The social media provides enormous space for expressing our feelings, opinions and sharing information on many issues. The freedom and versatility available on this vast space is only minimally harnessed. Social media development has been motivated by the need for interaction and collaboration. However, as contexts dynamics change the social platforms have evolved in content and now address diversified issues at the heart of humanity.
The speed at which social networks promote fast means of communication makes the platforms more appealing especially to the young people. The social platforms enable people to interact, plan and execute programs collaboratively.
Education for sustainable development (SDG 4.7) recognizes the need to harness all platforms to promote public awareness for behaviour change. The traditional conception of education has now changed to emphasize improved quality, dynamic pedagogy, public participation and action projects. In particular, ESD focuses on making the education processes
- more about doing, interacting with others and changing the world.
- enjoyable, hands-on and relevant to life outside school while addressing the problems of the world.
- provide opportunities throughout life.
- Promotes cultural diversity.
- Respects indigenous and traditional knowledge and encourages the use of indigenous languages in education
- Promotes positive societal values with respect at the centre: respect for others, present and future generations, difference and diversity, the environment, and for the resources of the planet we inhabit
- Promotes a sense of justice, responsibility, exploration and dialogue
- Promotes the adoption of positive behaviour and practices, which enable all to live a full life without being deprived of basics and ensuring that plenty is available for future generations.
All the features of ESD above suit the social media platforms, justifying why it should form the core in education and public awareness.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has teamed up with Bloggers Association of Kenya to retool social media champions in Kenya to raise public awareness on environmental issues. A meeting targeting 50 social media champions was held at Kisumu hotel from 17th – 22nd December 2018. This was the second meeting of its kind, as another one targeting the Nairobi region champions was held in June this year.
The content for the workshop revolved around the following areas
- Diverse aspects of the environment such as Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), green growth, green economy, blue economy, circular economy, PET plastic bottles management, chemicals management among others.
- The technical aspects of social media use e.g. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.
- Practical sessions on use of social media platforms, development of content, engagement with social media content.
These content areas are captured in a curriculum document developed collaboratively by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in collaboration with stakeholders.
The capacity building activity was guided by the following objectives:-
- To enhance the interest of the youth and other social media users towards development of environmental sustainability related content and messages.
- To develop capacity of social media players to become better environmental communicators.
- Promotion of citizen science in environmental management.
- To monitor and evaluate saturation of social media platforms with environmental content and messages
Practical sessions dominated the training sessions since the learners needed to demonstrate practically that they were able to competently use the knowledge and skills learnt. Practicals were done on the following aspects
- Opening social media platforms for each participant.
- Development of graphical story scripts
- Writing story scripts for blogging.
- Identifying circular economy opportunities in the local area.
- Developing communication messages for dissemination through the social media platforms.
The capacity building session realized the following outputs.
- An environmentally sensitized group of young people.
- A pool of young people able to generate and share behavior changing environmental content and messages through social media sites such as blogs, twitter, facebook, whatsapp, twitter etc.
- Social media champions with requisite competencies on use of social media.
The capacity building session was guided by the following expected outcomes:-
- Mobilization of young people to generate environmental content and share the same through social media platforms.
- Active engagement of young people on environmental issues through the social media.
- Enhanced environmental crime whistle blowing through the social media
- Enhanced adoption of responsible behavior towards the environment at all levels.
- A significant increase in environmental bloggers/social media content creators
- An increase in environmental literacy and sensitivity.
The training sessions were full of fun and anxiety to learn and practice blogging. We started with a story telling session. Though some participants reported having active blogs, they were just operating them through trial and error. They lacked technical skills to run their blogs. Some did not know how to upload photos and to caption them.
Of course, majority of the participants did not have blogs. Some time was dedicated to assisting them to open their individual blogs. The excitement on the faces of participants was evident as they practised their first posting.
Some participants lacked common social media accounts such as Facebook. This is quite unusual for young people. However, they explained that they shied away from Facebook because they perceived that it was being misused by some people. The facilitator guided them on proper use of the Facebook platform and they committed to open and sustain active accounts.
Some Facebook users demonstrated not having technical expertise on use of the platform. Some could not appreciate the “like” button of facebook and hence there was minimal interaction among Facebook peers. Explanation by the facilitator definately will upscale interaction among social media players.
The Ministry is considering the following 5 steps to further this engagement with social media champions
- This is the second time that this training is running. The first training was offered in June 2018 in Nairobi. More workshops are planned in different parts of the country such as Mombasa, Eldoret, Embu, and Isiolo among others.
- The Ministry of Environment and Forestry is committed to enhanced support for bloggers and other social media users. The experts at the Ministry will be on standby to assist the social media champions by answering any technical questions on complex aspects of the environment as frequently requested.
- In addition, the Ministry looks forward to teaming up with bloggers and social media champions in innovative change projects that use the social space. In this regard, the social media fraternity are requested to submit innovative proposals for consideration and possible support.
- The Ministry and BAKE will engage in monitoring and evaluation exercise to assess saturation of the social space with environmental information and opinions. This will help establish whether the training for bloggers was effective. Further assessment will be done to establish the effectiveness of the content in promoting behaviour change. Any gaps identified will be addressed through further innovative capacity building engagements.
- BAKE normally awards best bloggers every year. There is a category reserved for environmental bloggers. The Ministry is considering partnering with BAKE to award the best environmental bloggers.
The social media use has expanded exponentially globally in recent years. Its a space that cannot be ignored, and Kenya stands out as a significant player. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry intends to tilt the social media dialogue towards environmental and sustainable development issues. Capacity building and further support for social media champions is being promoted.