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Adapting Practice in a Socially Distant World

With COVID-19 taking up much of the world’s headspace, you’d be forgiven for thinking that climate change and the associated risks had taken a back seat. But that’s not the case at Nation Partners.
Since February, Nation Partners has been assisting our client, Downer to establish its approach to integrating project sustainability and climate resilience. Set to a backdrop of a summer of unprecedented fires across Australia’s Eastern Seaboard, Downer is committed to ensuring its projects are resilient to current and future climate risks.
In line with Downer’s Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) requirements, a key mechanism to ensure this is identifying and assessing the risks posed by climate change, and identifying and integrating adaptation measures for the highest rated risks.
In mid-March, social distancing restrictions came into place across Australia due to COVID-19. Due to these circumstances, we were required to adapt our approach to ensure climate risk workshop attendees could meaningfully participate in the risk identification process and the workshop’s desired outcomes could be achieved. Instead of hosting one large face-to-face workshop, as was originally planned, Nation Partners decided to hold three workshops with smaller groups over Zoom in early April 2020.
A comprehensive briefing pack was developed and shared with attendees before the workshops, to ensure they had the information they needed to participate and would not be hindered by the remote delivery of the workshop. During the Zoom sessions, the Nation Partners team used the ‘screen share’ function to display the climate change risk register to all participants and monitored the ‘chat’ function to ensure all workshop attendees were given the opportunity to share their thoughts. 
Our introductory slides were also adapted, and we asked participants to share the silver lining to working at home, that humanised and broke down barriers that sometimes emerge with multiple stakeholders in a design and construct environment. We learnt of people spending more time with their families and rediscovering pastimes, such as skipping and cooking.
To reflect the prevailing concern of the day, we also integrated this pertinent graph from the 2014 Emergency Management Victoria report, State Emergency Risk Assessment 2012-2013, illustrating the residual risk in Victoria from both climate events and natural hazards, such pandemic influenza. It highlighted both, the torrid time Australia has endured over the past six months, and that these risks are real and need to be planned for and addressed today, to build future resilience.


During the risk review, having the register on display meant attendees were actively able to participate in the risk identification and assessment process, and utilising the chat function allowed participants to flag they had something to contribute without interrupting others.
The climate change risk assessment workshops were well-received by both the client and participants. Despite not being able to come together in person, careful planning and tailoring of the workshop approach to the new delivery method meant that stakeholders were more than able to meaningfully contribute to the risk assessment process, achieving the desired outcome of the workshop and contributing to a more resilient infrastructure.
If you’d like to chat more about ensuring your infrastructure is climate resilient, drop me a message and I’ll get in touch, Rob Turk –


Article by Rob Turk, Amy Cox and Olivia Whitaker, Nation Partners.