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Roxane Bandini-Maeder19 June 20247 min read

The importance of stakeholder engagement in leveraging technology for climate resilience and disaster risk reduction: implementing a wildfire exposure index in Bhutan


In a world increasingly vulnerable to climatic disasters, the integration of cutting-edge technology with proactive stakeholder engagement is essential for long-term preparedness. Technology has the potential to greatly enhance outcomes in disaster risk reduction, but studies have shown stakeholder engagement is crucial for successful adoption1 

Cutting-edge technology available for disaster risk reduction is diverse and can support multiple functions such as preparedness, mitigation, response, and resilience. At Geoneon, we specialise in leveraging Earth Observation, Artificial Intelligence, and Data Fusion to map climate risk, supporting long-term preparedness and planning. Technology supporting long-term preparedness is essential because it helps governments and communities predict, plan for, and mitigate the impacts of disasters, supporting resilience. By leveraging advanced tools and data, proactive strategies can be developed to strengthen response capabilities and enhance recovery efforts.  

Emerging technologies often introduce significant changes in processes and how information is received and perceived, which can lead to resistance2. Without stakeholder engagement, technology solutions can face reluctance in adoption, and without alignment with the end-user framework, they risk being quickly dismissed as impractical or irrelevant. In this blog, we will showcase how we have engaged with stakeholders in the implementation of a wildfire fire exposure index in Bhutan.  


Case Study: Implementation and AI Driven Climate Resilience Tool in Bhutan 


Project Overview 

Bhutan, a landlocked country nestled in the Himalayas, is facing significant environmental and socio-economic challenges due to climate change. With approximately 70% of its land covered by forest, Bhutan is home of rich biodiversity but also faces increasing threats from wildfires. These fires endanger Bhutan’s natural and built infrastructure, the well-being of communities in wildland-urban interfaces, and culturally significant sites. 


Figure 1: Fire Scar Wangditse Lhakhang 

To address these urgent challenges, Geoneon is developing a Wildfire Exposure Index. This innovative tool leverages Earth Observation and Artificial Intelligence to provide detailed insights into wildfire exposure at an unprecedented 10-meter resolution across the nation. Our approach is designed to refine decision-making, empower communities with vital information, and ensure data accessibility and timeliness. 

The Wildfire Exposure Index represents a significant advancement in the collective efforts to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the impacts of wildfires, thereby ensuring Bhutan’s resilience in the face of climate change. This project aims to enhance climate resilience, promote the adoption of cutting-edge technology, and empower local capacities. 


Engagement Strategy  

This project is in partnership with the Department of Local Governance and Disaster Management (DLGDM) as primary partner and the Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) as a technical partner.  

We implemented a comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy to ensure the development of the geospatial tool is inclusive and representative of Bhutan's diverse stakeholder ecosystem. 


Stakeholder Analysis 

A stakeholder analysis was conducted to identify and categorise various stakeholders based on their involvement, interests, influence and backgrounds. This included government agencies, NGOs, CSOs, international organisations, and academic bodies. The categorisation helped us ensure that all critical stakeholders were included in the engagement process. 


Engagement Methods 

  • Workshops and Facilitated Group Discussions: These sessions are designed to foster collaboration and gather input from stakeholders. Structured activities guided by specific questions allow small groups to discuss key issues, which are then presented to all participants for further in-depth discussion. This method helped us understand the specific needs and concerns of different stakeholder groups. 


Figure 2 Facilitated Group Discussion 


Figure 3: Facilitated Group Discussion 

  • Surveys and Inter-Agency Consultations: Surveys provides structured and additional feedback from stakeholders, while inter-agency consultations facilitate direct meetings between organisations to discuss specific technical and non-technical issues. These consultations align the tool with stakeholders' needs and preferences, ensuring practicality and wide acceptance. They also inform low-influence, low-interest stakeholders about the project, raising awareness of its objectives and impact. 


Figure 4: Inter Agency Consultation - College of Natural Resources, Lobesa – Metsina.  

  • Field Investigations: Field investigations are important to understand the local context. These on-the-ground assessments provide critical insights into the environmental and socio-economic factors influencing wildfire risk in different regions of Bhutan. 


Figure 5: Fire Scar Khamtoe Lam NE 

  • Training: Training is critical for knowledge transfer to ensure the sustainability of the implementation of the technology beyond the phase of implementation. We started with a first training session on the sensitisation of Earth Observation, Artificial Intelligence, and Data Fusion in the context of Disaster Risk Reduction. This session was essential for stakeholders to understand the technology behind the tool and its potential applications. More training will be undertaken during the implementation of the tool.


Figure 6: Sensitisation to Technology Training 



The stakeholder engagement conducted so far has allowed Geoneon to achieve several key outcomes: 

  • Trust Building: By engaging early with the main stakeholders, we were able to establish trust. Honest conversations helped us understand stakeholders' expectations and clearly communicate what the tool can offer and its limitations. 
  • Addressing Needs: Understanding stakeholder needs and concerns was crucial. Honest conversations were critical to grasp their needs and expectations fully. The engagement we have conducted so far for this project was essential to ensure the tool addresses these needs effectively. 
  • Risk Mitigation: Stakeholder engagement has been vital in identifying and mitigating risks effectively, leading to a more robust and reliable tool. 
  • Understanding the Context of Disaster Risk Reduction: It was beneficial to understand the local context of disaster risk reduction and emergency management. Knowing their critical challenges allows us to better tailor the tool to how end-users will use the data. 
  • Understanding the Context of Wildfires: Wildfire conditions are often specific to the area's context, including vegetation type, dryness, climate, and vegetation density. Field investigations helped us better understand Bhutan's specific wildfire context. Understanding past fires and knowing about the types of vegetation and their flammability, as well as climate conditions in Bhutan were crucial to comprehending the conditions. 
  • Assessing Human Resources and Technology Capabilities: Stakeholder engagement helped us assess capabilities in human resources and technology. It clarified who will use the tool, how it will be used, and the level of training required. Running the tool is one aspect, but interpreting the results is equally important, and this understanding guided our training and support plans. 

007_Group Photos

Figure 7: Group Photo of Training Attendees, Thimphu.  



While stakeholder engagement is critical for the implementation and adoption of technology in Disaster Risk Reduction, several challenges need to be addressed, and a balanced level of stakeholder involvement is required. 

  • Stakeholder Fatigue and Availability: We recognised the risk of stakeholder fatigue, especially given the limited human resources in Bhutanese government agencies. To address this, we have ensured that our engagement efforts are efficient, clear, and meaningful. Regular updates and transparent communication have helped maintain stakeholders' interest and participation. 
  • Inclusivity: Achieving diverse representation in stakeholder engagement can be challenging, particularly in ensuring gender balance. We have made concerted efforts to encourage the participation of women and other underrepresented groups, though this remains an ongoing challenge. 
  • Managing Expectations: It is crucial to manage stakeholders' expectations by clearly communicating the capabilities and limitations of the tool. This helps build realistic expectations and fosters trust in the project's outcomes. Each group or individual has different expectations, and it is essential to find a compromise between the needs of each stakeholder and the functionality of the tool. 



Throughout this blog post, we have highlighted the critical role of stakeholder engagement in the successful implementation of technology for disaster risk reduction. Using the case study of our Wildfire Exposure Index project in Bhutan, we demonstrated how early and continuous stakeholder engagement fosters trust, addresses specific needs, mitigates risks, and ensures the tool’s practical application. Our comprehensive strategy included workshops, facilitated group discussions, surveys, inter-agency consultations, field investigations, and extensive training sessions, all contributing to the project’s success. 

The lessons learned from our stakeholder engagement in Bhutan have broader implications for disaster risk reduction technology projects globally. Effective engagement helps tailor technology to local contexts, ensuring that it is both relevant and practical. It builds trust and buy-in from local communities and government agencies, essential for the long-term sustainability of any project. Moreover, understanding local challenges and capacities allows for better-targeted training and support, enhancing the overall impact of the technology. 

It is critical to focus on stakeholder engagement in technology implementation, fostering collaboration and building resilient communities equipped to face the challenges posed by climate change. However, it is equally important to be conscious of end-user time, resource constraints, and stakeholder engagement fatigue. In a country like Bhutan, where several initiatives are being implemented, finding the right balance of stakeholder engagement is essential. By being mindful of these factors, we can ensure effective and sustainable disaster risk reduction efforts that are both impactful and respectful of stakeholders' capacities and commitments. 


Roxane Bandini-Maeder

Roxane Bandini-Maeder is the CEO and Co-founder of Geoneon, where she leads efforts to harness technology for minimizing disaster risks and championing climate adaptation. Starting her career as a researcher, Roxane transitioned into advisory roles, mastering strategic decision-making and policy formation. Her time at the University of Lausanne fuelled her passion for research, leadership, and earth sciences, fostering a pioneering approach in these fields. Coupled with a keen interest in international relations, she emphasises cross-border collaboration, knowledge sharing, and strategic alliances. Roxane is dedicated to enhancing resilience and sustainability and actively seeks partnerships to advance mutual objectives in environmental protection and global climate initiatives.