Red Paper Plane Foundation
Northern Bulgaria is one of the most underdeveloped regions in Europe. Its rich biodiversity and amazing bird life don’t fit the grim picture, yet they remain totally unknown to the local communities. This is where Lovebirds ❤️🐦 come - a network of 16-20 y/o fellows from small cities and villages along the Danube river participating in a 10-month program with design thinking at its core. It will be an experience with birding, networking, conservation and community action all coming together.
Danube river region, Northern Bulgaria.
For centuries, the Danube river has served as a powerful corridor for culture and commerce in Bulgaria. Now it is one of the poorest regions in Europe and, despite its location, mired in isolation and remoteness. The negative economic prospects affect people’s social life, understanding of democracy and civic participation. Apathy or emigration is often the only choice for young people here.
However, there is a key factor in the region with huge untapped potential - its nature and bird life. It is also a controversial one, because it often collides directly with intensive farming or industrial development projects that provide job security to local people. Despite its importance, the issue is totally absent from the local public discourse, especially when it comes to young people.
We want to use birdwatching as a tool for action, communication and co-creation between young people in the region. As a famous hobby, birdwatching has many proven benefits when it comes to personal development, conservation and a proactive mindset. People in the Danube region share many deep-rooted problems - but they also share a common privilege when it comes to bird life.
Gaining knowledge about the environment around them, understanding the threats it faces and then using this as a platform to be proactive in the local community is a powerful recipe for change - especially combined with leading innovation methods like design thinking. Sustainable development starts with people caring about nature and willing to make a difference about it - this is what we aim with Lovebirds ❤️🐦.
We would like to engage 15 young people from 16-20 years of age that are already passionate about nature and are open to new experiences. Many polls and surveys in recent years show that the Bulgarian youth is very much interested in the environment and its protection in particular. However, there aren't many ways for a young person in Northern Bulgaria to channel this interest into particular activities and projects outside of the regular school work.
We want this group of fellows to be as diverse and varied as possible when it comes to social and educational background. That’s why we will actively engage our network of schools and nonprofits in the region to assist us in the process of selecting them.
1. Scanning the Field / An interactive and engaging selection process to choose 15 young fellows with different backgrounds and form our network.
2. Gathering the Flock / Starting a coaching process, combining in-person visits, lessons on birdwatching, visiting bird sites and running offline and online challenges.
3. Taking to the Skies / Deepening our work with the fellows individually and as a group by mapping key places for biodiversity, getting familiar with issues and threats and creating a more complex picture of the bird life in the region.
4. Community Calls / Challenging the fellows to develop a personal project, prototype and test it.
5. On To the Next Flight / Running workshop on evaluating the ideas, assessing their potential and charting the way forward for the fellows.
A year from now, success will look like this:
- Personal level (first dimension) - 15 young people with very different backgrounds who have gained a much deeper understanding of the avian and natural environment around them.
- Group level (second dimension) - a network of fellows, united by a common interest and purpose who have gone through a process of getting to know more about the subject, interacting with each other, coming up with ideas and testing them in the real world.
- Community level (third dimension) - proactive people in a number of local communities along the Danube river in Bulgaria, who provide a completely different perspective and meaning to a region without much perspective - while also reaching out to their peers abroad via birdwatching networks and platforms.
Equating democracy to politics is a mistake made quite often, especially on a local level. By creating the possibility for gaining new knowledge, discovering your own community and environment through a different lens, debate, deliberation, idea generation, finding new solutions and testing them, we are practicing democracy on each step of the way.
Moreover, by choosing birdwatching as an activity which is both meaningful, engaging and very attuned to the (human and natural) environment, we are providing the fellows with the chance to experience a whole range of actions and viewpoints, both positive and negative - and letting them decide what to do with the things they discover.
When it comes to underdeveloped regions, image is key. No matter how hard people try, they remain “branded” as a hopeless case for years or decades. With this project, we want to demonstrate an invaluable asset that is already present in the Danube region - its biodiversity and bird life. By establishing a network of young fellows, we want to continue the work we already do when it comes to knowing birds, interacting with them and protecting them - and doing it in the best possible way by using design thinking.
We have a personal, professional and social motivation to make this project happen. As hundreds of initiatives worldwide demonstrate, connecting birds and people provides for healthy, lively communities. It’s time to take birds out of the social desert and into the spotlight.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
- Personnel costs (project team) - 22,000 EUR
- Personnel costs (local coordinators) - 10,000 EUR
- Travel and accommodation - 4,000 EUR
- Birdwatching equipment for the fellows - 4,000 EUR
- Events & marketing - 6,000 EUR
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