Communication, Collaboration, and Advocacy: A Study of Participatory Action Research to Address Climate Change in the Pacific

The science of climate change is a complex issue that presents challenges for regions, nations, local governments, and communities. This article describes a participatory action research project designed to develop new knowledge of how community members react to climate change and communication’s role in strengthening local resilience. The project has grown organically from an initial study, undertaken by one researcher to examine communication of climate change at the local level, into an intersectoral, interagency study. Partners in the study are connected by one vision: to facilitate grassroots, upward planning of sustainable climate change adaptation led by local end-users, and to amplify the Pacific Island Countries perspective of climate change to the world. The study’s theoretical framework draws upon literature from international development, communication, social science, and public policy. A qualitative case study examines whether the use of a reflexive, communicative approach can facilitate cross-sector interaction between climate scientists, policy makers, and local end-users to plan, implement and evaluate sustainable approaches to climate change. The case provides an example of applying participatory action research (PAR) as a way to communicate complex climate science by using specific context and evidence-based local experiences. The study demonstrates how the use of participatory action research has fostered the creation of horizontal and vertical multi-sector networks that have improved communication of climate science, and collaboration amongst all partners-including local end-users-and strengthened local advocacy in climate-related policy and planning decisions for the Pacific. This study demonstrates the potential of PAR as a method for reducing disconnect between science-policy-local interaction, and to build local and global intersectoral collaboration. Evidence-based research shows the linkages between theory and practice for organizations tasked with building community resilience. This innovative synthesis can aid in building PAR-led climate change adaptation across prevention, preparation and adaptation activities for potential climate elated hazards. Findings from this study are relevant to communities building resilience.