The Defra Flood Resilience Community Pathfinders Scheme (2013-2015) was a £5 million, 2 year, grant scheme concluded on 31 March 2015. It was designed to help stimulate innovative approaches to community flood risk management and enable communities at risk of flooding to work with key partners to develop innovative local solutions.

NFF Reports

How to guides

Community engagement and awareness
Institutional structures
Property level resilience and infrastructure
Business resilience

Case studies

Community engagement and awareness
Institutional structures
Property level resilience and infrastructure


Chesham pathfinder
Cornwall pathfinder
Devon pathfinder
Liverpool pathfinder
Northamptonshire pathfinder
Rochdale pathfinder
Swindon pathfinder
Collingwood Environmental Planning

An additional video was produced by Collingwood Environmental Planning showcasing the results and the cumulative impact of the scheme on communities and discussing some of the successes, challenges and learnings of the pathfinders.



Learning Events

Three learning events were organised by Collingwood Environmental Planning, project contractors for the Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder evaluation.

These provided an opportunity for pathfinders to:

• share their work, experiences and successes
• consider learning points for the future
• discuss how they could disseminate new approaches more widely
• coordinate activities in order to build on potential for synergies and increased impact and
• reflect on the findings of the evaluation.

They also allowed the evaluation team to address any issues emerging, provide additional support where necessary and review the wider benefits of the pathfinder scheme.

The learning event summary reports are available to download here:

Evaluation Reports

The Defra Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder evaluation was carried out over the entire pathfinder period and reported on the progress made by the individual projects and on the results and impacts of the scheme, identifying lessons for building community resilience in the future.

The evaluation was led by Collingwood Environmental Planning and a team of evaluation coordinators worked with each of the pathfinder projects to understand their focus and priorities and any methods of evaluation they had put in place. More information about the evaluation can be found here.

It included a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) to provide an overview and synthesis of the available evidence on the topic to inform the development of an evaluation framework.

Both reports can be downloaded here:

Pathfinder Projects


A new report has been produced by Localise West Midlands for Calderdale MBC on the impacts of flooding on the community economic resilience of an area..  This innovative report goes beyond our traditional perceptions and shows how flooding of businesses can have much wider impacts to a community.  Please download the report below.


Flooding – Communities at risk and the Pathfinder experience

Number One Riverside, Rochdale, 16 March 2015

Review of the conference

The conference was held to highlight the achievements and learning being generated through the Rochdale Flood Resilience Community Pathfinder project and others within the Pathfinder family of projects. Pathfinder is generating a varied and interesting body of learning including things which have worked well and importantly things which have been less successful and some reasons for that. There is a body of practice and learning which shows inspiration, innovation and also cautionary learning for example around the need to build trust with communities, move away from technical jargon and work towards realistic timescales and ambitions for behavioural change. Pathfinder communities are varied and include communities who have not flooded but have high risk and those who have more recently experienced flooding. The family of projects also has a diverse socio-economic and ethnic profile including many barriers and challenges to step change in resilience including language, affordability, tenure and transience and other characteristics. Pathfinder learning will hopefully inspire further community resilience projects and help ensure that working with and within communities is better informed by a wider community of practice.

The conference also sought to put Pathfinder in the context of national and regional priorities for communities at risk of flooding including the NW RFCC 2030 Vision.
The event was chaired by Dr Terry McCormick of the NW RFCC who set the scene for the day and established a series of objectives for the day:

  • Sharing lessons learnt
  • Establishing communities of practice
  • How do you move from a pilot to established practice
  • What does community resilience look like?


Dr Terry McCormick – North West RFCC

Speakers included Mark Garratt of the Environment Agency setting the scene in terms of the North West vision and Paul Cobbing from the National Flood Forum providing background to the Pathfinder programme and its objectives.


Paul Cobbing – NFF


Mark Garratt – EA

Presentations from projects included Rochdale, Liverpool, Calderdale and West Sussex Pathfinders and additional work being supported by the National Flood Forum in a non Pathfinder capacity in Shawforth, Rossendale.


Fran Comyn – Rochdale Borough Council


Paul Byrne – Liverpool City Council


Robin Gray – Pennine Prospects


Ruth Webb – West Sussex Pathfinder


Hannah Tankard – NFF


Brompton Flood Prevention Group, Northallerton

The presentations gave an overview of the starting point for each project and how they had engaged and worked with communities and agencies to increase community flood resilience and provided a diverse body of urban and rural experiences including, property level protection, establishing local flood groups, working with schools and young people and supporting upland management in the South Pennines.

Presentations were followed by an expert panel discussion around community flood resilience and the opportunities and challenges going forward.


Expert panel discussion in progress

Key points emerging from presentations, panel discussion and audience questions included:

  • There is a need to be more proactive around community resilience including how communities empower themselves as more self sufficient, well informed and prepared, confident ‘first responders’ and part of the wider and local risk management partnership with a clear role and voice
  • The role of the voluntary and community sector is key locally and at a more national scale. Pathfinder has built up a body of expertise within the National Flood Forum and as an ‘honest broker’ in communities to build trust and confidence – how can this be best utilised moving forward?
  • Flood resilience is not a stand alone issue and needs to be embedded in wider delivery and investment activities around energy efficiency and home improvement, environmental stewardship and community capacity building. A range of ‘hooks’ need to be used to get people on board and secure investment.
  • Maintaining long term interest without experience of flooding may be difficult to achieve
  • Expectation management is key – clear, honest, open dialogue about what can and can’t be done. Don’t expect change in communities overnight – it takes time and can take effort and resources and some communities may never be completely self sufficient. How do we create this ability to support and sustain communities towards greater self sufficiency over time?
  • Strong partnership underpins successful engagement and delivery – a common vision, commitment and a simple interface with the public.
  • As much for communities there is learning for flood risk agencies around engaging rather than consulting, making sure that language and contact is simple and trust is built and maintained.
  • Sometimes well targeted and considered ‘micro funding’ can achieve results. How do we generate resources in a time of austerity?

More than 70 delegates attended the conference from a wide range of backgrounds including Defra, local authority officers and elected members, the Environment Agency, community and voluntary sector organisations, other Pathfinder projects and members of at risk communities.


Feedback was overwhelmingly positive and in line with the chairs opening remarks can be summarised as follows:

• Sharing lessons learnt
Many delegates stating they came away from the conference better informed about what community flood resilience could look like and surprised by the amount of activity that is underway or being planned. There was a widely made point that the conference crammed a lot into half a day and that there was clear scope for a further event perhaps involving more input from actual community representatives.

• Communities of practice
Some delegates were keen to take the experience outlined and consider how they could use it in their area. They were also keen in some cases to follow up certain experiences in more detail. There was some additional interest in forming a community of practice around community resilience and how to help achieve it.

• Moving from a pilot to established practice
The body of evidence and practice amassed by Pathfinder was seen by many as in effect a ‘how to’ toolkit that they can take from and adapt as needed.

• What does community resilience look like?

There was agreement by many that there were some real achievements to date e.g. around establishing flood action groups, creative use of funding streams and the voluntary sector role but it was early days and the test would be longer term sustainability of benefits and behavioural change.


Some members of the Wardleworth (Rochdale) Flood Action Group

Visitors to the conference could also opt to take part in a walk under the culvert on the River Roch with representatives of the Environment Agency/Revealing the Roch scheme.