Co-developing climate information for decision making through podcasts: Experience from 9 southern African cities

Co-developing climate information for decision making through podcasts: Experience from 9 southern African cities

This session focuses on a podcast series being produced by START, the STARTcast, which highlights learnings from the Future Resilience for African CiTies And Lands (FRACTAL) program (2015-2021), and especially on the transdisciplinary approaches implemented across all aspects of the program.

Throughout the project, FRACTAL has worked to consider how decision-makers in nine southern African cities can access and use robust, timely climate information in order to help them make sound climate resilience and adaptation planning decisions.

STARTcast season 2 is currently in production and the first episode is due to be aired in May 2021. Topics for the season include: climate information distillation and climate risk narratives; city learning labs; establishing a network of embedded researchers; and implementing city learning exchanges. FRACTAL has applied various transdisciplinary approaches throughout these activities, and these are being unpacked over the course of the series. The season will also feature insights from FRACTAL’s funders as well as highlights of transdisciplinary research pursued in other Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) projects.

For this RISE session, START and our partners at FRACTAL have a dual aim of spotlighting the rich diversity of transdisciplinary work that the FRACTAL project has implemented in African cities and to explore the development of a podcast as a medium to share impactful learning and research results. Using soundbites from the podcast, the session will demonstrate how the podcasts were engendered as a creative output through which learnings from the FRACTAL project could be shared with a wider audience.


Host: START International

Harare, Zimbabwe

Alice McClure

Alice McClure has been working at CSAG since 2016 and in the field of climate change and sustainable development since 2011. Alice’s research interests span climate risk and vulnerability, climate governance learning, climate adaptation, African cities resilience, as well as localizing and understanding interlinkages between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She has particular expertise in integrating these research foci to inform climate-resilient decision making in cities by bringing together networks of critical players (and funders) in addressing pressing climate risks.  She has demonstrated this expertise through her role as the academic coordinator of the Future Resilience of African CiTies and Lands (FRACTAL) project at CSAG, which involves leading an international transdisciplinary team in the design, implementation and adaptive management of multi-actor, multi-region co-production research to contribute to urban African climate resilience. In line with her research interests, Alice is also enrolled in a PhD at UCT, through which she is exploring the value of transdisciplinary learning processes for governing complex, emergent problems associated with African urban climate risks. She is passionate about working with society to produce climate-related knowledge that supports transformations towards a better future. Alice obtained an MSc in Environmental Science from Rhodes University in 2011.

Anna Taylor

Dr Anna Taylor is a geographer and environmental scientist specializing in urban climate adaptation, with a particular interest in transformative ways of governing water-related risks and vulnerabilities. She engages in transdisciplinary research on climate resilient, sustainable urbanism, public decision making and multi-level governance. She is currently a Research Fellow with the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town. Anna has 15 years’ experience working on research and consulting projects related to climate risks and adaptation. Anna’s PhD and post-doctoral work focused on climate adaptation in southern African urban contexts (notably in Cape Town, Windhoek, Durban, Harare and Lusaka), contributing to the Mistra Urban Futures, CLIMWAYS, FRACTAL, LIRA 2030 and GreenGov projects. Recent consulting projects have included developing a Climate Risk and Vulnerability Framework for the South African national government (Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries), and learning from case studies of using scientific climate information in decision-making of South African metropolitan municipalities (commissioned by the Cities Support Programme in the National Treasury). Prior to joining UCT in 2011, from 2006 Anna worked for the Stockholm Environment Institute in Oxford, UK, on various international projects supporting climate vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning.

Mary Thompson-Hall

As a Senior Program Specialist at START, Dr. Mary Thompson-Hall served as a Co-Principal Investigator and West Africa Team Lead on the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project, part of the broader Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA) until 2018.  Currently she is working on a diverse portfolio that includes work on adaptation and water management in Mali, renewable energy in North and Sub-Saharan Africa, gender, generating greater impact from research, communications and proposal development. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in environmental studies from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in geography from the University of South Carolina where her research focused on intersections of conservation and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, Mary worked with World Bank and African Development Bank experts on participatory adaptation fieldwork for the Zambian Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), and also co-authored a USAID commissioned report on gender and climate change adaptation. Prior to beginning her work at START, she worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Basque Center for Climate Change (BC3) in Bilbao, Spain on topics relating to agricultural biodiversity and climate change adaptation.

Sukaina Bharwani

Dr. Sukaina Bharwani (Stockholm Environment Institute, Oxford Centre, UK) is a Senior Research Fellow with nearly 20 years of experience in climate change adaptation decision-making support, climate services, participatory stakeholder engagement, tool co-development, and knowledge management. She is an interdisciplinary senior researcher with a background in both social anthropology and computer science, providing her with a unique range of qualitative and quantitative skills to further climate adaptation research in innovative ways. Sukaina co-leads the SEI Climate Services initiative and several work streams in large European and international projects. She has also coordinated the strategic and technical development of the weADAPT global platform and network for climate change adaptation for the past 15 years. Her current research includes supporting urban adaptation in southern Africa, connecting communities working on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Europe through science-stakeholder dialogue and visualisation tools, contributing to the field of climate services and exploring innovative ways (e.g. using AI) to transform knowledge management practice. Sukaina has a Ph.D. in Applied Computing (Social Sciences) and a BA (Hons) in Social Anthropology.

Mzime Ndebele-Murisa


Dr. Mzime Ndebele-Murisa is an Ecologist who is passionate about using participatory, inclusive, and bottom-up approaches to help solve global environmental change challenges.  Mzime has over 15 years’ experience in academia, research and in the development sector. She has worked with several research and policy organizations in and out of Africa using multi-and trans-disciplinary research approaches with a focus on natural resources management; environmental change; urban resilience, freshwater ecology and conservation.  She is currently a Program Specialist at START International managing the Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands (FRACTAL), among other programs such as the Education Partnership for Innovation in Communities (EPIC) program. She has also been based at the Chinhoyi University of Technology and the University of Zimbabwe. Mzime has a PhD from the University of the Western Cape (South Africa), an MSc in Tropical Resource Ecology and a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Zimbabwe.

Session Summary

This session was hosted by START representative, Mzime Murisa and researchers from FRACTAL (Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands): Anna Taylor, Alice McClure and Sukhaina Bharwani. FRACTAL is a trans-disciplinary group of researchers from partner organizations around the world that aims to advance scientific knowledge about regional climate responses to human activities. START works towards realizing a sustainable future through science.

The session aimed to share insights from START’s podcast and FRACTAL’s Learning Labs to explore better ways of collaboratively and inclusively developing climate information that incorporates insights from a variety of different knowledge types and stakeholder experiences.

The Learning Lab process brings together stakeholders from a wide range of different contexts and engages them in grappling with acute climate issues in unexpected, disarming and creative ways. The process is designed to help individuals look at the issues differently, outside of the framing of their particular knowledge and in so doing, helps spark the development of more holistic climate solutions.

Presenters stressed the importance of operating within these collaborative processes with empathy and a core motive of understanding. They also shared how important it was for the learning process to remain iterative and experimental, continually led by the participants themselves and not by a planned or prior-imagined idea of what the process should look like.