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A KE Co-ordinator Case Study

Case Study - What Can a KE Co-ordinator Contribute?

Appointing a dedicated KE Co-ordinator can optimise the KE process. But what does the role actually involve and what skills does it require? Dr Vicky Hayman of the UK Climate Impacts Programme describes her work supporting the Adaptation and Resilience to a Changing Climate (ARCC) suite of activities, as part of ARCC’s co-ordination network (ARCC CN).

The ARCC CN’s mission is to co-ordinate a wide range of research projects in the built environment and infrastructure sectors and so encourage the design of more climate-resilient urban systems. I work in a unit specifically set up to facilitate co-ordination between around 200 researchers involved in a suite of 18 projects and over 200 stakeholders from central and local government, business and industry, and community groups.

Our job is to get researchers and stakeholders to communicate their own needs, understand each other’s and share knowledge. Although we’re a five-strong team, we each dovetail our duties with other responsibilities so the total available resource equates to around two full-time staff.

It’s a question of fostering communication and brokering interaction among researchers and stakeholders and between the two groups at the right level and using the most appropriate mechanisms.

This can involve setting up one-to-one sessions, small group discussions or interactive workshops, organising webinars or arranging conferences to showcase research outputs. The key is to sit down and talk with people about what they need. For instance, a researcher may tell us “I need to talk to local authorities” and we can provide advice on the most effective way of doing this in the particular circumstances involved.

But ARCC researchers aren’t obliged to consult us, so it’s been essential to build up and maintain a relationship of trust with them.

The fact that members of the co-ordination unit have a credible background in climate change science certainly helps. But there’s also a real premium on interpersonal skills and the ability to recognise that what actually motivates researchers – and indeed stakeholders – can differ markedly. Plus it’s essential for us to retain a high degree of flexibility so we can adjust our input to take account of changing research objectives, policy contexts and timescales.  

It’s become very clear, though, that effective knowledge co-ordination often requires a significantly bigger investment of time and money than might be anticipated at the outset. In fact, some of the older ARCC projects we inherited when the unit was first set up had very few resources available for knowledge co-ordination at all.

The bottom line is that proper resourcing of this activity, which can add so much to the effectiveness of a project or programme, is an absolute ‘must’.