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ELLIPTICAL TACTICS
FOR ADAPTATION INNOVATION
COULD ADAPTATION BE BETTER?
If you think so, maybe you can be part of making that happen. There are many paths to "better," so Elliptical Tactics for Adaptation Innovation was designed to support creativity and innovation on any path. Give it a try. Probably couldn't hurt.
INTRODUCTION
Each prompt is designed to help users brainstorm 'more innovative' adaptation approaches for ecosystems undergoing climate-driven transformation; they may have other applications, too. The prompts focus on (potentially unconscious) assumptions or (potentially fruitful) concepts from ecosystem theory, systems thinking, and organizational change tools. How to select from among your innovative possibilities is a challenge for later!
HOW TO USE THE PROMPTS
Depending on your situation, you might consider:
  • Have participants (or groups) select one or more prompts then spend 15 minutes brainstorming adaptation ideas;
  • Assigning specific prompts based on your sense of each participant's strengths or perspective;
  • Allowing each participant (group) to review the full list of prompts and select those they find most intriguing or relevant;
  • Combining prompts for a more focused and impactful challenge.
There is no wrong way to use the prompts.

If a prompt isn't helping, pick another or use it to inspire your own prompt.
FACILITATION SUGGESTIONS
If participants are struggling, make a prompt more context specific (but not too narrow!) by interpreting it to focus on a specific, relevant:
  • ecological concept (e.g., disturbance regimes; keystone species; life cycles; trophic systems (and potential for cascades); nutrient cycling systems);
  • feature of the ecosystem/protected area of focus (e.g., opportunities, key climate impacts, other stressors, dominant species);
  • planning spatial domain (management unit, watershed, landscape);
  • plausible climate future/ climate scenario;
  • information feedback loop;
  • phase of an iterative, sequential adaptation design. (e.g., remind participants they don't have to solve the whole thing at once, just initiate next phase of a process)
CREATION & SOURCE OF INFLUENCE
The 42 prompts were developed by the authors of the Innovation in Climate Adaptation report as a companion piece to inspire the type of innovation needed to achieve adaptation sufficient to meet the challenges of climate change. A limited number of decks were created for use at the 6th National Adaptation Forum. The idea of a deck was inspired by the Oblique Strategies card deck developed in the early 1970s by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. The current prompts broadly reflect inspiration from three sources: the Oblique Strategies deck and its focus on lateral thinking, embracing constraints, and challenging assumptions; major concepts in ecosystem theory and landscape ecology; and "systems thinking" with a focus on leverage points, feedback loops and information flows.

An original motivation for Eno was to have a tool to help him avoid a "direct head-on approach" to a problem in a recording studio: "If you're in a panic, you tend to take the head-on approach because it seems to be the one that's going to yield the best results. Of course, that often isn't the case."

Reynolds, J., L.J. Hansen and the Innovation in Climate Adaptation Working Group. 2024. Elliptical Tactics for Adaptation Innovation. www.EllipticalTactics.org

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