By Mapping Educational Opportunities Team (MEOT) 2022
There is not another example to highlight the relevance of flexibility and resilience when conducting projects such as this Living Lab-Edition. The educators team developed first an action plan to increase waste awareness in the Ndumo Area, but under the current circumstances the project could not be performed in South Africa. Thus, we had to move the Living-lab to Flanders, along with a new purpose and expectations. The waste awareness group became the education in the Brabantse wouden group. This shift of focus and a new timeline appeared overwhelming at the beginning, with the need to rethink our approach and work again on an action plan. We got to work and we did it!. We designed in a short amount of time a new action plan, aiming to assess the educational offer in the Brabantse wouden project by interviewing professionals and assessing the infrastructure available in the area.
During the past month our group conducted research on the educational opportunities in the Brabantse Wouden area. Our research focused on three main pillars, namely (1) what are the current activities and facilities providing educational opportunities in the BWA, (2) what are the perception of the staff members/volunteers of the provided activities and facilities and (3) what are the (perceived) strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of the current activities/facilities.
During the weeks leading up to the living lab we identified the organisations active in the area and the facilities that potentially had educational value. From these, we then decided on 11 organisations and places to visit, based on accessibility and other factors. We contacted the organisations we believed were of interest, and 5 agreed to meet with us and show us the activities they provide. As preparation for the fieldwork we made an interview-guide and an observational guide in order to make sure we had comparable data.
During the Living Lab, at the beginning of each day we made sure our fellow classmates got to know the goals of our research and the methodology employed. At the beginning of each day, we handed to the participants our guides for observations and our interview forms, always with the reminder to keep an eye open and to enjoy the visited places. Our aim was to compare the educational offers in both areas, and to perform SWOT analysis to make recommendations. We went into the field equipped with a recorder, a notebook and a pencil…without forgetting our always necessary waterproof clothes!. Every day we conducted interviews with different people that were involved in education programs. We visited places both inside of the potential National Park Brabants wouden, and outside the area in Hoge Kempen National Park. Museums, arboretums, guided walks or visiting playgrounds become part of our agenda the first week of the living lab.
The second week came along with other challenges. All of our data needed to be organized and coded to be analyzed. Transcripts, excel files and summaries become a part of each day, most of the time with a cup of coffee or tea by our side. Eventually, our development plan started obtaining a shape, our results starting to show patterns and our discussions about recommendations started to appear.
What a two weeks! It will be an experience that will remain in the minds of all of us. Cold weather, lots of rain but a cozy feeling when our development plans started to get a shape. Moreover, the interesting, sometimes challenging, but always fruitful experience of working with people with different backgrounds and skills will be remembered. Definitely, the living lab has been an experience, “out of the ordinary ” to improve our resilience, our leadership skills but overall to learn about ongoing projects outside of the walls of the class and grasp the reality of sustainability issues.
Members of the MEOT 2022