Climatic Change

, Volume 153, Issue 4, pp 625–641 | Cite as

Beyond the tools: supporting adaptation when organisational resources and capacities are in short supply

  • Hartmut FünfgeldEmail author
  • Kate Lonsdale
  • Karyn Bosomworth


Climate change adaptation is increasingly concerned with how organisations develop capacity to adapt to uncertain futures. A participatory action research project conducted in Victoria, Australia, examined how health and social service organisations developed their organisational adaptive capacity through the use of adaptation decision-support tools. It can be challenging for any organisation to select and apply a decision-support tool, but this is particularly the case where resources and capacities are limited. For most organisations, climate change is only one of a complex set of dynamic stressors they must consider in meeting organisational goals. This paper shows that while decision-support tools can help co-generate knowledge and facilitate customised organisational adaptation processes, for them to be practically helpful for organisations with limited resources and capacities, intensive collaborative and discursive processes are needed to adjust such tools to fit specific organisational contexts and needs. Facilitators and participatory approaches that enable co-inquiry can play a critical role in supplementing scarce resources and initiating adaptation processes that go well beyond the scope and purpose of the decision-support tool used. Organisations working effectively with decision-support tools to adapt to climate change will need to feel ownership of them and have confidence in modifying them to suit their particular adaptation needs and organisational goals.


Organisational change Adaptive capacity Decision-support tools Facilitation Community services Health and social services Climate change 



We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the other members of the research team: Alianne MacArthur, Sophie Turner, Philip Wallis. Furthermore, we are indebted to Daniel Voronoff, Thomas Mitchell, John Houlihan, Ian Mansergh, and Rod Keenan, for their inputs into the project, the participating organisations named in the paper, as well as the detailed, constructive feedback provided by the Guest Editor and three anonymous reviewers.

Funding information

The research received funding from the Victorian Government (Australia) through the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research (VCCCAR).

Supplementary material

10584_2018_2238_MOESM1_ESM.docx (103 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 102 kb)
10584_2018_2238_MOESM2_ESM.docx (103 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 103 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hartmut Fünfgeld
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kate Lonsdale
    • 3
  • Karyn Bosomworth
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Global, Urban and Social StudiesRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Environmental Social Sciences and GeographyUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.IOD PARC, Omega CourtSheffieldUK
  4. 4.Centre for Urban Research, School of Global, Urban and Social StudiesRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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