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How we work

Our Work

Our Projects

How We Adapt approaches each project by drawing on the strength of partnership and collaboration. Examples of our work are included below. 



The Just Urban Transitions project, funded by Agora Energiewende

Just Urban Transitions is a project that aims to support sense-making and policymaking and implementation for South Africa’s just transition. It is focussed, particularly, on urban contexts as critical sites of transition, with diverse and specific challenges and opportunities that are not always visible at the national scale. The project is implemented in partnership with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), together with key actors such a WWF South Africa, the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES), TIPS, and Sustainable Energy Africa. Published outputs are available here. Under this project, support has been given to Provincial, District and Local Governments in Mpumalanga Province to advance just transition research, planning and action.



Garden Route District Municipality Growth and Development Strategy

Lauren Hermanus led the conceptual design and development of the Garden Route Growth and Development Strategy in partnership with the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership (EDP). A risk-driven development planning approach was designed and implemented with the EDP team, together with the District and local municipalities, private sector actors and civil society. A first iteration strategy adaptation was undertaken in order to pivot to sustainable and inclusive post-COVID recovery, as well as longer term development, growth and resilience goals.



UNIDO & NCPC Theory of Change for the Industrial Energy Efficiency 

As part of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has sought to apply a theory of change approach to the South Africa-based project, Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement in South Africa through Mainstreaming the Introduction of Energy Management Systems and Energy Systems Optimization (IEE). We designed a bespoke facilitated theory of change process that allowed participants, based at the National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC), to assess work to date and plan for the future.



The GreenWin Project

We worked with the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) to lead the South African component of the GreenWin project, a European Commission-funded international interdisciplinary collaboration. GreenWin comprises 32 international academic, civil society, and social purpose business partners. It aims to support all levels of climate action, from finance to coastal risk management. With partners in Spain, India, and Indonesia, our work honed in on bottom-up, distributed solutions to  Energy Poverty Eradication and Climate Resilient Livelihoods through Win-Win Solutions. In the South African context, this work was strongly connected to service delivery and municipal sustainability.



Beyond the Networked City

Lauren Hermanus is part of a team of researchers from the University of Cape Town’s African Centre for Cities, University of Bristol, Loughborough University, Makerere University and the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC). The project focuses on a ‘mixed economy’ delivery of essential services, incorporating formal and informal providers with both on and off-grid delivery, that meets the demands of marginalised urban populations in Africa.



Transforming Change is a collaborative learning program that starts from the assumption that, to achieve the changes needed for a just and thriving world, we must transform the process of change itself. In other words, what is commonly known as (international, national, regional, and local) development originates and operates within the same framework that created the social and ecological challenges that development practice claims to address.


The program is based in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is led by a team at Stockholm University (the Stockholm Resilience Centre), the University of Cape Town, and Stellenbosch University, with several independent collaborators. We are actively looking to build our network with other universities and organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in the global South. 

Solar Panel Installation


Municipal energy in South Africa

South Africa recently published its first official update to the national Draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2018. Municipalities are impacted by these national energy investment decisions. They also play a critical and transforming role in the electricity sector. How We Adapt collaborated with the University of Cape Town's Energy Research Centre to assist the South African Local Governments Association (SALGA) to develop a clear, strategic position on the IRP, undertaking research, analysis, and workshop facilitation.

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Moving towards Sustainable Procurement in the Western Cape

Governments around the world are attempting to use their significant spending power to support their sustainable development goals, including resource efficiency, climate change resilience, and local economic development. However, public procurement is a complex and often politically fraught process. This work aimed to make sustainable public procurement practical and achievable for subnational governments.  Moving towards sustainable performance-based procurement in the Western Cape was a collaboration between the Western Cape Government, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and WWF South Africa. How We Adapt worked with WWF to identify key stakeholders and undertake engagement and research. The project was built on working within the Western Cape Government, managed by Lauren Hermanus while working as the Green Economy Coordinator. She also established the partnerships necessary to undertake this work.



A risk-driven approach to local economic development

How We Adapt is working with the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership (WCEDP), to develop a social-ecological, risk-driven approach to short-, medium- and long-term economic development planning at the subnational regional, and local (municipal) scales. The first region to apply this approach is the Garden Route District on the east coast of South Africa.

This approach is based on How We Adapt's evolving thinking on uncertainty and risk, informed by complex systems thinking, as well as applied financial risk management. 



Designing a dialogue series on employment and related challenges and opportunities within the South African energy transition for GIZ

In 2019, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), under the South African-German Energy Programme (SAGEN), commissioned work to scope an employment-focussed dialogue series. Work was undertaken under, "Scoping a dialogue series on the issue of employment within the South African energy transition” (4). Building on this, a process was designed, to be led by TIPS and WWF SA, to convene urgent dialogues to facilitate shared understanding and necessary consensus and collaboration on jobs and employment in South Africa’s just transition.



IKI COBENEFITS of renewable energy: socio-economic assessment of the SED and ED elements of the REIPPP, Postsdam IASS 2018

Anthony Dane (Change Pathways) and Lauren Hermanus (How We Adapt), subcontracted to Knowledge Pele (KP), led the methodology team looking to measure the impact of Socio-Economic and Enterprise Development spend by Independent Power Producers in South Africa. Nolwazi Sokhulu was also contracted to KP, working as a Field research co-ordinator and data aggregator. This study included an assessment of selected socio-economic impacts realised to date in three RE Independent Power Producer projects and, drawing on additional public evidence, modelled these selected impacts across the sector up to 2050

How We Work

Our Services

How We Adapt works across disciplines and various content areas. However, across these areas, we use a few core approaches, methods and skills. We combine these in any combination best suited to the particular project in question. 

How we work


Collective Sensemaking & Process Facilitation

Diversity and integrating multiple perspectives are key principles in working with complexity and seeding resilience. This means working skillfully to bring multiple insights and kinds of knowledge into facilitated processes. These engagements might be exploratory, strategic, or tied into monitoring and evaluation processes. 

We draw from a range of facilitation approaches and tools, including:

  • Systems Mapping

  • Theory of Change

  • Various consensus-building processes

Our facilitation work is always shaped to meet the particular needs of participants, as well as the desired outcomes and scope.


Research & Analysis

How We Adapt undertakes problem-driven research that responds to challenges, as they are experienced. That means no templates and no reductive strategies.  We will assemble the right skills and experience, drawing on our extensive network, to produce dynamic insights calibrated to the particular question, application, and audience.

Our core expertise includes qualitative research, complexity, ethics and governance, sustainable development, energy transitions, risk, economics and finance, local economic development, and political economy. However, we are practiced in thinking and working in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams. In particular, we often work with quantitative researchers, quantitative modelers, ecologists, and other experts.


Policy, Strategy & Programme Development, Implementation, & Monitoring and Evaluation

We undertake sustainable development policy development for the public and private sectors. We work across scales, within organizations, sectors, towns, cities, and national, subnational, and international regions. how we adapt combines content-specific expertise with sensitivity to complexity to develop dynamic, responsive programs and policies.

We apply a partnering approach in which strategies, policies, and programs are developed iteratively, grounded in research and concrete evidence, and drawing on the internal skills and expertise of the organizations with which we work. 

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