This paper describes the development and first results of the "Community Integrated Assessment System" (CIAS), a unique multi-institutional modular and flexible integrated assessment system for modelling climate change. Key to this development is the supporting software infrastructure, SoftIAM. Through it, CIAS is distributed between the communities of institutions which has each contributed modules to the CIAS system. At the heart of SoftIAM is the Bespoke Framework Generator (BFG) which enables flexibility in the assembly and composition of individual modules from a pool to form coupled models within CIAS, and flexibility in their deployment onto the available software and hardware resources. Such flexibility greatly enhances modellers' ability to re-configure the CIAS coupled models to answer different questions, thus tracking evolving policy needs. It also allows rigorous testing of the robustness of IA modelling results to the use of different component modules representing the same processes (for example, the economy). Such processes are often modelled in very different ways, using different paradigms, at the participating institutions. An illustrative application to the study of the relationship between the economy and the earth's climate system is provided.