Working together to adapt to a changing climate - flood and coast

This project explored how authorities work with communities on future planning and decision-making to help reduce flood and coastal erosion risk.

Key Documents

Summary of research and tools

Summary of research and tools - slide pack

Project learning

Review of project learning report


This research project aimed to explore how authorities can work with communities on future planning and decision-making to help reduce flood and coastal erosion risk in the face of climate change.

This will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about ways in which authorities, communities and partners can exchange views, build understanding and plan together. The tools and learning will be particularly useful for engagement staff in risk management authorities.


This research is a response to concerns about the impacts of climate change and the likelihood of significantly higher levels of risk to communities due to increased flooding or coastal erosion.


The research project included 3 phases:

  1. a review of evidence on community engagement on climate adaptation to inform:

  2. designing and implementing an innovative community engagement programme in 2 pilot locations:
    • Caterham on the Hill and Old Coulsdon, Surrey and London Borough of Croydon (surface water flooding) 
    • Hemsby, Norfolk (coastal erosion and storm surges)
  3. bringing together, reflecting on and documenting learning and practice


Overarching findings are presented in the project learning report, which builds on learning from the initial evidence review. They are grouped under 6 ‘engagement challenges’:

  1. readiness: the knowledge, skills and capacities needed to enable collaborative FCERM decision-making;

  2. framing, language and communication: the way people and organisations talk about things, which influences how others understand issues;

  3. climate change, emotions and mental health: the fears and anxieties which shape people’s engagement with adaptation planning;

  4. place attachment, culture and identity: emotional connections to places which affect how people think about the future of those places.

  5. power, politics and conflict: recognising that engagement and adaptation processes are inherently political and open to contention;
  6. scale: people and organisations work at different geographic and time scales, which can create tensions over different priorities.

An important overall theme is the value of stakeholders working collaboratively, which was integral to the project.

Engagement tools were created and trialled to address some of these challenges. The readiness assessment tool is designed to assess how prepared individuals, authorities, partnerships and communities are to engage on climate adaptation. The simulation is a participatory tool to help increase understanding of and planning for flood risk and climate adaptation among stakeholders. The scenario development exercise is designed to bring stakeholders together to anticipate possible futures and plan engagement.

The findings are already being used in the:


The project team held a webinar about the project and its outputs on 7 February 2023.


Supporting documents

Evidence review

The evidence review was published in 2019 and informed the project’s pilot work.

Community engagement on climate adaptation to flood risk - report

Community engagement on climate adaptation to flood risk - slide pack

A paper on place attachment was commissioned separately. It builds on evidence review themes.

Place attachment paper

Record of engagement

Record of engagement report

Readiness assessment

Developing tools for readiness assessment: review of learning

Readiness assessment: tools and guidance

Community readiness assessment survey

Another version of the readiness assessment was developed under a separate commission to be used in large complex work programmes and partnerships. The readiness self-assessment advisor’s handbook is a user guide for facilitators of the process.

Readiness self-assessment advisor’s handbook

Scenario development

Using future scenarios to inform engagement planning

Running a simulation exercise

Developing a simulation: review of learning

Running a simulation: tools and techniques

Supplementary materials for running a simulation

Simulation briefing pack (Climate Activist)

Simulation briefing pack (Flood Action Group)

Simulation briefing pack (Friends of Springhill Park)

Simulation briefing pack (Local Authority Planner)

Simulation briefing pack (Springhill Business Association)

Simulation briefing pack (Water company)

Simulation exercise - slide pack

Simulation facilitation plan

If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of the documents in a more accessible format, please email: Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.

Project manager: Kate Kipling, Flood and Coastal Risk Management Research team

This project was commissioned by the Environment Agency’s FCRM Directorate, as part of the joint Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Research and Development Programme.

A Welsh translation of the summary is also available.

Published 26 February 2021
Last updated 15 February 2023 + show all updates
  1. Added a link to a recording of the project launch webinar Added a Welsh translation of the summary

  2. The working together to adapt to a changing climate project has been completed. A summary explaining the background, approach and findings has been added to the page. The full report along with supplementary documents have also been added to this page.

  3. First published.