Mark Harvey, Resurgence

Meet the partners
13 November, 2023
Author name:
Mark Harvey
Mark Harvey, Founder and CEO of Resurgence

Today’s Meet the Partner interview is with Mark Harvey, Founder and CEO of Resurgence. Resurgence aims to protect those at risk from the impacts of climate change, with a particular focus on cities and their communities. They invest in the co-design of weather and climate services, as well as inclusive early warning systems, and have developed a model for this which is called DARAJA, meaning ‘bridge’ in Swahili. DARAJA is both a service and partnership that aims to improve these services for urban users, including through a range of digital tools, apps and resources hosted on a digital platform. It has already been piloted in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam with strong results and is now being expanded across East Africa’s urban informal settlements in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda. 

1. Tell us about how the DARAJA East Africa Scale Up Programme came about, and why it is so important. 

The present moment is critical for bringing weather and climate information services to cities in East Africa, and a number of factors are at play. Due to prolonged droughts and failed rainy seasons across the region, there are increasing numbers of people moving from rural or agricultural to urban areas. However, these urban communities are themselves vulnerable to a range of hazards including floods, heat waves, storms, and so on. Despite this, historically, the provision of weather and climate information services (including early warnings) has focused on industries such as the aviation, agricultural and marine sectors. This means that there is an increasing share of the population that is being left behind in terms of their ability to plan, prepare for, and act ahead of disasters. And when you look at projections, you begin to see the long-term implications: the World Bank estimates that by 2050, 50% of Africa’s GDP will be generated in cities. That means that if the current situation is left unaddressed, it will have significant negative impacts on future sustainable development. 

By scaling up DARAJA in East Africa – firstly in Kampala, Addis Ababa and Khartoum – we are looking to get ahead of this curve, while answering the question: can a common methodology be applied to similar contexts and achieve the same level of impact? Answering this question will enable us to further plan how we scale up the DARAJA approach so that it continues to protect those at risk. Key to that will be the engagement that is achieved among the varied range of partners involved in DARAJA: at its core, it is about bringing together national meteorological agencies with community-based organisations. But true to its name, DARAJA builds bridges from these core stakeholders to many others, such as city authorities, the media, the national Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies, telecommunications companies, and, in the case of East Africa in particular, regional centres. We're working with ICPAC, another REAP Partner, to bring their forecasting abilities and products into the urban space. 

2. What other early warning/early action initiatives are you working on? 

We’ve worked to bring DARAJA to other contexts including SIDS, and have seen great successes there too. The project took 18 months to two years, and required us to scale DARAJA beyond urban environments, because in a small island developing state, you can't just work with urban communities. So, we worked with farmers and fishermen as well as urban dwellers, and a key output of that endeavour was the customisation of a smartphone app to support the island communities to take risk-informed action. The app has been really well-received and we’ll be closely monitoring usage over the coming months and years, especially with a view to assessing its suitability in East Africa. We're really interested in these kind of technology applications, not as a technology provider ourselves, but as a facilitator for their effective use based on our understanding of co-design and co-production with communities through the framework we've created under DARAJA. 

Of course, the other big piece is the UN Secretary General’s Early Warnings for All initiative (EW4All). While the DARAJA model is more focused on communication and dissemination, it touches on all four pillars of the initiative through production of forecasts with national met agencies, through supporting preparedness of communities, and so on. We hope that the East Africa scale-up can serve as a city demonstrator for the initiative and provide learning for global partners working in other locations. 

3. How has being a REAP Partner helped you? 

Being a REAP Partner has really helped us connect with key stakeholders – other implementers, donors, and so on – in a different way. It feels like a non-transactional, collaborative space where we can really explore and learn how to work better together, and come to understand different departure points for the work of the Partnership – and how can they be brought together in unified models. This is especially important for a smaller organisation like Resurgence which just doesn’t have the same set up or capacity as, say, the larger humanitarian Partners of REAP. But as part of a broad partnership, we’re able to bring in our own knowledge and expertise and use that to influence how others approach their work as well. 

The knowledge sharing and access to information that REAP provides is critical, but it doesn’t stop there – it can lead to real collaboration and even funding opportunities. A great example is the two-way partnership we have with the Lloyd's Register Foundation (LRF), which runs the World Risk Poll and is another REAP Partner. Through an opportunity shared by REAP, Resurgence advised on some of the survey approaches to the World Risk Poll and the LRF is now involved in the East Africa scale up programme – sharing its data as a kind of an informal baseline, and using what we will gather from that project to further improve the World Risk Poll through an urban micro-data set. 

4. What do you see as the next 1-2 priorities to tackle so that we can take early action to scale? 

To begin with, we need a better understanding of community information needs. This is fundamentally linked to the issue of access to trusted data, which we see as equally important as vulnerability data, for example. The latter can enable targeted and more impactful interventions, but if communities don’t trust what the information they are receiving, they will not act. But what we are seeing at the moment is significant investment in improving vulnerability data but very little in the way of identifying and building appropriate communication channels and methods. 

We also need to start more systematically assessing the impact of our activities using an economics-led approach. For example, we should be asking what is the avoided loss and damage of an intervention, and then building on that by bringing in additional, complementary interventions to build a best fit model – that really brings together public and private systems. Only then can we deliver truly effective early warning and early action.