Connections that make a difference
Engaging communities in climate adaptation policy through Social Network Analysis.
Over the past three years, ISF and CSIRO researchers have been examining the process of community adaptation to climate change within the state of New South Wales (NSW) as part of the Adaptive Communities research node.
Many of the impacts of climate change and variability have or will be felt at the local level; affecting communities, governance structures and key natural and physical assets. The overall aim of the research node is to explore ways to increase the capacity of communities to adapt to such impacts and inform how government can service the changing and ongoing needs of adapting communities.
Social network analysis (SNA) is a methodology that makes visible the connections between people in a community. It has been used by the Adaptive Communities Node researchers to understand the formal and informal knowledge channels that communicate climate change adaptation policy throughout regional communities.
Three regional communities were used as case studies for the research into community engagement: Shoalhaven, Bega and Orange
Semi-structured interviews and SNA were used to help the researchers understand the underlying social networks in these communities. An improved understanding of the community’s structure, specific needs, concerns and position in relation to climate change and adaptation, is needed to enhance the effectiveness of planning and policy decisions for the community.
Access networks for climate information in the Orange case study (Harman et al 2016)
The researchers found participants in the case study communities access information about climate change from a range of sources including: federal, state and local government, non-government organisations, community based organisations, mass media, the internet, social media, research organisations, political parties and individuals in their social network. They also share information about climate change with others. Social network analysis showed how information flows between these different channels. The semi-structured interviews provided useful details about the challenges, concerns and information needs in the communities.
Share networks for climate information in the Orange case study (Harman et al 2016)
The regional cases studies and a primer about the Social Network Analysis method, which explains some of the metrics used to understand network properties, are now available from the project web page.
The primer also suggests future applications for Social Network Analysis by government to communicate climate change adaptation policy most effectively and efficiently.
This project was funded by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage under the Adaptive Communities Node of the NSW Adaptation Research Hub.