Reframing ‘CASH’: A Community Perspective

Reflections from 18th Community-Based Adaption Conference (CBA18) by Savio Rousseau Rozario

The climate-vulnerable communities have traditionally been supported with financial assistance, with less importance given to investing in enhancing their capacities to reduce donor dependency. Hence, this article highlights the importance of investing in community capabilities through trust-building, accountability, and transparency.

During the first week of May, I was in the scenic city of Arusha, Tanzania to attend the 18th Community Base Adaptation Conference, also known as the CBA conference, hosted by the Tanzanian People and Wildlife and organized by IIED. This year, the four-day-long conference brought together more than three hundred community representatives, practitioners, researchers, academics, and policymakers from fifty countries. The attendees shared and discussed the existing practices of community-based and locally-led adaptation, highlighted the major gaps in the adaptation arena, and the way forward to enable transformative change that creates systems to prioritize the local and marginalized community needs.

About CBA and its Relevance for Young Climate Adaptation Professionals
The CBA conference began in 2005, in Dhaka, Bangladesh aiming to strengthen the knowledge exchange and advocacy for climate change adaptation within the community of practitioners. The conference creates an enlightening platform for exchanging evidence-based research, storytelling, and practical tools to support the most vulnerable communities in tackling the impacts of climate change. The beauty of the conference lies in its simplicity, inclusivity, and diversity
First, the CBA conference helps young professionals connect with global experts, broaden their networks, and help them strive for career opportunities in the climate change field, mainly focusing on adaptation.

Secondly, CBA is attended by policymakers, climate negotiators, activists, etc., which gives the young professionals a chance to interact with like-minded stakeholders; expressing their viewpoints.

The conference also ensures grassroots and Indigenous community participation from some climate-vulnerable nations. For instance, this year at CBA18 ICCCAD with the support of IIED facilitated the participation of two local community members from the coastal area of Bangladesh. This grassroots representation mattered and shaped the outcome of the conference.

The two participants shared their lived realities and first-hand experiences of the challenges of climate change with the global audience.

Furthermore, the CBA conference encourages young practitioners to pitch new ideas on adaptation innovation at a mass scale through the Dragon Den’s sessions to draw donors’ attention. Besides, the several comprehensive thematic sessions at the conference provide scope for young professionals to grasp the desired knowledge through active participation and networking. The conference also designates a ‘marketplace’ space to encourage NGOs, INGOs, CBOs, and think tanks, to exhibit their innovative adaptation interventions.

Strengthening Accountability and Transparency
Local communities should be at the heart of any decision-making process in terms of scaling adaptation interventions at the local level. To operationalize this transformative change, firstly, practitioners and donors need to trust the local communities’ capabilities and vice versa. Secondly, the community also needs to gain the trust of the donors to work flexibly and implement adaptation interventions through learning-by-doing approaches. These can be achieved by maintaining a reciprocal relationship based on accountability and transparency from donors to intermediaries to local implementing bodies. The importance of integrating and trusting in the capabilities of the local communities was portrayed through a role-playing exercise in one of the thematic sessions at CBA18 on accountability and transparency. In the session, the donors played the role of communities, while the communities played the role of donors highlighting the current challenges at the community level. It was also observed that providing support is often depicted as cash flow from donor entities to the local communities via the intermediaries. Surely, financial support is one of the key aspects, however, it should not be the only means of supporting the community. Understanding the community’s needs and providing context-specific capacity enhancement provisions should also be given equal importance.

Photo source: Savio Rousseau Rozario- ICCCAD

Investing in Communities
Investing in the community’s capacity enhancement, and building confidence within the local actors can ensure sustainability, ownership, and leadership. Promotion of citizen science and technology; development of digital tools through participatory approaches; enhancing institutional capacity; community-led assessment and monitoring matrix; local context and language/ local dialect-specific tool development; incorporation of traditional and Indigenous knowledge; providing equitable access to information and technology; creating multistakeholder support networks; and providing vocational training and skill sharing can be some feasible areas of interventions. These measures do not necessarily promote direct financial support at the community level but can be long-term investments benefiting the community’s progression and resilience. The traditional perspective of cash flow in this regard can also be framed as CASH, in which ‘C’ stands for compassion, ‘A’ for accountability, ‘S’ for security, and ‘H’ for honor.

Defining and Reframing CASH
Compassion: Being compassionate for the communities relates to being empathetic and understanding their vulnerabilities, needs, and priorities. This happens beyond financial commitment and depends much on the mutual relationship between the donors, intermediaries, and communities. Compassion, empathy, and care are the prerequisites of trust building. And, trust is the foundation of a collaborative relationship with the communities.

Accountability: This refers to taking account of the community’s needs, concerns, and capacities. Accountability helps all the parties (from donors to communities) within a system to boost their relationship by being committed to their respective roles, providing individual feedback on the overall progress, and most importantly gaining trust. Besides, if the parties held themselves accountable for their actions to one another, it is more likely to ensure transparency within the system.

Security: The donors can support and invest in risk-taking adaptation practices of the communities which reduces their vulnerabilities, despite the uncertainties of the outcome. This can be considered a crucial enabler in safeguarding the communities’ adaptive capacities. Besides, such measures will help to implement principles 3,4, and 8 of Locally Led Adaptation for local communities through providing flexible, patient, and predictable funding; investing in local institutions, and capabilities; and utilizing collaborative investment partnerships.

Honor: Last but not least, honoring the deeply rooted traditions and culture of the communities, is a useful way of consistently engaging them. Adaptation is context-specific and happens at the local level. This creates complexities to intervene and support adaptation measures unless the local context is well-versed, and the local communities are included in the decision-making process (as LLA principle 1). For effectual community development incorporation of local culture, understanding the local context, and nurturing cultural awareness are equally important.

Photo source: Savio Rousseau Rozario- ICCCAD

About the Authors: Savio Rousseau Rozario works as a Program Coordinator, LLA Programme at ICCCAD.