About the Jameel Observatory

The Jameel Observatory focuses on using data and evidence to prepare for and act on environmental shocks as well as those impacts of climate change and variability that threaten human and environmental well-being.

With a special focus on low and middle-income countries, we work at the interface of climate, natural disasters, agricultural and food systems, and health.

We particularly emphasise the need to incorporate local as well as scientific knowledge to prepare and act in anticipation of environmental shocks.

Our current portfolio comprises two major programmes:


The Jameel Observatory and its programmes apply data, evidence and knowledge so affected communities and the agencies serving them can better understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change and environmental shocks. Two overarching outcomes guide out work:

First, vulnerable communities are empowered to decide and can better plan and prepare for and respond or adapt to the impacts of ‘wicked’ climate change problems and environmental shocks.

Second, agencies serving vulnerable communities are more effective at collecting, analysing, understanding and communicating data that can be used to enable vulnerable communities to better plan, prepare for and respond to the impacts of ‘wicked’ climate change problems and environmental shocks.


The various programmes are guided at a high level by a Jameel Observatory Coordination Committee comprising people from the University of Edinburgh and MIT with foundational support from Community Jameel.

Professor Geoff Simm (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Elfatih Eltahir (MIT) are the founding co-directors of the Jameel Observatory Coordination Committee.

Our approach and philosophy

The Jameel Observatory is underpinned by the belief that local actors best understand the local context and the barriers to change, but that solutions to overcome those barriers can draw on global expertise.

The Observatory therefore has a strong focus on inclusive dialogue with local and other actors to understand local constraints and to begin to co-create change scenarios and solutions.

It emphasises the need to incorporate local as well as scientific knowledge to prepare and act in advance of environmental shocks.

We contend that while co-creation of solutions is challenging and, at times, messy, the evolving solutions are more likely to be locally owned and managed and survive into the future.


Our work is guided by four key principles:

  1. Complementary – we aim to fill gaps. We avoid duplicating or competing with existing initiatives
  2. Collaborative – all our work involves working in partnership, especially with actors local to our target locations. We look to include diversity of skills, culture and perspective in our partnerships
  3. Solutions-focused – we look for leading edge and applicable innovation, drawing on state-of-the art data science and evidence to support more effective decision making. We acknowledge that generating data solutions is not, in itself, sufficient but that the interfaces between data, decisions and action are critical
  4. Impact driven – we start by imagining desired impacts and outcomes and what behaviours need to change to achieve these. We then make sure that all our activity supports that behaviour change