The Learning Waves of Climate Change Status-Quo in Iraq

July 30, 2020

The earth is giving us a powerful message spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, extinctions, and diseases telling us that we need an entirely new model and a new way of sharing our planet. In Iraq, the UNDP Accelerator Lab team is committed to laying down the methodologies to investigate the environmental challenges in today’s world. Here, we will run you through our methodologies, assumptions, hypotheses, insights and learnings that drove us to disaggregate the reasons behind the lack of responsibility and ownership amongst the community in relation to climate change issues in Iraq.

The systems-mapping process commenced with business-as-usual (research and consultation) to frame the problem and understand the different dimensions from the perspective of people closest to the Iraq Accelerator Lab, starting from the UNDP Environment Energy and Climate Change pillar (EECC) team, where we conducted a baseline study to determine the status-quo. Then, we enlarged the wave of our learning from the core by looking for data via offline and online search tools. The first wave revealed two findings:

●      There is a lack of research on climate change in Iraq; and

●      There is an environmental ecosystem in Iraq but despite government work, it still requires more efforts to unite in one vision

The above findings increased our curiosity and here the wave led  us to start mapping the relevant stakeholders, connect the dots, and define the scope of the problem. The actors-mapping started by mapping the sectors and identifying at least one actor from each sector; this was by no means a very accurate move but we wanted to establish the starting points. Next, different actors started connecting us to others and soon we were able to collect 12 official stakeholders to participate in a one-day searchlight event to discuss the challenges of climate change in Iraq, followed by another day to perform analysis of the challenges. The later part was conducted via launching and using the Mission 1.5 game. For the first time, different stakeholders from UNDP EECC, government institutions (Ministry of Health and Environment (MoHE) & Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research MoHESR), private sector, academic sector, and local NGOs worked together to map the current environmental system in Iraq through analysing the stages of the game.

As a result of the first and second waves, the systems-mapping approach uncovered a gap between the official stakeholders' work on climate change and the community. Mainly, that the work of the officials is not being recognized, acknowledged, materialized, and followed by the community to drive necessary change. 

The Accelerator Lab went to the community to perform sensemaking and exploring for both the way of thinking, and the behaviors of the community in response to climate change issues. While at the same time, discovering approaches to identify and incentivise stakeholders to raise the community’s sense of responsibility towards climate change.

In the current context of COVID-19 virtual communication is our only method to reach the community and perform sensemaking to try and bridge the gap. First, the Accelerator Lab reached the community through an online survey to investigate people's interest and willingness to participate in climate change workshops. The workshop was intended for young people who have minimum information but maximum passion to learn and help tackle climate change challenges. In a sample of 236 participants, 68% of the survey participants expressed their desire to participate in a workshop on climate change in Iraq. Responding to the demands of Iraqi youth, the Accelerator Lab held a two-hour virtual workshop with a selected sample of the participants to investigate their general knowledge on climate change, the reasons why it is not prioritized by Iraqi people, as well as the best approach and leverage points to tackle such an alarming issue in a timely manner. To our surprise, the questions we asked were too much for youth, and there should be an approach that both incentivises youth to learn about climate change, and teaches them the basics.

To incentivise the community, we need to present the work currently being implemented by the officials, as well as perform actors-mapping to identify community actors who can influence people’s interests, and combine that with an innovative learning approach. Here a question came to our minds: “What are the innovative methods and tools that could be used to motivate youth and local organizations to increase people’s knowledge and sense of responsibility when it comes to climate change issues in Iraq?”

The team tested two innovative approaches that could be used to both increase people’s interest in climate change, and accelerate their learning path. The first one is using gamification to recognize the priorities of the community with the Mission 1.5 game, a global UNDP initiative focused on raising community awareness about climate change and encouraging them to be part of the Environmental policy-making process. The aim of this approach was to maximize engagement of youth players and inspire them to question their daily behaviors and decisions and understand their impact on climate change in Iraq. 

The second innovative approach was to use a human-centered approach to disaggregate the learning question as well as ideate potential solutions to the issue. The Accelerator Lab team worked with the UNDP Youth Leadership Programme, our eyes in the community, and launched a 20-hour Call for Innovations: Ideation Challenge on Climate Change which uses the Design Thinking methodology to implement its activities, and assumed:


If the Design Thinking methodology is used with the community, then more people will be interested in focusing on climate change and increase their sense of responsibility towards the environment.

The virtual call for innovations includes two phases, the problem phase and the solution phase. The first two sessions focused on the problem phase and were broken down into two steps: empathy (discovering) and defining. During the first two stages of design thinking, young people from 17 local organizations analyzed the main problems about climate change in Iraq, they identified the effective actors and stakeholders, and determined the findings and relevant insights. In the second two stages, youth began to think out-of-the-box, using the concept of entrepreneurship, creating the ideas, and prototyping the new applicable solutions. 

The testing stage was in the form of in-workshop evaluation and also opinion gathering from the public using social media channels. For the latter part, the participants shared their ideas on social media and received feedback, which enhanced their knowledge and broadened their views, allowing them to  adjust their ideas. The second testing phase included posting the complete ideas on social media. The aim was to present both the problem and the solution through a post to gauge reactions while also increasing the Arabic content about climate change.

During the design thinking methodology, we motivated young people to take a journey of sensing and exploring problems related to climate change in Iraq and to increase their information and knowledge about the importance of finding local and innovative solutions that help governments, UNDP and other stakeholders respond to Iraq’s environmental challenges.

The insights gained from this sensing, exploring and experimentation phase are invaluable. Next, the Accelerator Lab in Iraq will work on localizing climate change issues through increasing content both written and visual content about climate change. Also, we will continue systems-mapping to identify more gaps when it comes to community responsibility towards climate change issues, and lay the groundwork to establish a connected climate change ecosystem in Iraq.