The Cloud 2 Coast approach has been developed within the C5a project. It promotes the adoption of a whole-system and long-term perspective to climate change adaptation that is purposeful and collaborative.

Inclusive Process

Adaptation is important to everyone. It is necessary to count in peoples’ knowledge and opinions. Not only professionals, but also wider stakeholders and communities.

An inclusive process is an enabler for building resilience. Climate change will affect groups of stakeholders and communities differently. However, the effects of climate change will likely and disproportionately affect the disadvantaged and vulnerable communities at a higher risk. Hence, climate change adaptation should be implemented based on an inclusive process which is organized as a continuous dialogue on multiple levels of scales and governance. This to ensure that no one is left out and social inequalities are addressed. “Leaving no one behind” is of one of the key principles for achieving sustainable development targets outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Whole System Approach

A whole system response requires us all to think in whole system terms. In doing so, it is necessary to develop a broadly based understanding of how water related risks and opportunities are generated in both short and in longer terms. How they can be managed to achieve resilience. To be successful requires us all to challenge the status quo and adopt the basic principles of system thinking.

To make the definition of the whole system is tractable (and avoid the pitfall over complication – “if I try to pick out anything by itself, I find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir) appropriate boundaries need to be defined based on an ambitious approach to the sphere of influence of a stakeholder, where:

System – Spatial limits: The geographic and social limits of the ‘system’ that the decision-at-hand may influence;

System – temporal limits: the timescale over which those decision will be influential.

Drivers of system change: The external influences that may influence the behaviour of the system over time, such as sea level rise or development that may influence the decision-at-hand;

There are tools to help structure the approach. These are available here.

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Tools of a System Thinker

























Making Adaption Happen in Practice - Four Core Ingredients

Although there is no single sliver point, there is significant consensus on the urgency of the issues to be addressed and what was needed to make adaptation happen in practice. This includes four core aspects to help understanding and motivate adaptive action (opposite).

An adaptive approach focuses on identifying actions in the context of the whole system in time and space. It recognizes that the decisions of the past influence the available adaptation options in the present; and that decisions in the present have implications for the flexibility of which options can be implemented in the future. Such adaptation options can be conceived as part of adaptation pathways and help contribute to resilience by anticipating (unforeseen) future conditions. 

As part of the FAIR project (FAIR, Interreg VB North Sea Region Programme) the linkage between strategy and action what explored in detail. This is important here in C5a. Opposite the image from FAIR sets out the stages for development the strategic context (the 1-5 components) produces the adaptive management plan for the assets, and the operational context (the 6-9 components) delivers and maintains the plans’ requirements. Interconnecting these is the tactical handshake that will feed information in both directions to inform both strategy as to the need for adaptations, and operational practices as to what is expected from the strategic plans.

The framework shows that each context is considered equally, rather than in a hierarchy of, e.g. strategic on a level higher than operational. The infinity shape represents the continuous process of individual and group asset management, and also applies to the integrated asset management process used to decide on how best to manage assets.

There is an essential need to manage assets by connecting and aligning actions across the strategic and operational contexts, via the tactical handshake.

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Adaptation is more than simple modifying a flood defence asset – it is a process that requires innovative, whole system, long-term thinking.

Envisioning and visualising the future – Storylines can be powerful agents in supporting buy-in to an alternative course of action.

Considering multiple futures and developing strategies to maximise the potential opportunity and avoid costly maladaptation.

Recognising adaptation as a purposeful process – not kicking the can down the road – own (not make) future choices today.


Performance of the network: Source-pathway-receptor analysis reveals performance of asset and system


Threats and Opportunities: Potential impacts from Drivers-Pressures and State


Objectives and Requirements: Policies and Standards, system functional requirements


Measures for the system: Responses based on Source-pathway- receptor analysis for system as a whole


Adaptive plan: Develop and map out dynamic pathways


Measures for assets: Requirements defined from strategy are refined for each asset


Design and construct: For both single assets and systems, undertake detailed design and plan construction and long term management


Monitoring, maintenance and Operation: Collect data and maintain or modify assets


Performance of assets: Observe performance, predict longer term functioning/reliability

The Dialogue Consists of Three Stages

Cooperation is central to managing water related risks well. Such cooperation is facilitated by a dialogue amongst all those involved. Developing a progress where continued exchange and mutual learning is central to delivering successful a Cloud 2 Coast adaptation.

Various approaches to enable a successful dialogue are possible. It is often a challenge when working with strategic and operational adaptation questions and planning of measures.  To aid in this work and for it to be effective the work should include three important components: preparing the dialogue, enabling a constructive dialogue and act upon the outcome.

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Stakeholders will need to be proactive in understanding their contribution to the Cloud 2 Coast dialogue. This is facilitated by answering a couple of questions in preparation of the dialogue.

  • What is your motivation for engaging in the dialogue?
  • Which stakeholders would you like to involve?
  • What minimum information do you need to conduct the dialogue?
  • What is an effective approach?

This stage starts with defining the concrete goal(s) for enabling a constructive dialogue. It builds upon the motivation that is explored in the preparatory stage. The goal(s) will be case specific, and there are different at different decision-making levels.

Conducting the Cloud 2 Coast dialogue is a collaborative and iterative stage. The following steps are typically involved in conducting the discussion:

  • Identifying interactions between constituent systems.
  • Looking for new or additional information.
  • Creating a sense of urgency for action.
  • Reaching consensus on the vision, plan or design.

The final stage is to round off the Cloud 2 Coast dialogue and work towards an outcome. This stage is mainly about establishing agreements about what each stakeholder can do and wants to do to address the barriers and opportunities. This may include:

  • Documenting the dialogue. The inputs and outputs should be well described and, where possible, be quantified: which risks have been reduced? Which values have been created?
  • Making joint agreements to ensure identified barriers and opportunities are being addressed. It helps to deliver follow-up if there is a clear actionable perspective for the stakeholders involved.
  • Providing room for adjustment where new learning and/or circumstances are recognized.


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