Mind Factories

Communicating is a doing verb, so get ready to work during our Mind Factories – this year’s new 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

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

This Mind Factory will show 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 will come 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. We want to work 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

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 addresses the issue of light pollution and its negative ecological effects and highlights 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.

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 mindfactory is to look at successes and failures of alternative financing options for the management of Protected Areas in Europe. Participants are expected to present and discuss their experiences with alternative funding approaches and draw some lessons learnt. The final part of the mindfactory will be devoted to a more creative approach, inviting participants to “think out 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, which gives him extensive experience with financing issues.

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, we will explore 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”, we will also look at different target audiences and explore 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.

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? Have you ever wondered how to best communicate scientific findings to your stakeholders? In this Mind Factory we will present methods that focus specifically on communication between scientists and the local population. We will discuss 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. The aim of this Mindfactory is to send you 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.

Overarching topic: transboundary.

6) Protected Areas networks: Institutional communication between Protected Areas 

This Mindfactory 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.

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 is divided into an indoor and an outdoor section and is intended to give participants a rough overview of new technologies with their advantages and disadvantages.

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.

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 southeast Iceland, glaciers are a major source for economic activity and employment. Without glaciers, the local community faces many challenges. How do local communities and Protected Areas communicate the challenges ahead with disappearing glaciers and ecosystem changes? What is the role of the national park and/or local authorities? What is, if any, the policy of the locals towards future ecosystem change? Is there a common goal? Is there a plan? Is there a common understanding? That’s what participants will discover in this Mind Factory.

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.

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. In this Mindfactory, we first look at our self-image as rangers, because our attitude is the most important thing. Then, in seven steps, we’ll move toward a positive perception of rangers, and thus a great encounter between visitor and ranger. In a super crash course, we will look at and practice the most important tool of ranger communication: Natural Heritage Interpretation. At the end of the Mind Factory, the participants should have a clearer picture of themselves and their task as rangers. They should return to their workplace motivated to create magical moments for visitors – but also for themselves!

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).

Overarching topic: people and culture.

10) Barrier-free communication: Nature experience for people with special needs

Communication means imparting or exchanging information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. When one receiving end has difficulties in understanding the chosen communication method, new ways of understanding each other have to be discovered. In this Mind Factory we first explore different communication methods for different – special – needs. In a second step, we will set aside our common communication methods in order to adopt necessary changes to a mutual understanding. This practice will help us understand the different obstacles which people with special needs face daily, and learn how we personally can break these barriers.

Moderated by: Viviane Magistra Balz, qualified environmental engineer, specialized in habitat ameliorations and wildlife management, working for an NGO at Lake Greifensee (Zürich, Switzerland). Viviane especially focuses on environmental education with different groups. Comfortable in many languages, she recently integrated sign language into her portfolio in order to shrink the communication barriers with visitors even more.

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? In this participatory Mind Factory we will discuss these questions, and look 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.

Overarching topic: people and culture.

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

This Mind Factory will look at how communication and collaboration can help improve biodiversity and landscape protection. We will especially dive into the communication between Protected Area managers and farmers. Of course, for sustainable agricultural practices, the public and consumers will also need to be involved in the dialogue – so how can we do that effectively? How can we best utilize implicit information, personal attitudes, new technologies and traditions? EUROPARC Transboundary Area Binntal Veglia Devero will offer a case study on collaboration and communication around farming in Transboundary Areas.

Moderated by: Stefania Petrosillo, EUROPARC Policy Officer and Transboundary Programme manager.

Overarching topic: people and culture.

13) Game of Clones: Gamification as opportunity to activate a new generation for conservation

In the context of sustainable systems, those in conservation are often confronted with complex situations involving interdependent aspects. To provide a new way of understanding such entangled systems, we propose the use of board games. Of course, a significant reality gap remains between the game and a natural environment, which can be better mastered if participants have learned to tackle similar problems in a game. In this mindfactory, we introduce the collaborative board game ‘Game of clones’, where players have to find a strategy against the fast-growing Japanese knotweed that threatens to overtake certain Protected Areas on the map. We then invite participants to join us in thinking about how else gamification could be used in the context of Protected Areas. At the end, participants should know why gamification can be helpful, how they can use it in their field of work and what support they need to implement it.

Moderated by: Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Christina Pichler-Koban, senior researcher at E.C.O. Institute of Ecology, Klagenfurt and lecturer at University of Klagenfurt. She coordinates and works on inter- and transdisciplinary research projects as well as science and cultural education projects & Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Wilfried Elmenreich, professor for Smart Grids at the Institute of Networked and Embedded Systems at the University of Klagenfurt. His specialities lie in networked and embedded systems, real-time systems, and game engineering & DI Anneliese Fuchs project manager at E.C.O. Institute  of Ecology. She is responsible for the conception and implementation of educational formats.

Overarching topic: youth.

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 behavior, 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. Sharing our experience and drawing on others’ perspectives, we will explore why and how to engage young people, as well as the benefits and challenges of different approaches and tactics. Through knowledge exchange, we will work together to identify how we can all feel more confident and competent when working with our young people. Drawing from the experience of Triglav National Park (SL), we will 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.

Overarching topic: youth.

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 will look at the essentials of digital communication. Together we will discover what the opportunities are for Protected Areas. Are you reaching who you want to be reaching? Is your message coming across? Why yes, why no? Through this participatory Mind Factory, we will work on tools and practices that will put your digital communications on the path to success!

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

Overarching topic: youth.

16) Communicating with visitors at iconic places: Can we manage visitors more sustainably?

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 mindfactory, we will take 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? We will use interactive methods to explore these and other issues of relevance for Europe’s Protected Areas.

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

Overarching topic: parks of the future.

17) Protected areas as brands: Branding as guiding principle for interaction with the public (Parks of the future)

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 is dedicated to the potential and challenge of brands for Protected Areas. In the first part of the workshop we will focus on the basic idea of a brand by telling our own story. In addition, we will also get an 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 is dedicated to the practical use of brand ideas. By introducing the tool “customer journey” the participants will get 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.

18) Adapting to climate change: Explaining the role of Protected Areas to local communities 

Using the work of the EUROPARC Task Force on Climate Change and the results the LIFE Natur’Adapt experimentation phase, participants will contribute to building an impactful argumentation on the role of Protected Areas in local adaptation strategies.

Moderated by: Olivier de Sadeleer, Project Manager for LIFE Natur’Adapt at EUROPARC.

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 provides participants with a taster of what to expect as LIFE ENABLE develops and what EUROPARC will deliver. However, this is also the ideal opportunity for you to get involved and to share your ideas and experiences. Working together, we will use a variety of highly interactive activities designed to exercise our minds and build new ways to build practical Protected Area management capacities.

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

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. Our Mind Factory will offer 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. We will engage our creativity, consider different examples, analyse their effects, and outline possible improvements. Together, we will unlock 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.

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