A platform designed to inspire and connect a new wave of climate action volunteers, has proven to be a winning formula at the Waikato’s first-ever Climathon Ideathon.
Spanning the week of March 28th - April 3rd, the virtual Climathon event provided locals with an opportunity to develop tangible solutions to some of the Waikato’s greatest climate challenges.
After a week of developing, validating, and testing ideas under the guidance of local climate heroes and experts, the online volunteer platform - Enviro Story, beat teams from all over the region, and walked away with $3, 000 to help turn their idea into reality.
Organised by Impact Hub Waikato, the inaugural Climathon event saw 55 changemakers - from students and young professionals, to architects, engineers and data scientists, come together to co-create innovative solutions that will pave the way to a greener future.
Sifting through so many bright ideas was not an easy task - but Hamilton City Councillor, Sarah Thompson - who sat on the judging panel alongside Jennifer Nickel, Hannah Huggan and Riki Manarangi, says that Enviro Story stood out because they identified a gap in the environmental space.
“Their project has the potential to connect people to projects happening in the local neighbourhood, and inspire them to get involved. It’s exciting for Hamilton because we’ve just signed Nature in the City - our 30-year biodiversity strategy, and this project helps locals get involved in environmental restoration”, Thompson says.
Enviro Story - a South Waikato based team made up of Meena Sharma, Colleen Litchfield, Cherie Pascoe, Tracey Numanga, Nanise Ginnen and Honey Smith, and mentored by Camilla Carty-Melis, aimed to counteract the barriers that prevent people from becoming engaged as climate action volunteers via a website featuring inspirational stories and videos to empower and enable action.
“The initial idea came from a conversation around our experiences with groups doing amazing conservation work, and these groups uniformly proclaiming that nobody knows about what they do. With our individual skills, we realised that between us, we likely had the tools to do something about this, to get the word out there and connect keen but apprehensive volunteers with worthwhile projects” says Cherie Pascoe.
The team are already collating thoughts around potential collaborators or benefactors for the project - and are planning on using the $3, 000 prize money to ensure that the project engages regional volunteering networks to ensure the widest impact.
E-Easy - an e-bike subscription service for young professionals and urban commuters, Climate Commons - a forum for enabling collaboration amongst climate action initiatives, Small Wins, Big Planet - a platform for celebrating climate victories also emerged with prizes across the innovation, community, youth categories respectively, while Mode Choice May - a month-long challenge for sampling a range of alternative transport options, took out the people’s choice award.
These solutions - and all those that were developed throughout Climathon, addressed at least one of the Waikato’s five greatest climate challenges - transport, energy, food, empowerment and biodiversity, as determined by Waikato Rangatahi Voices for their impact and urgency for the region.
Climathon Waikato Project Lead, Emma Sinclair, says that the co-designed challenges represent the environmental concerns that youth have, and reflect what the community sees as important - and she was inspired by the solutions participants developed in response.
“Everyone showed up with a smile on their face - willing to collaborate, challenge their thinking, validate their beliefs, test their theories, knuckle down, and address these challenges. It was awe-inspiring to see and hear the participant’s ideas for climate action. I’m grateful that so many people gave up their evenings and weekend to focus on fighting climate change”, says Sinclair.
Over 30 experts, working within the sustainability sector and beyond, were there to guide participants every step of the way - providing them with mentorship and guidance on the five challenges, plus topics including Design Thinking, validation, strategy, investment, and finance.
Marketing, strategy, and project management expert, Tijmen Doesborgh, says the participant's enthusiasm and passion stood out the most.
“It was great to share my expertise and insight as a springboard for participants to develop ideas and challenge their thinking. The pressure cooker environment of the Ideathon really worked - and the access to specialists and experts was a really good set-up for ideation and development”, Doesborgh says.
After the success of this year’s event, the project team are already planning on bringing to life another Climathon.
Climathon is an international movement that has been uniting changemakers in more than 50 countries since 2015 - and this time, the Climathon Waikato team are planning to align their event with the global timeline.
“Working at the same time as people globally is going to amplify the power of solutions. We’ll be able to access resources, mentors, and expertise from around the world”, Sinclair says.
This year’s event was made possible by the Waikato Wellbeing Project, Trust Waikato, Hamilton City Council, the Waikato Plan, and the University of Waikato.