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Tools for understanding complexity described here have been designed to help draw out some of the elements described elsewhere such the long timescales and uncertainty associated with climate change and the need to make decisions with incomplete information while also recognising the ‘wicked’ nature of such problems and that there will be no single, objectively right answer to improve a given adaptation situation and different people are likely to come to very different solutions. The tools here offer ways for different actors to describe how they are seeing the situation, allowing shared understanding to develop with the potential for reducing conflict and identifying areas for effective intervention.

Exemplary methods and tools

Cynefin frameworkThis is a framework for working with uncertainty and complexity. The Cynefin framework has five domains. The first four domains are:

Simple, in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious to all and we can apply best practice.
Complicated, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge and we can apply good practice.
Complex, in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance and we can sense emergent practice.
Chaotic, in which there is no relationship between cause and effect at systems level and we can discover novel practice.

The fifth domain is Disorder, which is the state of not knowing what type of causality exists, in which state people will revert to their own comfort zone in making a decision. In full use, the Cynefin framework has sub-domains, and the boundary between simple and chaotic is seen as a catastrophic one: complacency leads to failure. In conclusion, chaos is always transitionary and dynamics are a key aspect.
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Soft systems
Soft systems methodology was developed by Peter Checkland in the late 1960s. Originally it was seen as a modelling tool, but in later years it has been seen increasingly as a learning and meaning development tool. Although it develops models, the models are not supposed to represent the “real world”, but, by using systems rules and principles, they allow you to structure your thinking about the real world. It recognises that different actors do not perceive and understand situations from the same perspective. Knowledge is viewed as socially constructed and thus different actors have different perspectives relating to their particular goals, experiences, values etc. Soft systems methodology provides a framework for exploring multiple perspectives and finding ways to accommodate it (though not necessarily consensus) through mutual learning processes.Complexity, Soft systems methodology and planning: a case of integrated natural hazards risk management

For more information go to:
Framework for diagnosing gaps, points for intervention in a system and reflecting on past successes. Complementarities theory suggests that at certain times a number of factors (both internal and external to a project or organisation) come together to create a ‘window of opportunity’ when individuals and groups are more likely to be able to act effectively for change. The complementarities matrix allows you to identify what is happening in 4 aspects of organisations key for supporting change. This helps to pin point gaps in capacity, structures and processes that need to be addressed in order to respond well to a changing climate.For more information go to:
Examples given in Insider Voices e.g. Thurulie factory in Sri Lanka
Appreciative inquiryA method of change management that can be used at many levels to understand whole systems, organisations, networks and teams. It emphasises inquiry into strengths rather than focussing on weaknesses and problem solving. Basic approach is to find out what is going well, what conditions support that success, visioning what might be, creating participatory dialogues about how visions might be achieved.
Participatory scenario
Participatory scenario development (PSD) is a process that involves the participation of stakeholders to explore the future in a creative and policy-relevant way PSD is used to identify the effects of alternative responses to emerging challenges, to determine how different groups of stakeholders view the range of possible policy and management options available to them, and identify the public policies, or investment support needed to facilitate effective future actions.The World Bank's Capacity development manual for Participatory Scenario Development Approaches
for Identifying Pro-Poor Adaptation Options is available here:

The texts on this page are based on the draft UNEP PROVIA guidance document on methods for climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation assessment

© PROVIA / MEDIATION Adaptation Platform 2013 - 2015