“They Are Contributing, They Are Speaking, They Are Being Heard”: The Implications of What Remains Unspoken for Building Trust with Marginalised Social Groups in an International Climate Change Project.

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Teresa PEREZ, University of Cape Town, South Africa
The Adaptation at Scale in Semi Arid Regions (ASSAR) project aims to minimise the adverse impacts of climate variability on vulnerable groups of people, to avoid exacerbating existing marginality. Scenario planning workshops are an established method to reflect on and respond to uncertainty, through an analysis of stories about what might happen in the future. The ASSAR project experimented with different types of scenario planning methods. One of which had proved valuable in the context of political issues, characterised by mistrust between stakeholders, but had not been applied to problems related to climate change. This research is a comparative analysis of peoples’ experiences of the ASSAR project in Namibia, Kenya and India. I observed the scenario planning process and interviewed participants over a six month period, with a view to understanding the extent to which trusting relationships were formed. Using a combination of thematic and discourse analysis, I interrogate the connection between participatory scenario planning and trust. My findings showed that the dynamics were different in each case, largely depending on workshop participants’ prior experience and interpretation of ‘the local community’. In each location, although colonialism was not mentioned in the workshop itself, historical power relations bubbled beneath the surfaced in my conversations with both workshop organisers and attendees. I conclude that scenario planning, although orientated towards collective long-term futures, cannot mask the historical power differentials between marginalised and powerful social groups. Furthermore, the extent to which trust can be forged in the ASSAR project is significantly constrained by the ubiquity of workshops. The implication is that it is difficult for climate change projects to make themselves heard amid the din of the development industry. Thus gaining the trust of people most threatened by the impact of climate change is likely to remain elusive.