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Above the Clouds

The purpose and aim of CliCNord, and its objectives, strategy and methodology


The overall objective (OAO) of the Climate Change Resilience in Small Communities in the Nordic Countries project (CliCNord) is to build capacity in small communities to cope with the challenges of climate change.


The overarching research question of the project is:
How can capacity building in small rural communities be increased to meet the effects of climate change, involving the competencies and resources among the citizens and by new ways of organizing support and assistance from authorities, civil society organizations, politicians, and the public?


It will be a showcase to illustrate the complexity and diversity in the challenges communities in this region can expect in the future, and it will shed light on the vulnerabilities of local rural communities to climate change in several highly diverse areas in the Nordic countries. The focus is on small communities, since they, due to inadequate resources (e.g. weak emergency management capacity due to long distances, fragile tele- and Internet connection, low public investment in critical infrastructure, low engagement in the area from the private sector), have limited options related to climate change adaptation. Smaller communities are also interesting, as the level of place attachment is expected to be different compared to larger cities because small communities often have strong social and natural bonds, which are hard to maintain if people have to move, even only shorter distances. The aim is to include several very different hazards affecting local communities across the Nordic countries. The hazards, which are regarded as a direct consequence of climate change, are coastal flooding due to storm surges, cloudbursts, wildfires, temperature extremes, landslides, slush avalanches, flash floods, and storms.

Objective 1 (O1): Assess vulnerability and place attachment
CliCNord will elucidate the challenges in selected small communities in the Nordic countries with regard to climate change. The aim is to assess their vulnerability to different hazards linked to climate change and at the same time assess the options these communities have to reduce or eliminate the hazard. This assessment will also take into account why people live in these places (place attachment theory), their concern and active engagement with climate change, and push-pull factors related to these communities. The results are fundamental in order to facilitate the dialogue between citizens and institutions such as government authorities and civil society organizations on how to support most efficiently the communities in the future in the right way, taking both the weaknesses and the strengths of the people into consideration.

Objective 2 (O2): Customising preparedness, including warning processes
CliCNord will develop appropriate preparedness processes for the hazard-prone small communities, considering the available resources and limited access to outside assistance during emergencies. These will include community-based preparedness measures facilitating emerging and diverging emergency management activities among citizens, civil society, industry, etc. During this, CliCNord will pay attention to the warning processes in the selected small communities, and, subsequently, pay attention to the ways warnings are customized to the relevant hazard in the given context of the specific community to investigate if improvement is needed. The customization of information will utilize the local knowledge with regard to local indicators and landmarks, and thereby make the warnings less technical and take into account which existing channels and platforms to employ with an aim of reaching the majority of the citizens, and which sources appear as trustworthy and authoritative. This objective will be achieved through the involvement of local key figures, the national and local emergency management authorities, and institutions with relevant scientific knowledge.

Objective 3 (O3): An innovative response concept
CliCNord aims to increase community resilience in the included communities through the development of a framework that will reduce the consequences of an event related to the hazard in question, an effort that will involve and engage both local communities and larger institutions, among them emergency management organizations and politicians. The aim is that the framework can be utilized in other communities – and in cooperation between communities and societal organizations – in a similar situation with minor changes in the input, which is mainly detailed local knowledge and hazard information (from O1). The framework, which will include input about preparedness and warning processes (from O2), will establish the underlying basis for the development of an innovative response concept that will train the communities to handle an event, taking into account the particular national and contextual organizational and juridical conditions into consideration. The concept will be inspired by crisis management exercises and the approaches in gamification and simulation.

Objective 4 (O4): The local communities’ perspective on recovery
CliCNord focuses on the capability of the local community to recover after an event. Recovery in this context is not only considered as the reestablishment of the normal functioning of society to a level similar to before the disruption – transformation, reconfiguration, and repositioning may be better solutions. It is expected that an event will disrupt the social and physical infrastructure of the community to a degree, which makes it difficult for the community to recover with the limited and scarce commitment of resources from outside actors. Knowing which functions the local communities prioritize, such as the most important to be restored or transformed and why they prioritize these, will contribute to our understanding of disaster recovery and business continuity in small communities. In line with the narratives and local knowledge (from O1), an understanding will be developed of how the role that identity, sense of belonging, and culture and belief system can have in shaping local communities’ recovery process and how organizations from outside can support them in appropriate ways.

Research strategy

The research project consists of eight work packages (WPs) that are linked in different ways (see the workflow in Figure 1). WP1 and WP8 are described in the ‘Management plan’ and the ‘Communication and knowledge-exchange plan’, respectively (not included here).

Research strategy
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Figure 1: CliCNord workflow

In its initial phase (WP2), the project will conduct a review of the existing practices among stakeholders for capacity building, securing resilience, and support for climate change-prone communities across the Nordic countries involved. The purpose is to have an overall baseline of practices and best practices in combination with research recommendations from international literature in order to develop conceptualization and an initial framework across the countries for reaching the overall objective: to build capacity in small communities to cope with the challenges of climate change. In this WP we will also investigate the predicted impacts of climate change on the regions included in the study, which will take its point of departure in literature from the IPCC and regional studies conducted in the Nordic region that relate directly to the included hazards (see map below). Together with the conceptualization and framework in WP2, this will provide a foundation for the development of a methodology (WP3) to be applied to scrutinize the eight selected cases in five Nordic countries (see map below). Stakeholders and end-users related to these cases will be involved during the entire process. In WP3, they will play a central role, as the methodology will be developed in partnership with citizens, stakeholders, and end-users in the communities (Gustavsen 2001; Phillips et al. 2012). We are interested in the citizens’ stories and experiences, and we will involve them in how we can obtain these insights, which will be done through workshops. The WP3-related workshops are a part of WP7, which is a work package that runs parallel with WP2–6.

The fieldwork in the case communities (WP4) consists of ethnographic fieldwork, where qualitative and quantitative methods are applied. Through individual interviews, focus groups, and observations (Hammersley and Atkinson 1983; Phillips 2002; Spradley 1979), the researchers get a thorough insight into the living conditions, experiences, and narratives in the communities. Questionnaires will feature some quantitative questions, for instance about socio-economic status. The interviews are set up in the household of the interviewee, which will have several advantages, for instance, the fact that the interviewee can show how their home is exposed to the hazard in question. The households are selected with a developed stratification strategy that will be the same in each case. The focus groups will be analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively (i.e. we will, for instance, analyze the points assigned in the focus group where a ranking exercise will be applied). Through this triangulation, we get both the positive and negative aspects of being a resident in these communities, and thus a rich experience of what is important in this context. This material provides a comprehensive understanding of life in the communities, and it can be applied in the development of the methodology. In addition, the researchers directly obtain new, emerging insights from workshops and collaborative exercises together with different stakeholders, which in turn inform other types of knowledge transfer, subsequent studies, and workshops, as well as further developments.

WP4 consists of approximately one month of fieldwork per case to collect data in the selected communities. We will begin this WP with a pilot case to test the data collection methodology, which will most likely result in minor alterations to the methodology. The data collection will focus on the specific hazard selected in each case (see map below). Throughout this WP, the comparability and consistency of the data is secured and quality checked in all cases by the Case Leaders (CL) and the Project Leader (PL) to ensure consistency across cases.

In WP5, we will analyze the collected data by utilizing the conceptualization and the framework (WP2). First, case by case, and, secondly, comparing the cases. The cases investigated using comparative approaches will take into account that qualitative case studies like this one are non-linear and require a high degree of reflection to carry out (Krause 2016). The methodology for conducting the analyses is developed in WP3 and tested in the pilot case in WP4 to make sure that the approach is feasible and compatible with the composition of the data. In the analyses, we will use NVivo software to examine the qualitative data and statistical software to handle the quantitative data. The results from WP5 will in particular focus on qualifying the warning processes, response concepts, and recovery strategies (WP6).

Along with this, WP6 contains policy analyses among the involved countries to highlight the national and international policies and regulations concerning this development, with a particular focus on warning processes, response concepts, and recovery strategies. These policy analyses investigate the challenges of making changes in these processes with regard to the existing policies and regulations in the different countries. The policy analyses run parallel in order to inform the development process of warning processes, response concepts, and recovery strategies, and will produce research-based policy recommendations.

A smaller part of WP6 is a framework evaluation within a broader context (EU and internationally), which is conducted as a literature review of scientific literature and publicly available reports, where we compare our framework with other comparable frameworks. This is done to examine how our work has resulted in significant novel findings that lead to incremental or radical changes in the perception of how disaster management should be handled prospectively to secure vulnerable communities. This sub-task will include a thoroughly prepared workshop during the fifth consortium meeting where all researchers in the project and the CliCNord Advisory Committee (CAC) are present.

Finally, in WP7, the project will develop a community resilience prototype, which is a process that will start with drawing up a thorough CliCNord community strategy. The CAC (see ‘Management plan’) will play a leading role during this process. The strategy is launched during the second consortium meeting in the first year and will contain several activities, for instance, the organization of CliCNord community workshops (see ‘Communication and knowledge-exchange plan’ for more on this). These workshops focus on developing specific methods and approaches to how the citizens in the communities can collaborate with the relevant authorities, including emergency preparedness, to both prevent climate-related incidents, such as floods and to reduce the damage from these types of incidents. This is conducted because in the Nordic region generally there is an increasing focus on developing new forms of cooperation between authorities and citizens, putting citizens at stake to create common goods together, and on serious involvement of a number of different actors. This is also seen in relation to climate adaptation. Here, the intention is not for citizens to take over the tasks of the authorities, but rather an increased recognition that climate change poses challenges that municipalities and emergency/response teams do not have the resources to handle alone.

Figure 2: The eight CliCNord  cases



The overall methodology approach in the CliCNord project is outlined in the CliCNord conceptual framework (to be published later), which in short is a social science approach to place attachment, narratives, and social-historical context consisting of three layers, which all hold specific research questions (see Figure 3).

In Layer 1 we will provide insight into the field through desktop studies. Layer 2 consists of three main components: 1) insight into the field through Explorative fieldwork, 2) bringing together relevant actors on different levels through workshops, and 3) the main fieldwork planned on the background of outputs from the workshops. Finally, in Layer 3 we will build capacity, mainly through scenario exercises with relevant stakeholders.

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Figure 3: An overview of the multi-layered approach. Three different layers of analysis, with different methodologies and research questions

The cross-case assessment

The cross-case assessment is a joint effort between all the involved partners to investigate the specific knowledge domain outlined in the conceptual framework across different contexts while exploring interacting themes. The cross-case assessment is thus both an attempt to explore domain-specific questions through a comparative lens and an attempt to explore interdependent questions cutting across the knowledge domain. Eight cases in five different countries were selected for the knowledge domain and thus represent the empirical testing ground for the entire CliCNord project. The eight cases represent diverse hazards, geolocations, as well as socio-cultural, demographic contexts, from urban to rural, and finally, socio-economic contexts. The cases are illustrated in Figure 2.


The conceptual framework is developed to define the research that will be conducted in all cases through a set of comparable instruments. The overarching approach across the CliCNord conceptual framework ensures a certain degree of comparability across the findings in the cases. The initial approach is to produce eight case papers with a comparable methodological design (green box in Figure 4), which is based on the same theory – here the CliCNord conceptual framework (left box in the red box in Figure 4).

Thus, each case is a single study where data is collected and analyzed, and in each of these studies an individual paper is written, but all based on the same theory and comparable methodologies. These eight paper are then analyzed together to write at least two cross-case papers: one that summarizes and conclude on the overall findings across the eight cases, and one paper that discusses and modifies the applied theory (the two top boxes in the purple box in Figure 4). Findings and conclusions from the cross-case papers are subsequently transformed into policy recommendations through policy briefs, and finally a cross-case report readable for laypersons and stakeholders within and outside the project (the two lower boxes in the purple box in Figure 4).

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Figure 4: Flow diagram of the cross-case assessment (figure from Yin, 2018 – modified by authors)

It must be noted that CliCNord uses an exploratory research approach across eight diverse socio-cultural cases. The findings from the case assessments are context-specific, meaning that the outcomes will be analyzed and framed within specific socio-cultural, technical, and institutional contexts (and constraints) and to the concerning hazard in each case. For this reason, the methodologies are not designed to provide a strict comparative analysis across the cases but rather allow for an interpretive research approach. Such approaches are well documented in grounded and exploratory research. Here the objective is not to generalize the findings across the cases, but rather to create a discussion around potential connections, similarities, and differences in light of the diverse contexts in which the research has taken place.

Additionally, the hazard cases are comparable in terms of the research design and methods. A key dimension of the case selection concerned the characteristics of the specific hazard in specific countries/areas. We selected the cases to represent typical hazards in those countries, which are situations capturing empirical realities that, despite variations, show similarities in key aspects that are meaningful in regard to the CliCNord conceptual framework in hazardous environments and at times of disasters. The case selection (type of hazard and location) further considers the characteristics and diversity of vulnerable groups concerning the hazard and concerning risk management and disaster response. Our selection of typical scenarios thus enables the generation of insights that are potentially valuable to other situations in similar contexts.

Winter Town
Denmark 1: Flooding
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