Development of Teaching Case for Great Lakes Climate Adaptation Network

Project Summary

GLISA partnered with Michigan Sustainability Cases (MSC), a program at the UM School for Environment and Sustainability, to develop a teaching case about the challenges of co-production and sustaining partnerships between producers and users of climate information. The case highlights the establishment of the Great Lakes Climate Action Network (GLCAN) as a model of sustainable coproduction. Forming in part as a result of the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities (GLAA-C) project, GLCAN was created in 2015 as a regional network of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) to unite Great Lakes cities with universities and other climate partners in the region. 

In 2017, the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) worked with GLISA and five Great Lakes cities in GLCAN to develop a common vulnerability assessment template, which the cities could use to mainstream adaptation planning at the project level. The partnerships between GLISA, GLCAN, HRWC, and the cities of the Great Lakes illustrate GLISA’s boundary chain model of stakeholder engagement and point to ways in which coproduction of usable climate information can be sustained even when funding has ceased. To develop the case, we utilize MSC’s innovative multimedia platform to pair the development of a case study with video and podcast production. A GLISA graduate student-led the development and completion of the case utilizing MSC’s innovative multimedia platform to pair the development of a case study with video and podcast production (i.e., three videos with practitioners, a podcast with GLISA’s climatologists, and an interactive diagram of the boundary chain model of coproduction). Practitioners not only participated in on-camera interviews but also reviewed and contributed to the case study itself, ensuring that their perspective was accurately captured. The case is freely available on MSC’s learning platform and can be accessed and used by anyone with a free account. GLISA PI Lemos is using the case in her ‘Climate Adaptation’ course this year.

Project Accomplishments

  • MSC teaching curriculum including narrative, video, podcast, and interactive boundary chain diagram.

Interactive Boundary Chain Diagram

Research findings

GLCAN illustrates what can happen when organizations with similar interests and a need for climate information are connected not just to a single boundary organization, but also to each other. In this case, the boundary chain model helped cities integrate information into their existing planning processes. It also made coproduction more effective, efficient, and easier to scale up. Rather than reaching just one city, GLISA reached five. It can, and is, reaching many others through the expansion of the template. GLCAN made the coproduction process more efficient and less costly for cities too, allowing them to share information and resources to address common challenges. The final product is not just improved decision-making for adaptation, but also a long-term collaborative network.

But GLCAN also raises some unanswered questions. One key question is how can the boundary chain model be sustained? Currently, most coproduction is driven by funding models, like GLISA’s Small Grants Program, that incentivizes organizations and decision-makers to coproduce and use climate information. Can boundary organizations like GLISA continue to build networks for coproduction without providing financial support? Perhaps one of the more important lessons provided by GLCAN is that, with the right organizational structure in place, bottom-up ideas about how climate information can and should be used can emerge.

A second outstanding question is how can organizations like GLISA scale up the process of coproduction to reach a wider set of potential users? Even with the improved efficiency of the boundary chain model, coproduction remains time and resource-intensive for all involved. It took one year to create the Vulnerability Assessment template for five cities. While it can and is being extended to other cities, it will still require the coproduction of city-specific climate and socioeconomic data. How would GLISA, with only three climatologists, meet the potential demand from hundreds of Great Lakes cities and towns? To begin to answer this question, GLISA and its partners are currently experimenting with different methods of coproduction to understand which are both cost-effective and efficient.

GLISA Contribution

  • GLISA graduate student research assistant Katie Browne led the development and completion of the case.

Project Partners

  • University of Michigan – Michigan Sustainability Cases

GLISA Contact

Jenna Jorns, Program Manager,


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