New R&D frontiers to build the future of climate action

Designing for enhanced climate impact

The impacts of collective intelligence initiatives are often under-researched, measured in an anecdotal way or only report changes for individual participants rather than wider outcomes. This is especially true for exploratory and early-stage initiatives, and initiatives in the Global South. This report discusses impact drawing on the available evidence from case study analysis as well as from the literature at large, including evidence from initiatives deployed in the Global North. The recommendation is for greater attention to impact reporting for future initiatives, particularly in Global South contexts.

The available evidence indicates that while some impacts are targeted to the specific climate problem the initiatives have been designed to address, others are broader and can be felt at the individual, community or wider ecosystem levels. For example, the most commonly reported impact of collective intelligence projects is greater awareness, interest and understanding of climate issues for participants. This individual level learning is normally specific to the issues being addressed by a given collective intelligence initiative but sometimes spills over into other related climate topics.

We find that the impacts of collective intelligence initiatives depend on how successfully they navigate three main challenges. The first is participation: the ability to engage enough people to achieve critical mass and high quality outcomes. The second is data utility: even with high levels of participation, initiatives may fail to produce useful knowledge and data. The third challenge is their ability to shift from understanding towards action: even if initiatives produce useful knowledge, decision makers fail to act upon it. We argue that design tactics can help collective intelligence initiatives navigate these challenges, so they deliver larger impacts of both the targeted and broader kinds.

Designing for impact at different levels

Some collective intelligence initiatives are starting to demonstrate impacts at one or more of these levels: