Caribbean Coastal Resilience: Scaling Innovative Solutions

A new project, “Best Practices for Scaling up Innovative Blue Economy and Coastal Climate Resilience Projects in the Caribbean,” is now in motion, building on the HIT RESET Caribbean initiative. Funded by IrishAid through the Marine Institute’s Our Shared Ocean Programme, our project commenced in January 2024. It aims to boost the region’s coastal resilience and blue economy initiatives by enhancing the sustainability and impact of existing projects.

The Caribbean region faces significant challenges in planning and managing digital data related to coastal resilience. Coastal communities are disproportionately affected by climate-related events such as hurricanes, sea-level rise, and coastal erosion, which threaten livelihoods, infrastructure, and natural ecosystems. Moreover, the existing approaches to climate resilience in these areas often lack the integration of innovative technologies and sustainable practices necessary to sustain the actions’ results.

The University of the West Indies leads the European Union-funded project ‘Harnessing Innovative Technologies to Support Resilient Settlements on the Coastal Zones of the Caribbean’ (HIT RESET Caribbean). HIT RESET Caribbean aims to address these issues by developing and implementing comprehensive, technology-driven strategies to enhance the accessibility of data for decision-makers. Using innovative digital technologies, the project fosters the development of national and regional innovation systems to strengthen the sustainability of blue economy and coastal resilience projects. Nine grants have been accordingly allocated to applicants from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the CARIFORUM region, focusing on utilizing innovative technologies to address significant challenges in Caribbean coastal zone management.

However, creating digital solutions may not be enough. Many funded projects aimed at enhancing blue economy and coastal climate resilience struggle to achieve and sustain their intended outcomes. These initiatives often face challenges in scaling their solutions effectively and ensuring long-term impact after the project ends. The IrishAid project seeks to bridge the gap between project implementation and sustainable results by developing frameworks and strategies supporting innovative solutions’ sustainability, scaling, and commercialization.

Our new project aligns closely with HIT RESET Caribbean’s objective to use innovative digital technologies. It aims to complement and extend its efforts by enhancing the capacity of beneficiaries and others to strengthen their sustainability. Projects often do not sustain results beyond their funding lifetime; hence, we see the third-party projects under HIT RESET Caribbean as a valuable opportunity for scaling research.

As scaling is not a topic that has been addressed in great detail in the region, the simultaneous launch of multiple third-party projects with shared characteristics presents a unique chance to conduct this project. After conducting a thorough literature review on scaling, we’ve selected three of these projects as case studies to delve into the common challenges they encounter. We’re actively engaged in fieldwork, conducting interviews with project managers and engaging with various stakeholders, including government agencies, non-profits, private companies, and local communities relevant to the selected case studies. Our upcoming training session, at Caribbean Urban Forum (CUF), is scheduled from June 25th to June 28th and will allow us to bring stakeholders together. Recognizing that sustainable innovation requires both creation and adoption by governmental bodies, we emphasize the inclusion of government officials in our training sessions. Additionally, the involvement of multilateral financial institutions is crucial for understanding the funding flows and programming of developmental actions in the Caribbean. CUF provides us with a platform to convene diverse stakeholders to address the scaling challenges faced by regional projects and create scaling-up plans. Ultimately, we will use this research to develop frameworks to expand the reach and effectiveness of coastal projects. By creating these frameworks, we aim to identify and overcome the limitations of scaling and provide valuable insights on achieving broader impacts.

One of the key outcomes of this project will be a User Guide. This valuable resource will offer practical advice and strategies for other coastal resilience projects to improve project design for sustainability. While our initial focus is on HIT RESET Caribbean projects, we aim for a broader impact. The guide is designed to benefit the entire innovation ecosystem across the region, empowering local communities to tackle their unique climate resilience challenges through indigenous innovation. This could lead to more community involvement, more efficient collaboration between governments and non-profits, increased participation of private companies, improved financing for local ideas, faster adaptation of laws and policies, and better coordination between international and local efforts. These factors will contribute to improving our marine environments, particularly those focusing on nearshore issues.

Stay tuned for future blog posts where we will share insights, findings, and implications as this project progresses.

More information on the HIT RESET Caribbean projects can be found on our website: hitresetcaribeean.org.

This project aims to provide support for projects which develop innovations to increase resilience in coastal communities of the Caribbean, as well as strengthen institutions, national and local governments’ ability to leverage information and knowledge for policy amendments.