Collaborating on Climate Change in Indonesia

To effectively tackle climate-related issues, we know different actors need to work together to create change. This “Unity in Diversity” happens to be the motto of Indonesia (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika) and that’s exactly what’s happening with the Think Climate Indonesia (TCI) Initiative. The goal of this three-year program, a partnership between Canada’s International Development Research Center (IDRC) and the Oak Foundation is to empower Indonesian policy-research organizations in their efforts to shape public policies on climate change.

Located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Indonesia is the world’s largest island country. The archipelago gathers about 17,000 islands and a large population of about 273 million people, representing hundreds of native ethnic and linguistic groups. Known for its rich biodiversity, it is also facing one of the highest rates of deforestation with pressures coming from both agricultural and urban expansion. This has contributed to the country’s carbon footprint, one of the largest in the world.

Climate Think Tanks in Indonesia: Humanity at a Crossroads

Melanie Robertson is a Senior Program Specialist at the IDRC’s Climate Resilient Food Systems division and coordinates the TCI initiative. “The initiative gives an increased role to think tanks in Indonesia, who are usually forgotten by traditional funders,” says Melanie. “The selected think tanks are key organizations that conduct research in order to help shape public policies.” TCI think tanks work with policy makers at different scales with the aim to contribute to climate resilience: the ability to anticipate and respond to climate-related shocks.

Dean Affandi is one of these think tank members. He is the Senior Manager for Research, Data, and Innovation at WRI Indonesia. “Humanity is at a crossroads when it comes to climate change and environmental issues,” says Dean. To him, climate change isn’t yet a mainstream issue in Indonesia and he hopes that his group and the four other TCI think tanks will help move the issue forward. “We hope to get people – including politicians and society – to think more about climate mitigation and adaptation.” For WRI Indonesia, this means, among other things, working with communities to showcase how they’re fighting climate change at the local level, and how much more could be done with the appropriate support from the government.

An Opportunity to Build Coalitions

Beyond the individual work of the five think tanks, the TCI initiative also seeks to enhance collaboration between them, which Dean calls an opportunity to build coalitions. “The issue is so big that it cannot be resolved by one organization only,” says Dean. Likewise, Rizqa Hidayani, a Program Manager at Kota Kita – another think tank within the initiative – sees true opportunities for collaboration between the five think tanks. “The TCI initiative gives a larger voice to the think tanks by bringing together their different expertise and networks.” Rizqa recognizes that the think tanks are of different sizes and expertise, with some think tanks working, for example, on urban issues, while others focus on agriculture-related ones, making sharing and learning a rich experience.

Engaging the Think Tanks in Online Workshops

Inclusive Innovation (II) is supporting the TCI initiative throughout its implementation, including facilitating a series of key workshops, co-developing the workshops’ structures with Melanie and her team at IDRC. “We wanted to create a space where all think tank members could agree on expectations and get to know each other, answer questions such as ‘who does what?’ and identify areas where they might be complementary.”

This was the opportunity to create momentum and motivation, with the challenge of creating an engaging environment despite these workshops being virtual. “It was about finding new, original ways to share the information with one another, like when think tanks were invited to pretend they were five nations living together on an island.” II avoids traditional, monologue-style presentations and designs events that are extremely interactive. “The workshops kept surprising think tank members with new activities, making time fly and leaving no time nor desire to check our emails,” Melanie says.

An Emerging Set of Collaborative Actions for the Initiative

These workshops would later become a space for think tank members to share their results and learn from each other’s methodologies – but also to build future collaborations.

“This balance between fun and serious created an atmosphere and relationships where new collaborations are possible,” says Rizqa, from the Kota Kita think tank. Since the first workshop, various projects have emerged between the think tanks and are at different stages of development.

For instance, Kota Kita’s Think Climate Forum held its first dialogue in March 2022 and invited members of the other think tanks to participate. “The goal is to create a shared learning space where one can advance conversations on climate change and resilience among diverse stakeholders, including think tanks, policy makers, academics, civil society organizations that encourage collective actions” Another project, the Youth Boot Camp for Climate Justice, led by WRI Indonesia, took a different approach. “The idea behind the boot camp is to inspire youth in creating their own climate movement and agenda, to push the snowball into various bigger ones,” says Dean. Two other projects revolve around the knowledge and capability of smallholder farmers and on raising climate awareness among young Indonesian politicians.

Both Rizqa and Dean hope that these three years together will be the foundation for lifelong links between these five organizations, who have worked to build trust through “transparent, heart-to-heart” communication.

Interested in learning more about the two workshops? Check out our workshop reports: