Suggestions for action


  1. Learn from the experience of others about engaging groups that do not normally participate in local initiatives1.
  • Go to them. These groups are not necessarily ‘hard to reach’ but they may not choose to come to you.
  • Find out how community resilience intersects with their interests, concerns and priorities.
  • Explain your initiative to them at the start and ask for feedback (if relevant) and if they would like to get involved.
  • Where possible, adapt the language used and tailor engagement activities and goals to their interests and existing activities. 
  • Formally appoint members of the group to the engagement team and offer recompense for their time. Explain why you want community input, methods for dealing with disputes, disagreement and complaints, including for example the ‘right to challenge’ enshrined in the Localism Act (2011).
  • See the case study on developing community resilience based on work in York through the Good Life initiative.


  1. Work through existing voluntary and community sector groups in your area.  Develop contacts in the local voluntary and community sector, including the voluntary sector support organisations to identify organisations that are currently working with vulnerable groups to develop a community engagement strategy.


  1. Build awareness of local climate hazards through locally relevant and appropriately tailored messages about the likelihood and severity of the climate impacts which could occur.  Since people are generally more motivated by specific, local climate hazards it means that efforts which focus on accessible information about the potential impacts of events likely to occur locally over the short to medium term are a good place to start. Information will need to be synthesized in an accessible way for the wider public.  It may make sense to start by considering to what extreme weather people are already vulnerable. The map tool gives information about flooding in the UK and heat-related hazards in England which may be helpful here.
  • See the Further Resources (Section 5 above) for information sources. For example information about the relative likelihood of different events from appropriate local summaries, such as those produced by UKCP09. The Environment Agency flood map can be used to raise awareness among the population of the potential for flooding in a local area.
  • See the case study from the NCVO about working with voluntary organisations to raise their understanding and awareness of climate change.    
  • Consult standards for community engagement, such as through Voice Scotland.


  1. Think about ways in which the impacts of a changing climate can be made relevant to individuals and communities to help them connect and feel at least partially responsible for addressing them rather than relying on one or more organisations to ‘solve’ everything. Evidence suggests that despite a number of different ways to build resilience to flooding, there is still a wide held preference for structural flood defences among the wider public and the media2,3. The misperception that hard engineering solutions are ‘flood proof’ needs to be tackled and used as a means of encouraging residents to also take steps to reduce the likelihood of flooding affecting them.
  • Consider reviewing information from LCLIPs to identify past events which help to make real connections for your target audience.
  • Consult research which has drawn together personal stories4 and other messages on socially vulnerable groups on this website.
  • Work with existing organisations to engage communities where appropriate5.
  • Further Resources (Section 5 above) has a range of examples which you might find helpful.
    • A good example of a comprehensive awareness raising and engagement initiative on climate change in a community is in Salford where climate change issues were linked to issues close to local residents, such as sustainable transport, greening the neighbourhood and recycling. See this report to Salford City Council for details.
    • Derbyshire County Council has a webpage on personal responsibility for being prepared to flooding.
    • Links to resources which communities can use to develop local plans.


  1. Recognise that it may be necessary to consider the wider context of future climate impacts for a particular policy goal; for example, to communicate the need for action to avoid compounding problems for future generations. In these circumstances scenarios need to be explained in a way which is sufficiently detailed and realistic that people can relate to the information provided6. Be aware, however, that this approach may re-enforce the ‘not in my lifetime’ mentality which evidence suggests can influence some groups, particularly older people7. The nature of the information should be tailored to the audience and the goal in hand and build on local community interests and concerns. See the Community Resilience toolkit developed by the Cabinet Office.


  1. Use a range of approaches to engagement, including written material and social media. 
  • Adapt existing flood risk and response brochure templates like ‘Know Your Flood Risk’ campaign’s The Flood Guide.
  • There are existing Facebook pages run by public agencies keeping people informed about floods. They can be focused on information about current flood warnings or be directed at people who have been flooded in order to offer advice.
  • Meetings and discussions might be a better way to reach some communities. Providing an arena where people can share their experiences, learn from and support each other, and talk to representatives of key organisations can be helpful, for example through flood groups (see the case study about the Doncaster Community Flood Warden Scheme) Consider establishing and supporting flood groups and networks of volunteers through the National Flood Forum. See the case studies from Buckingham and Doncaster on the cooperation between the local authorities and local groups.  Work with existing groups where appropriate, for example, Transition Town networks.
  • Consider inviting representatives of local communities from other affected areas - either from the local area or from a similar community elsewhere. People may relate better to others who have been in their position, who may not have seen the value of adaptation previously but now do or who have a useful story to tell. Recognise that some people in your local community may be more prepared to ask questions of and take advice from people not directly associated with formal organisations and agencies.  Your wider networks may provide suitable contacts - see the Benefits of working in partnership section for our information about partnership working.


  1. Recognise that false alarms or raising awareness of a potential problem that does not become apparent, at least in the short term, means that communities may not believe authorities in the future. Awareness raising must tackle the issue of uncertainty and explain how taking a precautionary approach will best protect them and their community.


  1. Recognise that awareness raising processes must also help people to identify solutions. A key requirement is that messages are supported with sufficient information and resources to enable people to act on their new knowledge. Without this, improved awareness may simply lead people to worry, deny the issue and withdraw8. It is vital that people have both knowledge of the risk and a sense that they can respond to reduce this risk in ways that seem meaningful and that result in real improvements9. They also need the resources to act at both an individual and community level.
  • See the Further Resources section for links to sources of more information, including the following which may be particularly important for flood responses:
  • Defra’s Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder projects are also providing further learning about partnership working and further learning will be emerging as a result. Projects aim to protect a range of properties from flooding and deliver tangible and measurable outcomes. A set of projects on coastal resilience are already completed and all were shown to have improved community resilience to some extent.
  • See the Further Resources (Section 5. above) for more information about national Pathfinder Projects11,12. 


  1. Support people to implement adaptation measures by considering and addressing the barriers to adaptation. Some groups of people (such as people who are disabled or older people) may be less well placed to install flood resilience and on a practical level may be physically unable to operate certain types of flood defence (unless they are automated). Some property owners are reluctant to use/ install flood resilience for aesthetic reasons, or because it may cause blight or prevent them from obtaining insurance13,14.
  • Support the development of voluntary groups where people can support their less able neighbours or where measures specifically adapted to the needs of individuals can be installed. Also see the government’s guidance on how volunteers can help in emergencies
  • Listen to the concerns that people have about adopting particular measures and help people to come to an informed judgement about their specific circumstances. Initial perceptions might be changed through discussion.
  • More information about organisations that can help support volunteering can be found through the links in Section 5 above.  


  1. Consider getting people to make a pledge for action, whether this is to help a neighbour during an emergency or fit a specific property protection measure (see this case study of a project in Salford which included flood resistant homes).
  • See the Further Resources (Section 5 above) for examples of training materials (like this online community training in Green Infrastructure) and Salford case study) which made use of this idea.

  • Consider using incentives - both financial and non-financial – to increase the acceptance of schemes. Incentives can include subsidised public transport and free access to local college courses. See the report from a pilot project on incentives for flood resilience and energy saving measures in a Greater Manchester neighbourhood.


  1. Identify ways in which communities can be empowered to take forward their own responses which may relate to preparing for extreme weather, responding in emergencies or wider actions to address climate change. For example consider how groups like Transition Towns or other community initiatives could be supported to develop broader community responses and actions on sustainability.


Back to the top




  1. Sze et al. (2009) Sze, J., Gambirazzio, G., Karner, A., Rowan, D., London, J. and Niemeier, D. (2009) ‘Best in show? Climate and environmental justice policy in California’. Environmental Justice, 2(4), pp. 179–84 cited in Preston, I. et al 2014 Climate Change and Social Justice: An Evidence Review, JRF 
  2. Werritty, A., Houston, D., Ball, T., Tavendale, A. & Black, A.  (2007) “Exploring the social impacts of flood risk and flooding in Scotland”, Scottish Executive Social Research, Edinburgh. 
  3. Johnson C, Priest S (2008) Flood risk management in England: A changing landscape of risk responsibility? International  Journal of  Water Resources Development  24:513–525 
  4. Whittle, R. et al. 2010. After the Rain – learning the lessons from flood recovery in Hull, final project report for “Flood, Vulnerability and Urban Resilience: a real-time study of local recovery following the floods of June 2007 in Hull”, Lancaster University, Lancaster UK 
  5. Including local Councils for Voluntary Service (CVS) 
  6. Sutton, M.R., Douglas, K.M. and Murphy, A.O. (2013) Engaging coastal communities in climate mitigation and adaptation measures. A review of relevant psychological science. School of Psychology, University of Kent. 
  7. Zsamboky, M., Fernandez-Bilbao, A., Smith, D., Knight, J. & Allan, J. (2011) “Impacts of climate change on disadvantaged UK coastal communities”, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York. 
  8. Harries, Tim (2010) Household Flood Protection Grants - The householder perspective , Paper delivered to the Defra and Environment Agency Flood and Coastal Risk Management Conference 2010 – Telford International Conference Centre, 29th June 2010 
  9. Lamond JE, Proverbs DG (2009) Resilience to flooding: lessons from international comparison. Urban Des Plan 162:63–70 
  10. Defra Press Release (25/3/2013) about funding for innovative flood defence schemes 
  11. Defra (2012) Coastal Change Pathfinder Review Final Report 
  12. Defra Press Release (25/3/2013) about funding for innovative flood defence schemes 
  13. White, I., O’Hare, P., Lawson, N., Garvin, S. and Connelly, A. (2012) Barriers to flood resilience: Findings from the SMARTEST project. The University of Manchester and BRE, Manchester. 
  14. Harries, Tim (2010) Household Flood Protection Grants - The householder perspective, Paper delivered to the Defra and Environment Agency Flood and Coastal Risk Management Conference 2010 – Telford International Conference Centre, 29th June 2010