Climate Resilience Lab

A look into the initial exploration of community resilience, climate change and gender.

Exploring innovation at the intersection of community resilience, climate change, and the empowerment of girls and women.

For many of the world’s poorest communities, the adverse effects of climate change are no longer a future possibility; they are a present reality. The poverty, dislocation, health crises, resource conflicts, food insecurity and economic harm that climate change engenders threaten to undo many of the humanitarian and other global development gains of the past thirty years. Consider: by 2050, there will likely be over 250 million people displaced by climate change around the world. That’s one in every 45 people on the planet, a ten-fold increase over today’s entire documented refugee and internally displaced populations.1

Marginalized constituencies experience the effects of climate disruption worst and first. And among the most vulnerable are rural girls and women. As the majority of the world’s smallholder farmers, girls and women manage many of the activities and resources most affected by climate, such as agriculture, livestock and water access. A sudden shift in the timing and volume of rain, a shift in grazable land, the presence of invasive species, or the emergence of a new illness can all have disastrous consequences, from causing families to move away from schools and medical clinics to increasing psychosocial stresses in a household.

Yet while climate disruption represents an intrinsic social justice, humanitarian, national security, public health and ecological concern, for the most part climate adaptation and resilience efforts continue to be channeled through sectors of society dominated by men.

In this deficit, however, may lie new opportunities to improve our efforts at community-led climate resilience. To explore these possibilities, the PopTech Climate Resilience Lab is bringing together a carefully chosen network of climate researchers, gender experts, social innovators, technologists, designers, and community champions to explore new possibilities in this domain. Our goal is to identify and collaborate on high-potential new approaches that can be tested and implemented.

1. International Organization for Migration, Migration and Climate Change, 2008

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PopTech partnered with the Red Cross/Red Crescent to produce "The Climate Game." Watch these videos for an overview and training.

Our first convening: Nairobi

As a first step toward this goal, PopTech, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and Nike Foundation, convened a group of 27 climate, gender and social innovation thought leaders and stakeholders in Nairobi, Kenya in February 2012 for an intensive three-day program that combined roundtable discussions, immersive field-site visits, collaboration workshops and innovative role-playing exercises meant to expose some of the underlying themes, and possible pitfalls, inherent in developing community resilience to climate change.

The goals for the Nairobi meeting were to establish a baseline understanding of community-led climate resilience, and its intersection with gender issues more broadly; form the root of an eclectic network of innovators around the domain; and begin to identify possible untapped areas for collaboration and innovation.

Cassava-growing cooperative hosts the Red Cross's Climate and Gender Game near Matuu, KenyaCassava-growing cooperative hosts the Red Cross's Climate and Gender Game near Matuu, Kenya.

Our initial focus on rural east Africa provided a lens through which we could sketch out some of the larger themes of resilience while at the same time providing a context-specific mechanism to possibly apply some of what we learned. Lab members had a chance to engage with local rural Kenyans in their communities to learn firsthand the effects of climate change in those locales and what tools were being developed by community members to contend with disruptions.

Inspired by field visits, the Lab explored areas of potential action toward greater resilienceInspired by field visits, the Lab explored areas of potential action toward greater resilience.

A key aspect of our approach in Nairobi was to look at climate change as a gendered issue and to possibly identify ways in which girls and women might be empowered as change agents within their communities — by creating new social and economic roles focused on adaptation. Our initial discussions on the issue immediately brought to the fore a diversity of opinion on gendered roles in rural smallholder settings as well as many common points of agreement. We identified a number of pathways for future adaptation including community resource planning, de-intensified, climate-smart forms of agriculture, knowledge sharing, participatory climate mapping, low-cost, low-premium microinsurance and the development of new climate information services delivered via mobile devices.

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Moving forward

Moving forward

One thing is clear: There is no “one size fits all” solution to gender-inclusive, community-led resilience to climate disruption.

Each community’s needs are situated geographically, politically and socio-economically, and lasting change can only be achieved through a holistic approach that tackles the problem simultaneously on multiple levels through quantitative gender analysis, policy reform and redirection, and the development of new tools for empowerment.

As our exploration into climate change resilience moves forward, the PopTech Climate Resilience Lab will continue to identify areas for future engagement, breakthrough research in the field, and possible opportunities for collaboration among network members. We invite you to continue to follow our progress.

Dig deeper

Want to learn more? Explore this topic further:

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Our partners

The PopTech Climate Resilience Lab is made possible with the generous support of the Nike Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Nike Foundation logo Rockefeller Foundation logo

To learn more about partnership possibilities, or to learn more, please contact