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Open Access Designing for active engagement, enabling resilience and fostering environmental change

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Contemporary societies are distancing themselves from nature, driven by urbanization, biodiversity loss, connection loss, industrialization and loss of green space access ‐ all reducing our empathy for nature. Conservation and grassroots reporting highlight nature’s wellbeing, and require impactful citizen-led responses. Youth leaders are reflecting mirrors on humankind, stating that ‘our world is on fire’ and demanding action. Natural world interactions provide health benefits and resilience, proving transformative to our attitude, values and behaviour. The My Naturewatch project facilitates engagements with people’s environments and, in doing so, helps them to comprehend them. Nature observations help connect, engage and foster custodians, at a time where separation from wildlife necessitates active engagement. Activities specifically challenge our understanding of ‘designed engagement(s)’, not as passive activities but as impactful active engagements, openly accessible. This article proposes criteria encouraging public participation within the natural world, presenting value to NGOs, designers, funders and agents. Thirty experts from design, ecology, conservation, museology, engagement, rewilding, wildlife and community work were interviewed, informing ‘design for environmental change through active engagement’. The work identifies design’s role in creating interventions that better engage people with the surrounding natural world, yielding long-term mutual benefits. The objective is to foster active public‐nature engagement, identifying barriers, opportunities and pitfalls in nature-engaged interaction(s).

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Keywords: community conservation; design for active engagement; design for environmental change; nature; social responsibility; sustainability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000404255385Royal College of Art

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • The Journal of Design, Business & Society is a peer-reviewed scholarly publication for business leaders, managers, policy-makers, service-providers and design experts. It examines the complex nature of design and design thinking in relation to its effective application to solving real-world problems across commercial and broader societal contexts. It aims to promote cross-disciplinary design research which engages specialist and generalist stakeholders via qualitative, quantitative, visual or applied research methodologies, ultimately leading to tangible implications for current practice or clear direction for future work.
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