Step 4: Prioritize Actions

Evaluate costs, benefits, and your team’s capacity to accomplish each action. Rank the expected value of each action. Integrate the highest-value actions into a stepwise plan. The result will be a comprehensive plan to implement your favored solutions.

Consolidate actions into a cohesive plan

  • Combine similar actions and sequence them to reduce risk across assets.

In this step, you’ll raise the group’s perspective from considering a subset of single assets to taking a look at the bigger picture. Examine your full list of actions from the previous step and look for patterns and similarities among the entries.

Consider how you might combine actions intended to increase resilience for single asset-threat pairs to protect several assets. Look for an efficient sequence of actions that could reduce risk across the full range of assets. Taking this larger view may help you find synergistic actions and cost savings; it can also help you recognize the potential for unintended consequences.

The goal of this step is identify a series of actions that all stakeholders will agree upon and support. The process also enables all stakeholders to represent the benefits of the plan to their own constituents.


Estimate the expected value of each action

  • Assess whether investments will reduce risk.

Before you invest in an action, you’d like to have a good sense of if it will truly reduce risk. Recall that the concept of risk encompasses the probability of a loss as well as the magnitude of the loss. Effective actions need to reduce one or both of these elements. Addressing this type of risk is called an expected value analysis. As was the case in earlier steps, some groups choose to engage risk management consultants to assist them with this process.

You can decide if each action is a worthwhile investment by comparing the cost to implement it to the expected value of the benefit it will provide. If the total value of reduced risk, increased resilience, and co-benefits are expected to have a comparable or higher value than the cost of implementing the project, expected value is positive.

Take a step: Compare the cost to implement each solution you listed to the expected value of the benefit it will provide.

Be aware that estimating the potential financial benefit of intangible things such as ecosystem services can lead to a broad range of expected values. Also, in some cases, the expected value of reduced risk associated with an action may seem positive, but only because the action transfers or delays risk. For actions in your plan that do not show a positive expected value, return to Step 4.1 or earlier steps to seek another solution.


Evaluate trade-offs

  • In light of limited resources, decide what you can do.

Compare your list of worthwhile investments with your budget: most groups won’t have enough time or money to do everything they’ve identified.

From your sequence of actions, try to identify a subset of actions you can implement with available resources that would yield a positive benefit-to-cost ratio. Consider that taking action to put an important and highly visible portion of your plan into effect may give you a “win” that could attract additional resources. As possible, anticipate any unintended consequences that could result from individual actions.

Take a step: Decide which positive benefit-to-cost ratio actions you can implement with available resources.

If your budget check indicates your feasible solutions wouldn’t be sufficient to build resilience, break your actions into smaller steps to identify the most effective solutions you could implement. Iterate as often as necessary, looping back to previous steps and giving further consideration to solutions you once discarded as infeasible. Figure out what it would take to get past the obstacles you perceived to put additional options on the table.


Plan the project

  • Develop a timeline and milestones to mark your progress.

Decide which option(s) should be implemented in what order, and lay them out in a detailed plan. Actively involve stakeholders who will invest in the plan. Recognize that some groups may take responsibility or make a major contribution for specific parts of the plan. Groups may also find funds, win grants, or recruit volunteers to implement various facets of the plan.

Take a step: Select a project management method that works for your group to document your plans.

In building your timeline, consider a phased approach with discrete milestones. As the first steps can be among the hardest, you may want to include some easy-to-implement options early in the process to help you build a track record of wins. Include a strategy for communicating your efforts via press releases and/or social media. Make contingency plans for acknowledging and correcting strategies that don’t turn out as well as you planned.

Encourage stakeholders to formalize commitments of time and resources that will meet the timeline you’ve developed. Alternatively, be prepared to adjust your schedule to meet stakeholders’ abilities to contribute resources. Where possible, build in flexibility, alternatives, and redundancies to accomplish the most important parts of the plan.

Be sure to document your plan and share it widely. Include a narrative that summarizes the asset-threat pairs you’ve addressed; the potentially exacerbating climate- and non-climate-related stressors you identified; actions that were considered and which were selected, and why; the anticipated costs, benefits, and outcomes of the plan; phases of the plan’s implementation, with estimated timelines to completion; and how progress and results will be monitored and reported over time. You want to be transparent and inclusive: be sure to cite your sources for important data and information that isn’t common knowledge. Publish your plan at an accessible, easily identifiable location.


Decision point

  • Does your plan describe the group's best actions to protect what you value?

If the answer is yes, MOVE ON TO STEP 5. If not, continue working to identify a comprehensive set of actions that can reduce your risk.

Instructions on these pages encourage you to gather specific types of information. You may find it convenient to download this prepared spreadsheet and use it to record input as you move through the steps. 

Access the Steps to Resilience Glossary for definitions and examples of words related to resilience.

References for Steps to Resilience

Last modified: 
21 April 2017 - 11:20am
Organizations that manage environmental resources can use this guide to prepare a broad, risk-based adaptation plan.
Tribes, agencies, and organizations can use this guide as a framework to increase understanding of issues relating to access and protection of traditional knowledges in climate initiatives.