Collective Intelligence for Climate Action

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For centuries, societies have used knowledge, information and tools to better manage crops, combat disease and anticipate weather patterns. Today, communities are combining this ancestral knowledge with new sources of data and technology to better understand, analyze and act in the face of the climate crisis.

This new research reviews the state of play including farmers who are pooling knowledge on climate-resilient crops or tools that allow local communities to capture data on changes to weather, climate, or wildlife. As they face the most severe impacts of the climate crisis, communities in the Global South are working together -- often with the aid of technology -- to mobilize a wider range of information, ideas and insights, that is allowing them to better adapt to; and mitigate the effects of an intensifying climate emergency.

Better leveraging the immense potential of such collective intelligence is a central aim of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Accelerator Labs Network. Experimenting and tapping into local innovations to create actionable insights in 115 countries, it is now the world’s largest and fastest learning network on sustainable development challenges. Together with Nesta’s Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, we use collective intelligence to pinpoint critical development solutions led by local communities. That includes everything from open innovation challenges to identify the world’s best people-powered clean energy solutions to using crowdmapping and community knowledge to scale-up successful local adaptation to drought.

UNTAPPED is the first research of its kind on how collective intelligence can advance climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals by generating more real-time, localized climate data and by mobilizing more people and diversifying perspectives. Responding to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) call to include all sources of expertise and knowledge to drive decisive climate action, it showcases over 100 unique, climate initiatives across 45 countries that are powered by collective intelligence. Notably, it underlines the pressing need for increased investment in community-driven climate action.

The sharing of intelligence -- spreading ideas, solutions, and information -- has always been central to humanity’s ability to solve problems quickly, at scale. That includes women and men in developing countries who are now on the frontlines of the global climate response, sharing their unique knowledge and innovations. At the same time, the continued power of the United Nations to bring countries together, new financial mechanisms, and extraordinary technology like artificial intelligence provide well-founded optimism for our ability to tackle our world’s greatest challenge in the climate emergency. Human ingenuity – and finding ways to better harness our world’s collective brainpower -- represent our global community’s greatest untapped assets in our quest to change climate futures across the globe. 

Ravi Gurumurthy,
Chief Executive, 

Achim Steiner,