Advancing the Adaptation Field Through Regional Conferences:

Reflections on the 2018 Regional Adaptation Fora

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Report Purpose:

In 2018, ASAP made significant investments in six Regional Adaptation Fora (RAFs). We made these investments for two reasons: 1) our members resoundingly requested that we prioritize activities that facilitate opportunities for them to convene in person and 2) we believe that regional adaptation conferences are critical for advancing the adaptation field in North America.

RAFs are regional climate change adaptation conferences associated with the National Adaptation Forum (NAF). Currently, there are six RAFs: California Adaptation Forum (CAF), Carolinas Climate Resilience Conference (CCRC), Great Lakes Adaptation Forum (GLAF), Local Solutions: Eastern Climate Preparedness Conference (Local Solutions), Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact Summit (SE FL Summit), and Southwest Adaptation Forum (SWAF). Most of these conferences take place biennially in even numbered years, complimenting NAF which takes place in odd numbered years. The SE FL Summit takes place every year. In 2018, the RAFs ranged widely in attendance, from 100 to nearly 800 attendees, and budget, from $45,000 to $320,000. Conference lengths ranged from two to three days.

In this report, we present analysis and information drawn from the 2018 RAFs to:

  • Gain insight about the state of the field.
  • Assess opportunities for the field to leverage the RAFs to accelerate dissemination and uptake of adaptation promising practices across regions.
  • Determine how ASAP can best support the RAFs going forward.

We hope this report will serve as a testament to the need for and value of regional adaptation fora and encourage increased investment in these events and greater coordination between them.

Key Lessons

  • Regional adaptation conferences are moving the needle for adaptation professionals and the field. Each of these conferences helps individual adaptation professionals, and the field as a whole, advance in the sophistication, quality, and volume of adaptation practice, and contributes to career development for adaptation practitioners.
  • Cross-regional sharing will enhance national cohesion and field development. The shared relevancy of many topics across RAFs demonstrates a cohesiveness in the adaptation field and underscores the value to practitioners of engaging in national conversations to share needs, promising practices, and successes to overcome capacity barriers and accelerate the pace of field evolution across North America.
  • Practitioners want to focus more on 1) equity, 2) funding, finance, and investment, and 3) building networks and relationships. As such, the field should focus on building relationships with experts in these areas and consider these topics for field-spanning activities that take place outside of the RAFs as well.
  • Consistent data collection will improve the value of RAFs to the field. Developing consistent data collection mechanisms, such as shared pre- and post-conference survey questions and consistent conference summary activities, will augment the value the RAFs provide to the field as a whole, as well as provide greater context for self-evaluation and understanding to each region and RAF.

“We don’t often get the space or time to reflect on our practice with fellow adaptation practitioners who get ‘it,’… this conference was a helpful reminder that our network can learn much from and contribute to other networks in the region,” ASAP Member Melissa Ocana commenting on the 2018 Local Solutions: Eastern Climate Preparedness Conference.

Learn more about the 2018 Regional Fora