Change Research

The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) invites applications for Post-Doctoral Fellows to participate in a 5-year international interdisciplinary research programme on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation in the Semi-Arid Areas of South Asia. Appointments will be for a year, extendable to two years. Currently IIHS is looking to fill 4 Post-Doctoral positions in the following areas:

  • Hydrology, preferably with expertise in Urban Hydrology
  • Water Energy Nexus
  • Knowledge Systems
  • Social Science

Climate change is one of the defining existential and development challenges of our time and IIHS is building cutting-edge scientific, policy and implementation capacity to address these challenges in India, South Asia and across the globe. Towards achieving this, IIHS works with a host of global and local partners through innovative research programmes, including the ASSAR (Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions) project which is part of CARIAA (Collaborative Adaptation Research in Africa and Asia), a 5-year IDRC/DFID funded frontier international research programme. More information about CARIAA | ASSAR and Climate Change research at IIHS are provided in the links below.

The prospective Post-Doctoral Fellows will be joining this project one year into the program when the second phase begins – the Regional Research Phase (RRP). The RRP will emphasize the dynamics of: i) ecosystem services ii) social differentiation and iii) governance. The two dimensions of Gender and Knowledge Systems serve as cross-cutting themes. It is expected that the RRP would be undertaken in two phases: Phase 1 that would consolidate on the diagnostic (Year 1) research and build a nuanced understanding across the research streams in the present, and Phase 2 that would investigate potential change (including vulnerability) and adaptive response pathways over 2015-2030. Both phases will be co-created with relevant secondary and primary stakeholders.

The CARIAA | ASSAR project will build capacity within IIHS on Environment and Sustainability including climate change related issues. IIHS also has a practice team that works on other issues of sustainability, including disaster risk reduction. Prospective Post-Doctoral Fellows will have a great opportunity to work with professionals involved in various related areas, in addition to working with people involved in institution building.

Terms of Reference
The Post-Doctoral Fellows will be responsible for research, policy analysis, publication and teaching around climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation strategies around issues at the interface of development-adaptation-mitigation nexus across urban, peri-urban and rural contexts of India.

The Post-Doctoral Fellows will report to a team of senior IIHS faculty including: Dr. Sumetee Pahwa Gajjar – Programme Lead and one of the Contributing Authors of the IPCC Assessment Report 5 (2014), Dr. Amir Bashir Bazaz, Dr. Neha Sami, and Amlanjyoti Goswami.

The positions listed are open only to Indian citizens or Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) and will be based out of the IIHS, Bangalore office. Successful candidates will be expected to join no later than 1st January 2016. IIHS encourages women, people with disabilities and those from economically and socially excluded communities with the requisite skills and qualifications to apply for the positions.

Deadline to apply is 20 November 2015.

The Post-Doctoral Fellows are expected to

  • Work within a multi-disciplinary team that includes development practitioners, climate scientists, ecologists, economists, hydrologists, social scientists and urbanists across multiple field sites.
  • Help investigate and test new approaches, tools and methods to assist in reducing climate vulnerability and enable climate adaptation at scale.
  • Co-author journal articles, policy briefs and disseminate research findings via multiple channels.
  • Participate in developing teaching material on issues related to climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation, including teaching through the Urban Practitioners Programme at IIHS.
  • Lead an independent research plan across the agreed ASSAR research streams.


  • A PhD in Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Agriculture Science, Climate and Sustainability Science, Hydrology, Energy Studies, Environmental/Resource Economics, Technology, Political Science, or relevant related areas, from an internationally acknowledged University/Research Centre.
  • A minimum of one year of post-qualification research, typically at the interface of climate change and a relevant research theme (more information in the links provided below).
  • Quality internationally peer-reviewed academic publications.
  • A strong grasp over recent climate change related academic literature, policies and adaptation practices, especially in South Asia.
  • Fluency in at least one of the following languages (apart from English): Hindi, Marathi, Kannada or Tamil

Applications must include

  • A cover letter that explains precisely how the applicant’s qualifications and research converges with this call and what s/he plans to do during the Fellowship.
  • CV not exceeding three pages (emailed as part of the application AND uploaded to IIHS online system).
  • Writing sample (a peer-reviewed article or the introduction and chapter of PhD dissertation).
  • Names and full contact addresses (including e-mail and telephone numbers) of three referees.

Links to additional information: CARIAA | ASSAR programme and IIHS and Climate Change Research. Applications must be submitted by email to postdoc@iihs.ac.in and completed online here.

View the original posting here.

ASSAR West Africa team engaged district and national level stakeholders at events in Mali and Ghana

ASSAR West Africa team engaging stakeholders in dialogue on the regional diagnostic study and taking action for moving into regional research phase

The Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) West Africa team has held district and national level stakeholder engagement events in both Mali and Ghana.

In Ghana
A district level event was held from from 22nd to 23rd of July and included participants from the Lawra and Nandom districts in northwestern Ghana. The purpose was to introduce participants to the major findings of the West Africa regional diagnostic study (RDS) and to give them the opportunity to give feedback on the findings of the RDS through corrections, additions and recommendations. The participants included representatives from farmers groups, civil service, civil society groups and the traditional council.

The one-day Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR): National level dialogue and RDS Dissemination Workshop held on the 29th July, 2015 in Accra, Ghana brought together diverse stakeholders from academia as well as civil society organizations. Also present were students working on the ASSAR project. The aim of this workshop was to introduce participants to the major findings of the West Africa RDS and to provide a platform to validate findings which will help transition the project to the regional research programme (RRP) phase.

In Mali
A district level Regional Diagnostic Study (RDS) dissemination event was held in Koutiala, Mali in July, 2015. The aim of this event was to share the RDS findings with local stakeholders, and to accommodate stakeholder comments and suggestions as the ASSAR team prepares to transition from the RDS phase to the next regional research phase of ASSAR. Find more information on this event here.

A national level RDS dissemination event was also held in Mali in September. More information on that event will be available soon.

Field visit to the Nandom district in the Upper West Region of Ghana

Moving Forward
Two PhD students, four Masters students, and two technical officers from the Ghana group of the ASSAR West Africa team undertook a two and half day field visit to Lawra and Nandom districts in the Upper West Region from the 16th to the 18th of September, 2015. This forms the first field visit in the second phase of the ASSAR project- the Regional Research Phase phase. The trip served as a reconnaissance survey to enable students to identify study areas for their research work. Also, it sought to assist students in familiarizing themselves with local stakeholders and the communities they will be working with. More information will be available as the RRP phase progresses.

To learn more about ASSAR, visit our program page, or contact Mary Thompson-Hall (mthompson-hall@start.org).