ASAP Advances the Private Sector Climate Services Marketplace

Between 2016 and 2020, ASAP members from for-profit companies increased from 15% to almost 30%. According to Climate Change Business Journal, climate adaptation and resilience services market growth has been in the double digits since 2018 and is forecast to continue its growth at least 12-15% per year to at least 2022. Now is a critically important time to connect and support this growing component of the adaptation and resilience field. 

To address this need, ASAP, through a 2019 small grant from Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA), created tools to better understand for-profit providers’ practices and needs and support integration of existing public-sector climate data and information into providers’ products, services, and strategies. 

  • We designed and tested a cutting-edge virtual workshop to build service provider knowledge and skills. The workshop supported development of higher-quality, competitive adaptation services and enhanced new business viability. It also helped to foster innovation and cooperation across sectors and functions in the climate data, information, and service marketplaces.
  • Through the workshop, parallel surveys, and interviews we identified the most important provider needs and barriers for using publicly available, vetted, region-specific climate data and information. This is critical for advancing definition and maturation of the climate service marketplace.
  • We used a relationship-centered approach throughout, one that holds much promise for ensuring that as the market grows, the quality of services also advances. This approach enables important progress on our goals of standardizing future climate information used in projects across the region and centering justice and equity as core values for adaptation and resilience services. 

We’re excited to replicate and scale this work in 2021 with continued support from GLISA.

Cutting-Edge Knowledge- and Skill-Building Virtual Workshop

ASAP partnered with Adaptation International to design and market an impactful virtual learning experience for 29 participants at the Great Lakes Climate Service Provider Academy September 22-October 2, 2020. Participants represented 25 different organizations, a mix of multinational companies already operating in multiple Great Lakes states/provinces, larger companies headquartered outside of the Great Lakes seeking to expand their services to the region, small companies based in the region, and a handful of state-focused academic and government institutions. Over one-quarter of participants represented woman-owned businesses and around one-sixth identified as a small business enterprise. The Academy included introductions to ASAP, GLISA, and the adaptation services marketplace; deep dives into GLISA’s climate data and information resources and ASAP’s professional guidance resources; case studies from the project’s Advisory Group members; and hands-on exercises designed to enhance providers’ existing adaptation and resilience services. The workshop made excellent use of distinct virtual spaces to provide opportunities for large and small group discussion as well as one-on-one interactions to enhance participants’ learning experiences.

As part of our feedback loop, participants shared that the workshop provided a high level of value to their organizations and was successful in meeting the stated learning objectives: gaining increased confidence accessing vetted, publicly available climate data and information for the Great Lakes region and applying it to their projects; being able to recognize the presence or absence of field-spanning principles for quality climate change adaptation practice in their own work and the work of their organizations, partners, and stakeholders; and creating a resource that aids in integrating the best publicly available climate data and adaptation best practices into their business. The success of the workshop demonstrated there is strong demand for this type of event, that it can be executed successfully online, and that ASAP’s pilot version is ready to be refined and replicated. Learn more about the design and delivery of the 2020 Great Lakes Climate Service Providers Academy here.

Identification of Needs and Barriers for Providers, the Marketplace, and the Field

The workshop, as well as data collected through surveys and interviews, revealed the importance of strengthening information sharing networks in the Great Lakes region to help providers find new sources of high quality data that meet their needs. For-profit climate service providers use a wide variety of climate data and information resources. Federal and state resources are popular because they are highly visible and required by regulations and funders for certain climate adaptation projects, especially those affecting public works and construction. Awareness of public climate data and information resources produced by boundary-chain organizations like GLISA is comparatively low. Interview participants described the marketplace for publicly available climate data and information as large but difficult-to-navigate, which may be because it includes many decentralized actors. Therefore, it is important to strengthen information sharing networks in the Great Lakes region to help providers find new sources of high quality data that meet their needs. Because key federal resources are a common touchpoint for service providers, these federal programs could be valuable partners for that work. It is also important to continue the work of mapping actors in this space in a way that’s clear and useful for all. For example, this project refined and socialized the “Actors in the Climate Data Lifecycle” archetypes developed through ASAP and its partners’ work to enhance interoperability of climate knowledge brokers and online resources for adaptation practitioners:

  • Climate Researcher: Conducting basic scientific research on climate change, including collecting data and developing climate projections
  • Climate Science Provider: Providing climate science to decision makers
  • Climate Data Visualization and Tool Provider: Producing climate data-driven tools and climate data visualizations
  • Facilitator: Facilitating the effective use/application of climate data and information
  • End User of Climate Data and Information: Making decisions for groups of people based on the application or interpretation of climate data and information
  • Climate Advocate: Advocating for certain decisions to be made based on the application or interpretation of climate data and information
  • Funder: Providing financial resources to enable other organizations to conduct one or more of the functions described in this list

Our research and our workshop feedback clearly demonstrated that service providers are seeking individual technical assistance. For-profit climate service providers vigorously pursue new resources, partnerships, and skills to improve the quality of their products and better meet demand in the marketplace. They have strong, clear ideas of what makes their business successful, knowledge of their areas for improvement, and a strong commitment to the integrity of their products and practice. They can also be tentative about sharing information about their services and needs with those outside their company. Individual technical assistance not only allows for more targeted training and resource deployment but can also help ease for-profit providers into the collaborative norms of the adaptation and resilience field, yielding long-term positive impacts. 

For-profit service providers demonstrated strong, consistent interest in making greater use of publicly available climate data to expand and improve their existing climate services. However, lack of training and skills, regulatory incentives, and client demand are big barriers to integrating climate data and information provided by boundary organizations like GLISA. Boundary organizations can increase use of the highest quality publicly available climate data and information among for-profit providers by directly targeting these persistent barriers. For example, by working with providers to develop marketing language that can help providers demonstrate the value to clients of integrating GLISA resources into projects, focusing on teaching providers how to evaluate GLISA data for how well it satisfies existing regulatory requirements, and building awareness for where GLISA data quality exceeds other common, mandated sources of public data. Climate service providers are beholden to their client’s specifications on data, value strong stakeholder engagement, and desire the most accurate data available to help give clients as complete an understanding of a project’s cost and benefit as is possible. Providing climate service providers with information that can help them make GLISA data meaningful to clients may increase the ability and willingness of providers to try GLISA data. Learn more about private sector climate service providers’ practices and needs in our report here.

Relationship-Centered Approach to Advancing the Climate Services Marketplace

ASAP rooted this project in our relationship-centered approach to building the adaptation field, beginning with recruiting a group of ASAP members to advise project development and implementation. The Advisory Group, representing large and small for-profit firms, industry groups, and public sector entities, provided indispensable insight into barriers and needs providers are facing, served as networking nodes for project outreach, and provided case study examples during the Service Providers Academy to enhance participant engagement and understanding. They also shed important light on how to navigate concerns about privacy and proprietary information, how the structure of fee for service companies impacts their needs, and how special business designations can shape a providers’ identity and interests. Connecting and sharing in a collaborative environment was second nature to most Advisory Group members; not so for all workshop participants. However, by modeling the approach in a safe environment in the workshop we were able to demonstrate its value. We created multiple options for participants to engage in applied learning: interacting with an instructor or interacting with other participants. The majority of participants chose the former during Session 1; by Session 4 well over half of participants chose the latter. Thank you to our Advisory Group Members!

  • Laura Briley, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments
  • Jessica Cahail, Azavea
  • Ann Ellingson
  • Jim Fox, NEMAC+FernLeaf
  • Ned Gardiner, NOAA CPO
  • Erica Heller, The Brendle Group
  • Jeffrey Meek, Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • Sascha Petersen, Adaptation International
  • Ted Redmond, paleBLUEdot llc
  • Daniel Schoonmaker, West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
  • Justine Shapiro-Kline, One Architecture and Urbanism
  • Brian Smoliak, Two Degrees Adapt

Replicating and Scaling in 2021

In 2021 ASAP will refine research and engagement tools and apply them in additional region(s), building momentum and progress on critical outcomes for the climate services marketplace and the adaptation field by: 

  • Supporting development of high-quality, competitive adaptation services and enhanced new business viability.
  • Fostering innovation and cooperation across sectors and functions in the climate data, information, and service marketplaces.
  • Advancing definition and maturation of the climate service marketplace.
  • Making progress on standardizing the future climate information used in projects across the region and centering justice and equity as core values for adaptation and resilience services.

Companies and RISA programs interested in working with us in 2021 should reach out to Rachel Jacobson, ASAP Deputy Director.