Mind Factories

Communicating is a doing verb, so participants had to work during our Mind Factories – this year’s style of Workshops!

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Together with E.C.O., a research and consulting company for “nature conservation in the 21st century”, we’ve created an exciting programme with 20 Mind Factories to choose from. They are organised under the  “Big Five” overarching topics,

  • Biodiversity
  • Transboundary
  • People and Culture
  • Youth
  • Parks of the Future

Ofcourse, all of them were in one way or another related to Communication. Mind Factories marked with “Hybrid” could also be joined through the online ticket.

Every Mind Factory was then joined by a “Conference Ambassador”, young students who helped create the conclusions per theme. These conclusions were then presented through drawings, flipcharts and digital whiteboards on the afternoon of the second day of the Conference by our. We’d like to thank E.C.O. for their help in making this a success. You can find the combined conclusions here:

All Mind Factory conclusions

1) Large Carnivores are back in Central Europe: Lessons we learned for local farmers

This Mind Factory showed that help for low-conflict management of large carnivores is also a question of a new mindset. New, different approaches and ideas between emotions and facts are urgently needed to help farmers and pastoralists thrive with these new challenges. Small efforts can have a big effect when applied in the right way, at the right time. An example came from Majella National Park (Italy): the Park owns a flock of sheep to be able to offer immediately an animal of equal value instead of compensating financially for losses caused by large carnivores. In the workshop, participants worked on those different views and approaches to make them clearly visible and oneself aware of different mindsets.

Moderated by: Mag. Klaus Pogadl – President of the Austrian Centre Bear, Wolf, Lynx. An association founded in 2019 for the coordination of large carnivore management, livestock protection and corresponding administration between federal states. He also works at the Salzburg federal government, head of the department for agricultural law, hunting and fisheries.

Overarching topic: biodiversity.

2) Biodiversity of the night: Challenges for dark habitats – Hybrid

Flipchart of Mind Factory 1

Light pollution is a global driver of biodiversity loss, which is particularly apparent in heavily populated regions. Due to the improved energy efficiency of modern lighting that leads to increasing use of LEDs the night and its inhabitants are coming under increasing pressure. Can visitors of Protected Areas still experience a natural darkness, astronomical and biological phenomena of the night and at the same time develop an awareness of the negative consequences of light? This Mind Factory addressed the issue of light pollution and its negative ecological effects and highlighted the use of guiding methods for a night nature experience. In addition, challenges of light pollution in the context of Protected Areas are addressed and possible solutions are developed. What potentials does the experience of an intact night offer to visitors without disturbing the objects of protection? How can improvements be achieved for the protection of dark habitats in and around Protected Areas?

Moderated by: Christian Raffetseder, MSc. Team leader of rural development and nature conservation at Umweltdachverband where he leads projects on light pollution, biodiversity and livestock protection.

PowerPoint Presentation

Overarching topic: biodiversity.

3) Funding for Protected Areas: Do we need something new? 

The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 includes ambitious targets for protecting, managing and restoring nature in the European Union. Besides increasing the coverage of Protected Areas and stepping up restoration efforts, the Strategy provides that all Protected Areas should be properly managed by 2030. Achieving all these targets will require significant additional resources in the coming years. While public sector financing is expected to remain the dominant source of funding for nature conservation, the contribution of various private sector funding sources is progressing over time. The aim of this Mind Factory was to look at successes and less-successfully alternative financing options for the management of Protected Areas in Europe. Participants presented and discussed their experiences with alternative funding approaches and drew some lessons learnt. The final part of the Mind Factory was devoted to a more creative approach, inviting participants to “think outside of the box”.

Moderated by: Frank Vassen, team leader in the Nature Unit in DG Environment in Brussels. Since 1995, he has been involved in the LIFE program, giving him extensive experience with financing issues.

Read the Mind Factory Summary

Overarching topic: biodiversity.

4) Communication for conservation: the importance of communication to raise the impact of conservation and restoration measures 

Can we improve the impact of conservation and restoration measures through more effective communication? Protected Areas, including Natura 2000 sites, play a crucial role in conserving Europe’s nature. Over years, huge number of specific projects have been implemented for the conservation of habitats, the protection of endangered species and the restoration of ecosystems. But how many of them are known by decision makers and the wider public? Have we managed to build support for the role Protected Areas play?

While most projects have shown very good scientific baseline and targets, too frequently the communication side is overlooked or taken for granted. Communication is an essential pillar of nature conservation and can make the difference, ensuring stronger impact and long term sustainability of the measures.

So, would Protected Areas and nature conservation measures benefit from more effective communication? Hopefully yes. But what does it mean in practice? By sharing examples and case studies, this Mind Factory explored what the main challenges are when dealing with Protected Area management, nature conservation actions, and how to overcome them. Trying to avoid the word “stakeholders”, participants also looked at different target audiences and explored innovative ways, techniques and messages to raise their interest and to influence their decisions.

This Mind Factory will contribute to inspire your approach to communication for your next project and for your conservation work.

Moderated by: Federico Minozzi, Managing Director at the EUROPARC Federation. Case study deliverd by Andrea Gennai.

Case Study PowerPoint Presentation

Overarching topic: biodiversity.

5) Linking science and Protected Areas: Scientific communication for the local public – Hybrid

Science has achieved a remarkable understanding of Protected Areas on various levels. But how can scientific findings be made more comprehensive to a wider audience? And how can we best communicate scientific findings to stakeholders? This Mind Factory presented methods that focus specifically on communication between scientists and the local population. Participants discussed successful examples from other Protected Areas, such as the ScienceLink_nockberge cooperation. Park managers, rangers or nature guides are the link between scientific findings and their participatory implementation. Together we will adapt these methods according to the challenges those working in Protected Areas face in their daily work. This Mindfactory aimed at sending participants home with a concrete measure or action, or even a new project idea.

Moderated by: Lisa Wolf, head of the sustainability team at E.C.O. Institute of Ecology. Lisa is a geographer specialised in collaborative planning of conservation areas & Anna Kovarovics, head of the communication team at E.C.O. Anna is a landscape planner specialised in nature education.

Find the PowerPoint Presentation here.

Overarching topic: transboundary.

6) Protected Areas networks: Institutional communication between Protected Areas 

This Mind Factory will give participants the chance to share knowledge and experience on Transboundary cooperation between Protected Areas. Through the example of EUROPARC Transboundary Area Fertő-Hanság National Park, participants will discover the benefits of international partnerships for Protected Areas. The Mind Factory will especially look at joint communication; joint marketing; joint problem solving; joint projects; transboundary and international networking and how the management effectiveness can be increased.

Moderated by: Fersch Attila, deputy director at Fertő-Hanság National Park.

Read the conclusions here.

Overarching topic: transboundary.

7) New ways of monitoring: New techniques for scientists and visitors 

Digitalization is becoming more and more prevalent in nature conservation. The application ranges from digital twins of habitats up to near real time alerts based on remote sensing and field observations. The use of various sensor technologies with remote access (acoustic and olfactory sensors as well as camera traps) also enables a rapid increase in biodiversity data. In addition to digital collection, increasing emphasis is being given to molecular methods of biodiversity data collection using E-DNA. In the field, biodiversity data assessment will be tested using an example of a workflow for a digital monitoring survey and a citizen science approach. This Mind Factory was divided into an indoor and an outdoor section and intended to give participants a rough overview of new technologies with their advantages and disadvantages.

In the discussion participants agreed that there is a huge potential for new ways to collect biodiversity data. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have enormous potential in this field. However, the most important outcome was that we need to learn from each other and share our experiences. There are plans to create a platform to make this possible.

Moderated by: Melanie Erlacher MSc, project manager at the UNESCO Chair at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences. Melanie is a geoinformatics specialist with focus on environmental monitoring, UAV applications, remote sensing, and GIS analysis and modelling & Vanessa Berger, project coordination and manager at the UNESCO Chair at the Carinthia University of Applied Sciences and E.C.O. Institute of Ecology. She is an ecologist with a focus on spatial and temporal analysis, mobile data collection and vegetation ecology. Her research focus is the implementation of new technologies in biodiversity monitoring.

Find the PowerPoint Presentation here.

Overarching topic: transboundary.

8) Impacts of global warming: A changing environment for locals 

Roughly 11% of Iceland is covered by glaciers that in recent decades have been retreating at an alarming rate. In south-east Iceland, glaciers are a major source for economic activity and employment. Without glaciers, the local community faces many challenges. In this Mind Factory participants discovered how local communities can communicate these challenges – and the role Protected Areas have to play.

Moderated by: Hrafnhildur Ævarsdóttir, park manager at Vatnajökull National Park, with years of experience in nature protection and mountaineering & Helga Árnadóttir, project manager at Vatnajökull National Park, with extensive experience in nature protection and off-road running.

Find the presentation here.

Overarching topic: people and culture.

9) Park Rangers of the 21st century: Creating Magic moments for visitors

Rangers are so much more than guardians of Protected Areas. They are the faces of the park and often the first point of contact for all nature-related questions. This Mind Factory explored the self-image as rangers, and how our attitude shapes the visitor experience. Then, Urs explained 7 steps that will help move toward a positive perception of rangers, and thus a great encounter between visitor and ranger. In a super crash course, participants looked at and practiced the most important tool of ranger communication: Natural Heritage Interpretation.

Moderated by: Urs Wegmann, passionate ranger and Managing Director of Griffin Ranger GmbH. Urs has worked as Chief Ranger at Lake Greifensee near Zurich (Switzerland) for over ten years. He was co-founder and president of Swiss Rangers and is president of the European Ranger Federation (ERF). For years he has been fascinated by Heritage Interpretation and is a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG).

Find the presentation here.

Overarching topic: people and culture.

11) Words matter, design matters! Re-thinking the way we inform visitors on the dos and don’ts

How can we communicate within a Park, without putting signs all over the area? What kind of signs work best? Should we explicitly indicate a restricted area or should we hide it? What signs will work for those who run or bike at high speed? This participatory Mind Factory discussed these questions, and looked at how the design of the landscape can help drive visitors to the right use of the space.

Moderated by: Teresa Pastor, Project Manager for LIFE UrbanGreeningPlans and Manager for the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism at EUROPARC.

Find the PowerPoint presentation here.

Overarching topic: people and culture.

12) Sustainable Agriculture. Communicating with farmers and the public to protect the landscape

This Mind Factory looked at how communication and collaboration can help improve biodiversity and landscape protection. Participants dove into the communication between Protected Area managers and farmers. Of course, for sustainable agricultural practices, it is essential that the public and consumers are effectively involved in the dialogue. It was discussed how Protected Areas can best utilize implicit information, personal attitudes, new technologies and traditions. EUROPARC Transboundary Area Binntal Veglia Devero will offered a case study on collaboration and communication around farming in Transboundary Areas.

Moderated by: João Cardoso de Melo, Chairman of EUROPARC’s Sustainable Agriculture Commission.

Introductory PowerPoint

News from the CAP

Case Study from Binntal Veglia Devero

Overarching topic: people and culture.

14) Understanding Young People – How to meaningfully engage Youth 

Meaningfully engaging young people can seem daunting for Parks and Protected Area organisations. Whether it’s getting them out in nature, understanding their experiences, encouraging pro-environmental behaviour, building resilience in your own organisation, or making sure they are represented in management and decision making, many organisations are unsure of the right approach. The Mind Factory gave the possibility for participants to exchange experiences and draw on others’ perspectives. It explored why and how to engage young people, as well as the benefits and challenges of different approaches and tactics. Through knowledge exchange, participants together identified how to feel more confident and competent when working with young people. The Mind Factory looked at the “ladder of participation” and how we can adapt this for our young people. Drawing from the experience of Triglav National Park (SL), participants got to see the benefits their Junior Ranger and Youth+ programmes have brought to the young people and the park!

Moderated by: Pete Rawcliffe, Dougie Pollock and Abi Gardner from NatureScot.

Find the presentation here

Overarching topic: youth.

On and offline participants of Mind Factory 15

15) Communicating in the digital world: connecting to new audiences online – Hybrid

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn… Tiktok?! Communicating about nature conservation in the digital world can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! It’s all about putting the right resources in the right place. However, to make sure your Protected Area connects to new audiences and young people in the right way, investing in your digital communication skills is a must. So, let’s dive right in! In this Mind Factory, we looked at the essentials of digital communication. Participants looked at the opportunities for Protected Areas. They specifically looked at how to prevent or mend unwanted behaviour in Protected Areas, through the use of social media. Through a range of exercises, participants mapped out how they could reach new audiences and learned from each other’s best practice examples. Some top tips for utilising social media that resulted from the Mind Factory are:

  • Get personal – make your audience feel connected to you so they are more likely to trust and respect your message
  • Keep positive – negative messages results in passive behaviour
  • Interactive – social media is only social if you interact with your audience
  • Have fun – an enjoyable visitor experience already starts online!
  • Adapt to your audience – you are likely not reaching the same group of people across different social media. Make sure to adapt your message!
  • Keep it simple – avoid the “wall of text”. Simple (but not simplistic!) to the point messages are the way to go on social media.

Moderated by: Esther Bossink, Communication Officer at EUROPARC Federation & Giorgia Garancini freelance communications project manager.

Find the presentation here

Overarching topic: youth.

16) Providing a sustainable visitor experience in protected areas: Managing tourism and recreation demands in a digitized world.

Managing visitors in Protected Areas is a two-fold challenge: tourism and recreation need management to avoid compromising the Protected Area’s natural values. In addition, effects like crowding may have a huge impact on the visitor experience: jammed parking lots, lacking visitor facilities or too many people on trails leave an undesired impression. In this Mind Factory, participants took a deeper look at the sustainable tourism perspective of visitor management as part of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism: What are the challenges that result from tourism and recreation, especially considering the vast availability of information via Internet and Social Media? How do we set up cost-friendly monitoring programs that allow us to learn about visitor preferences? What tools exist to manage visitor needs and demands? Through interactive methods the Mind Factory explored these and other issues of relevance for Europe’s Protected Areas.

Moderated by: Eick Von Ruschkowski, director of Alfred Toepfer Nature Academy.

Find the presentation here

Overarching topic: parks of the future.

17) Protected areas as brands: Branding as guiding principle for interaction with the public 

In today’s world, brands shape our everyday lives. Whether it’s your cell phone, your clothes, your region or working place. Brands and slogans provide us with an initial orientation – whether we like it or not. But brands do not only play an important role for our guests, Protected Areas can also use them in a meaningful way. This workshop was dedicated to the potential and challenge of brands for Protected Areas. In the first part of the workshop participants focussed on the basic idea of a brand by telling their own story. In addition, they were also given insight into the work of National Parks UK as a brand thanks to a case study presented by Alastair Barber. The second part of the workshop was dedicated to the practical use of brand ideas. By introducing the tool “customer journey” the participants got an insight in how to work with the perspectives of different public groups and how branding can help to improve your overall performance.

Moderated by: Sarah Wendl, General Secretary of Nationalparks Austria.

Check out the presentation here

Overarching topic: parks of the future.

19) Innovating capacity building: competence-based training for Protected Area managers

What training do Protected Area managers require to be able to manage our natural heritage for tomorrow?

People working in Protected Areas know how challenging management is: however, effective management can also be intensely rewarding. Management of Protected Areas involves multiple processes – technical, educational and social. To varying degrees and always according to the needs of their Protected Area, nature managers require professional competencies which they are able to apply across complex areas of work. Their passion for nature is at the heart of their work: with the right training, that passion can be channelled to achieve more, for nature, our teams and people. LIFE ENABLE is a pioneering three-year capacity building project. Taking a competence-based approach, we will create and launch the European Nature Academy (ENA) to provide nature managers with tailor-made, unique training opportunities. ENA will provide a range of innovative learning methods to improve the knowledge, skills and aptitudes required by those working in Protected Areas across Europe. This Mind Factory provided participants with a taster of what to expect as LIFE ENABLE develops and what EUROPARC will deliver. However, it was also the ideal opportunity for them to get involved and to share their ideas and experiences. A variety of highly interactive activities designed to exercise participants minds and build new ways to build practical Protected Area management capacities were used.

Moderated by: Neil McIntosh, Project Manager for LIFE ENABLE at EUROPARC.

Find the PowerPoint here

Overarching topic: parks of the future.

20) The magical power of Interpretation: Adding meaning to visitor’s experiences in Protected Areas

How we interpret our natural and culture heritage is critical for the way we shape our common future. Stimulating interpretation, with your visitors, will provoke peoples’ curiosity and interest by relating the site to their own knowledge, experience, background and values. This Mind Factory offered insights as to how interpretation can tell the story of the people, places and landscapes, and its importance for creating deeper connections with nature and Protected Areas. Participants engaged their creativity, considered different examples, analysed their effects, and outlined possible improvements. Together, they unlocked the power of interpretation.

Moderated by: Katarina Žakelj, ethnologist, cultural anthropologist, member of Interpret Europe, certified interpretive writer. Working at CIPRA Slovenia, Association for Protection of the Alps and Max Dubravko Fijačko, Interpret Europe Certified Interpretive Trainer.

Overarching topic: transboundary.