Adapting the Community Sector for Climate Extremes

This report, subtitled ''Extreme Weather, Climate Change and the Community Sector - Risks and Adaptations," evaluates community service organizations current vulnerability to climate change impacts to physical infrastructure, and their role in managing risks to their clients and the community. The research was funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility in Australia.

The key objectives of this project were to:

- understand the extent to which community service organizations (CSOs) are aware of and prepared for climate change, particularly extreme weather risks to physical infrastructure and critical services;

- investigate the consequences of climate-driven CSO service delivery failure for the people reliant on them to meet basic needs;

- identify a comprehensive set of adaptation options to increase the resilience of CSOs and their clients; and

- to explore barriers to implementing adaptation.

This project examined the relationship between physical and social infrastructure - in the form of applying CSO services. Specifically it is addressing the ways in which the climate-driven failure of CSO service delivery worsens risks to the individuals and communities they serve and, on the other hand, how preparedness may reduce vulnerability to climate change and extreme weather impacts to human settlements and infrastructure.

Findings from the research suggest that CSOs are highly vulnerable and not well prepared to respond to climate change and extreme weather impacts to physical infrastructure and that this underlying organizational vulnerability worsens the vulnerability of people experiencing poverty and inequality to climate change.  

The key barriers to adaptation were identified, including inadequate financial resources, lack of institutionalized knowledge and skills for adaptation, and the belief that climate change adaptation is beyond the scope of CSOs core business. On the other hand, key indicators of organizational resilience to climate change and extreme weather impacts include: level of knowledge about extreme weather risks, past experience of an extreme weather event and organizational size.

To raise awareness about the risks to service delivery from climate change and to support capacity building within the community services sector, the project produced a series of outputs and resources, which are immediately available for implementation by organization to assist with the process of identifying, analyzing and responding to climate change and extreme weather risks:

  • The first national survey data set (in Australia) covering the vulnerability of CSOs and their clients to climate change and extreme weather impacts to infrastructure;
  • A set of CSO Failure Mode and Adaptation Mode Exemplars, which identify and codify the mechanisms by which service delivery is disrupted in response to infrastructure failure and, conversely, the processes for and consequences of implementing adaptation for organizations, clients and the broader social system; and
  • Community Sector Risk and Adaptation Registers, which describe and catalogue over 200 discrete risks and 450 adaptation actions specific to four key areas of CSO activity and operation.

This report concludes with a set of recommendations about what is required to address the risk and adaptation needs of CSOs. These recommendations focus on four key areas for action: resources, preparedness, building resilience to direct impacts and sharing risks through insurance and collaboration. Future research priorities for adaptation in this sector have also been identified.

Publication Date: 2013

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Karl Mallon
  • Emily Hamilton
  • Manu Black
  • Betsi Beem
  • Julius Abs

Related Organizations:

  • National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
  • Australian Council of Social Service
  • University of Sydney


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment


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