Say hi to Dr Mirianna Budimir – Senior Climate and Resilience Expert at Practical Action. Practical Action is an international development organisation working across Latin America, Africa and South Asia with people living in poverty to develop ingenious, lasting and locally-owned solutions for agriculture, water and waste management, climate resilience, and clean energy. As well as being a REAP Partner, Mirianna co-Chairs REAP’s Early Warning Initiatives Working Group, bringing vital expertise and perspectives to the Partnership’s work on early warning system design.
1. Tell us about how early warning and early action fits in with Practical Action's mission, and why it is a priority for you.
The communities we work with are among the most affected by the impacts of climate change and natural hazard-related disasters.
We can see the impacts of disasters are getting worse and are keeping people in a cycle of poverty. At Practical Action, we work on early warning systems (EWS) as part of our strategy to improve the resilience of the communities we work with. They provide an effective and essential way for people to take action to save lives and livelihoods, reducing the impacts of rapid onset disasters and protecting developmental gains.
Our work on developing and improving EWS focuses on taking a holistic and people-centred approach to ensure that timely, accurate, reliable, and understandable information reaches everyone in the right way for them to take action.
A systemic approach is critical to the success of our work. This means not working with communities in isolation but bringing them together with all actors with a role to play in an EWS – including scientists, technical experts, media, researchers, the private sector, and local and national governments – to design systems that are inclusive, suit the needs of the most vulnerable, and achieve sustainable impact at scale.
We also work to advocate and influence others to help take proven solutions to scale beyond the communities we directly work with.
2. Can you give some examples of successful early warning/early action initiatives you have worked on?
In Nepal and Peru, we have tried and tested a range of low- and high-tech monitoring solutions to improve localised warning information for communities. These including watchtowers, basic rain gauges made from plastic bottles, as well as 3D printed weather monitoring stations and LiDAR sensors to provide advance warning of flooding to communities. We are working with national stakeholders to embed these approaches into existing systems to improve the density of monitoring networks to support locally accurate early warning information..
In Bangladesh, we’re using multiple methods to make sure forecast information and warnings are accessible to more people. For example, localised voice messaging, volunteer-supported apps, and digital weather display boards.
In India, with our partners in the LANDSLIP research programme, we developed a prototype landslide EWS. The Geological Survey of India has since developed a National Landslide Forecasting Centre, building on the project experience and knowledge.
In recent years we have been developing our understanding and approach to considering and addressing gender, equity, and social inequalities through our EWS work across various projects. We understand that communities are diverse, and that marginalised people are often not included in decision making processes that affect their lives. We are working to prioritise the needs and experience of those who are most vulnerable. We’ve developed a framework for gender transformative EWS, developed a methodology for hearing from “Missing Voices”, and have used this to advise the design of gender and socially inclusive EWS, for example in the Philippines.
3. How has being a REAP Partner helped you scale up your work?
By being part of REAP – a trusted and well-respected partnership – our individual institutional messages are being shared with key influencers and decision makers with a greater collective voice, rather than competing for space to be heard. Being a co-chair of the Early Warning Initiatives Working Group has provided Practical Action with a seat at the table to not only be heard, but also to directly inform, influence, shape, and deliver on REAP’s collective strategy.
We have been part of producing and feeding into essential outputs that are not only useful resources for our practitioners in-country, but also provide us with the collective evidence, clarity of message, and weight of voice for advocacy and influence purposes at national and global policy and practice level, and also with donors.
Being part of a community of practice that shares experiences, lessons, problems, and solutions has expanded our knowledge, as well as inspired us to progress and do better in other areas. We have made connections with other individuals and organisations we want to collaborate with in the future.
The Partnership provides a dedicated and friendly space to listen, share and discuss with others who are also passionate and knowledgeable about early warning systems. The breadth of types of expertise and experience enables REAP Partners to have interesting, insightful, and nuanced discussions.
The Working Group and Partnership meetings allow us space and time to take a step back and critically reflect on what we are doing, where we want to see change, and how to get there. It proves an opportunity to look at the bigger picture and how we can collectively and individually utilise our resources to achieve greatest strategic impact.
4. What do you see as the next 1-2 priorities to tackle so that we can take early action to scale?
We must embed people-centred approaches that proactively address issues of gender, equity, and social inequalities as a systematic and standardised approach to all EWS. We need to design and implement locally-led, inclusive, and participatory approaches and processes so the needs and strengths of marginalised groups are integrated throughout the whole system. We need to go beyond considering majority users and proactively work to reach the most vulnerable to develop and deliver policies and plans that work for all people, including the most marginalised. We need to consider and serve the most vulnerable first, rather than as an afterthought, so that their needs are met as a priority and so that EWS can be scaled up to reach all of society. REAP commits to advancing people-centred early warning and early action, and so the Partnership needs to carefully consider exactly how it can put this principle into practice in its work, and influence others to do the same – because much more still needs to be done.
We must also ensure that we are using the wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience that already exists on EWS and build on the progress that has already been made. Resources are stretched everywhere, and the impacts of disasters are getting worse, so we need to listen to each other and collaborate in a coordinated way. We need to make the best use of scarce resources to identify and improve key leverage points that will have a positive knock-on effect to improve the functionality of whole early warning systems, so that we can achieve sustainable impact at scale. Belonging to REAP is a tangible way we can work with others in this space to ensure alignment, coherence and complementarity.