A young girl using her smartphone to capture insect species with a macro lens amidst the shrubs. If you decide to harness the power of images, this would be the ideal shot to vividly portray the positive impact of the Nature Ambassadors’ intervention, showing the new community engagement and awareness.
We can remove the “if” right away, because the project team has already made a firm decision to rely on photographs and videos to document, enhance and publicise their activities. This decision, if taken on social networks, turns into a powerful storytelling strategy capable of amplifying every result achieved, making it resonate both within the community involved and in the rest of the ‘connected’ world.
Science entrusted to the voice of youth
One fundamental element is missing to achieve maximum effectiveness: the contribution of young people. In fact, they will also be the protagonists of this communication activity, through a method already ‘tested’ by Tsiory Andranavalona through her organization ExplorerHome Madagascar. “We bring students into the field as assistants to the scientists, with the task of documenting their work through short videos for social media. In this way, the young participants speak directly to their peers – this is crucial. We want this experience to be told by the younger generation, their stories are very powerful!” explains Tsiory.
In order to make this happen, training in storytelling is needed: during the project, young people are taught the basics of video-making using simple tools such as smartphones, so that they can learn more about the real work of scientists behind the scenes as junior reporters.
This method allows the new generations to be immersed in science, reducing the gap between the two worlds. And it allows the students’ point of view to emerge: “their voice will resonate differently with their peers and their community and will help science and research to be more usable and ‘close’. Science cannot be locked away in books and just learnt, it has to be experienced, including by sharing achievements or field anecdotes experienced with scientists – Tsiory explains – hope that their stories will ignite a sense of pride, belonging and protection both in the local community and among peers around the world”.
Videos, photos and a comic strip: all available online
The storytelling activities will be in full swing when the project is well underway. Video stories will be produced, to present the flagship species and their conservation efforts, and photo stories, to amplify the impact of the project and raise awareness. There is also the idea of having a cartoonist create a comic strip illustrating three stories about the flagship species developed by the students.
Everything will also be available online, to closely follow Nature Ambassadors’ achievements ‘live’, thanks to a storytelling that sees its main challenge in the field activities. “There are many logistical and technical issues that accompany the expedition. And then you have to manage students who have never done real experiments in nature. For most of them, it is the first time in the forest, the first time in a tent with other teenagers their age for a long time. Seeing their interest in science and their desire to be together with scientists grow, however, has been a very rewarding experience,” Tsiory admits.
Telling Nature Ambassadors with shots into the future
Eliya Lawrence Uzia, a Tanzanian professional photographer and part of the Nature Ambassadors team, does not want to talk about “challenges”. “It is an opportunity to create lasting change in the community. The use of images for storytelling is powerful and documenting the project through photos and videos is essential to set an example for future initiatives,” he explains. “Today, more than 60 per cent of young people know how to use smartphones and cameras, harnessing their passion and knowledge is essential. Sharing content about the environment and biodiversity online allows them to learn, and promoting their ability to create impactful photos and videos contributes to an effective conservation narrative”.
Eliya’s task is to enhance and amplify the talent of the young reporters involved, but also to tell the story of the whole project through his own shots. And he already knows how to do it: “I will produce a photographic story that illustrates the transformation of the community, before and after the Nature Ambassadors intervention. I want to highlight the transformation in the interior villages from communities with limited smartphone use to digitised communities with access to transformative mobile applications. I think this is the best way to effectively communicate the impact of the project through images, in an immediate way”.
Article by Marta Abbà with the contribution of Tsiory Andrianavalona and Eliya Lawrence Uzia.