“Engage Them All!”: Look Back to Share, Learn to Move Forward

by Alexandr Iscenco (ELP 2018) | MEGA Co-founder; Research and Cooperation Coordinator, Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy (MEGA)

Our organization MEGA recently celebrated its five-year anniversary. We have used this milestone to reflect on what had been achieved by our organization during that period. Indeed, sometimes it makes sense to look back in order to understand what should be changed and where one should go next. It is also useful to look around in order to observe what others are doing, to learn from them, and to share these observations and learning points with others. This helps in shaping our work, so that together we deliver the value and positive impact that the worlds of today and tomorrow really need.

To organize the process of “looking back and around,” to document the observations, and to share the learning points with you and other organizations, MEGA has initiated a research project entitled “Engage Them All! Community Engagement into Nature Conservation via IT Tools.” The project focuses on the topic of civil society engagement, youth empowerment, and collaborative activism in nature conservation and sustainability. Its aim is to research different methods and best practices of how environmental organizations and green startups use modern information technology (IT) and online tools for civil society engagement in the area of protecting the natural environment and advancing sustainable development. The project is led by an ELP alumnus from 2013, Alexandr Iscenco, and is supported by the Prague Civil Society Centre.

Two focus topics of the “Engage Them All!” project: information technology and nature conservation. Source: Goumbik, 2017. 

At the time of writing this article, we have collected over 20 experiences and best practices from environmental organizations and green startups in 10 countries: Armenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Moldova, Switzerland, the Russian Federation, Tanzania, and Ukraine. The best practices in applying IT and online tools for civil society engagement that these organizations and startups have shared with us range from creative use of social media (example: Hnuti DUHA) and stakeholder platforms for establishing ecosystem-friendly green spaces (example: IPR Praha and its Confluence Periurban Park project) to smartphone applications for mapping waste sites (example: Litterati) and Augmented Reality (AR) campaigns for raising awareness about endangered species and engaging people into their conservation (example: WWF Armenia and its project on conserving Caucasian leopards).

Example of an online tool for civil society engagement into nature conservation: the MEGA Game community platform with online map and elements of gamification. Source: MEGA, 2018.

We are now analyzing all these inputs and contributions and are combining them into a research publication. We are also preparing a searchable database of best practices, where you will be able to find inspirational examples of innovative use of IT and online tools for civil society engagement into nature conservation and sustainability to learn from. Both the publication and the database should be ready by the time you receive this Beahrs ELP Alumni Newsletter. So do check the official project website at www.EngageThemAll.com to see whether the results are already out and available for you to read and use.

Furthermore, we are confident that you also have experience and expertise in applying IT and online tools for engaging people into environment-related projects and campaigns of your organization, institution, or startup. Perhaps you even have a best practice or two to share with the world. If you do have this experience and best practices, we invite you to share them, thus inspiring other organizations to follow your example and to help these organizations better adapt to our modern technology-rich environment. You can do this by completing the online questionnaire available on the project website at www.EngageThemAll.com. Your submission will then be added to the online database and the next edition of the research publication distributed among our partner organizations worldwide.

In conclusion, let’s support each other in looking back at what we have created and achieved in the domain of nature conservation and sustainability, in looking around at what others are doing to protect the natural environment and to advance sustainable development, and in moving forward together by combining our knowledge, experience, tools, and passion for creating a sustainable and eco-friendly world.

MEGA best wishes to you all!