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BEACON study visits going virtual

The idea of the study visits

As one highlight of the BEACON project, two study visits were planned, during which representatives of the partner countries Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania were invited to Germany. A three-day program was planned for 15 education sector multipliers per study visit, such as instructors in teacher trainings, representatives from school authorities and school administrations. The program included visits to schools and educational institutions that carry out energy-saving projects as well as energy-saving laboratories and other environmental educational institutions. The aim of the study visits was to link the actors with one another and use the program impulses to discover commonalities for their work in the field of climate protection.

The first study visit with all three countries took place as planned in autumn 2019. Participants were invited to Berlin, where they were able to visit various schools and to hold expert talks to learn about energy-saving projects on-site. Excursions to energy laboratories and discussions with climate protection managers and the Senate Administration were also on the program and were able to provide important impulses.

The switch to digital inputs

The second study visit was planned for the first half of 2020 but postponed on multiple occasions due to the COVID-19-pandemic. Over the course of 2020 it became clear that international trips could not take place during the project period and that an alternative format had to be developed. However, for these study visits the networking character and direct exchange is essential and cannot easily be converted to a digital format. The new main idea of UfU, the implementing organisation, was to provide multipliers in the partner countries with some informative and illustrative best practice examples for local climate protection. The results were two 15-minute videos for which we worked with a professional film team:

In the film “Wind, Venture, Involvement” (see video below), the energy self-sufficient village Feldheim is presented, which we would have liked to visit with the study visit participants. It is the first and so far only place in Germany that completely generates electricity and heat for its own use and is thus playing a pioneering role in the energy transition. Barbara Ral, Climate Protection Manager of Potsdam-Mittelmark, and Michael Knape, Mayor of Treuenbrietzen, report in the film how the interaction of favourable basic conditions, the courage of individuals to try something new, and the broad involvement of citizens, contributed to the success of such a pilot project. They also explain what steps were necessary to take and what obstacles had to be overcome.

If desired, you can enable English subtitles in the navigation bar of the video.

For the film “Networked-Active-Sustainable” (see video below), Karola Braun-Wanke and Judith Hübner from the Environmental Coordination Office of the Berlin district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf were interviewed. In the Botanical Garden in Berlin they report on how the Coordination Office was developed, what goals it’s pursuing, what their work looks like in practice, and what role networking plays in it. They also provide information about their educational mandate and the environmental model pursued by the city of Berlin. The establishment of the Berlin Environmental Coordination Offices was preceded by an assessment of environmental education offers in the Berlin districts, in which UfU was involved. After the screening of the film, UfU’s management explained the development process of the Coordination Offices to the study tour participants.

If desired, you can enable English subtitles in the navigation bar of the video.

Another presentation was given by UfU about the National Climate Initiative of the Federal Environment Ministry (NKI) at request of the Bulgarian partners. In cooperation with Lothar Eisenmann from ifeu (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg), the NKI was presented as an example of funding opportunities for sustainable educational projects and other climate protection activities in German municipalities and schools.

The study visits were primarily organised by the local BEACON partners, SNRB, NTEF and SEVEn, and inputs from UfU were integrated into the program. In the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, the study visits took place as online workshops and UfU’s input presentations were followed by lively discussions and interested inquiries. Fortunately, the Romanian study visit was able to be carried out as a hybrid event in mid-April, as the majority of the participants were already vaccinated and local conditions allowed for it. The education sector multipliers met in Romania on site, visited various educational institutions in the area, and listened to virtual presentations by UfU.

Participants of the hybrid meeting in Romania were tested. One activity was to visit a vineyard. Copyrights of all three photos: SNRB

Participants of the hybrid meeting in Romania were tested. One activity was to visit a vineyard. Copyrights of all three photos: SNRB

Participants of the hybrid meeting in Romania were tested. One activity was to visit a vineyard. Copyrights of all three photos: SNRB

Check out the Vision Workshop Toolbox for Inspired Collaboration on Climate Neutrality

Why a Vision Workshop?

Every individual has their own ideas about the future, especially regarding everyday life and one’s own personal environment. In the Vision Workshop, these are surveyed and then connected with the long-term transformation to carbon neutrality. Through this participatory approach, the participants gain insight into their own priorities and those of others regarding questions such as: How do we want to live in the future? How is this conceivable in the context of climate change? The Vision Workshop can thereby also help in reaching common goals, providing positive outlooks for the future, and fostering creative thinking and commitment.

About Vision Workshops

Vision workshops bring together representatives of different groups (the general public, city administration, and/or schools) in their local context to make the concept of climate neutrality accessible and to develop a shared vision for a climate neutral future. Based on this, city or school representatives can learn where emphasis needs to be placed and participants learn how they can contribute to the great transformation on a personal level.

Although geared towards local citizens and pupils, the Vision Workshop concept and toolbox can be used by anyone and implemented in a variety of settings. The interactive workshop format allows the organisers of a Vision Workshop to bring about the development of innovative, locally rooted visions for climate neutrality based on a bespoke mix of methods and materials.

Image 1 shows the sequence and content of the six modules of a Vision Workshop. Image: Guidehouse, adelphi, UfU

The Vision Workshop follows a predetermined sequence of six modules, which addresses various sensory levels and thereby reflects the workshop’s creative approach (see Image 1).
For each module, the Vision Workshop Toolbox suggests up to five options for interactive methods from which organisers can choose based on the local context and specific needs and capabilities of the target group. To make it easier to select elements that are aligned on the specific context if desired, the methods are categorised based on the primary senses they address (see Image 2).

Figure 2 describes the categories of methods listed in the Vision Workshop Toolbox. Image: Guidehouse, adelphi, UfU

Methods range from preparatory sensory walks that allow participants to start thinking about climate neutrality and how it relates to their personal life and environment, to role plays that invite participants to design a vision of a climate neutral city while taking into consideration several and sometimes contradictory perspectives. The Toolbox also suggests several methods for sharing the results of the Vision Workshop with the interested public. It contains a total of 27 method profiles that make it easy for organisers to decide which methods are best suited for their own workshop (see Image 3).

Image 3 explains how to read the method and material profiles. Image: Guidehouse, adelphi, UfU

Training of Trainers

To introduce the Vision Workshop concept to local BEACON stakeholders, the BEACON Team has developed a virtual format to train teachers and municipal representatives/multipliers in how to conduct a local vision workshop in their schools and cities.

Together with the local BEACON partners NTEF in Bulgaria and SNRB in Romania, UfU and Guidehouse implemented two two-day workshops in September and October that introduced the Vision Workshop Toolbox and gave participating teachers the opportunity to become familiar with the concept. The training allowed teachers to pass through the six modules and slip into the role of students to test some of the suggested methods. Participating teachers reported to the group that the format of the Vision Workshop would speak to students and could be integrated into their lessons. The first local Vision Workshop was held on October 21st in the 7th Highschool of Sofia.

Similarly, the virtual training for municipalities in Poland was held on October 15 and 16 with 17 representatives from Jasło, Sztum, Zamość, Bielawa and Cieszyn. adelphi, Guidehouse and the Polish partner PNEC presented how to apply the Vision Workshop concept to the context of municipalities. A mix of input presentations by the team and exercises that were done in smaller groups allowed the participants to practice some of the suggested methods and start planning their own locally embedded Vision Workshop. If pandemic-related restrictions allow, the city of Sztum will conduct a local vision workshop with citizens on 8-11 December.

As part of the FEEL module participants of the Training of Trainers for municipalities in Poland presented their associations with the keyword “Europe”. Photo: Guidehouse, PNEC

In the coming months, two additional trainings are planned for municipalities in Romania and Greece. Ultimately the BEACON team hopes to spread the Vision Workshop concept beyond the project’s stakeholders so as many people as possible can create their vision for a climate neutral future.

Enjoy reading and testing the toolbox (links above) and consider planning your own Vision Workshop for Inspired Collaboration on Climate Neutrality.

Interview: Climate Journalism in Czechia and Germany

Tereza Šťastná of the Czech Radio. Photo: Tereza Šťastná

Tereza Šťastná of the Czech Radio (Český rozhlas) was a fellow of last year’s “Central Eastern European Climate and Energy Policy Scholarship for Journalists”. For two months, she worked for Deutsche Welle in Bonn to report about climate and energy issues and to broaden her view on these issues. For the second cohort of the exchange programme, she recommends not to worry but to be open to try something new.

You worked for two months at Deutsche Welle. What was your best experience during the exchange?

It is not easy to answer. The whole programme was a great experience; I met many new people and experts and could see a different kind of work in another media house. Deutsche Welle is a really big name around the world. The whole programme was a great experience.

Tereza Šťastná worked for Deutsche Well in Bonn for two months. Photo: Tereza Šťastná

What do you think the biggest differences are between climate and energy journalism in the Czech Republic and in Germany?

In my opinion, climate and energy issues are more prominently on the agenda in Germany, while in the Czech Republic the topic is underestimated. For example, renewable energies are a much bigger topic in Germany. I also enjoyed the wide net of experts on the issues, which I found in Germany.

What kind of story did you work on during your time at Deutsche Welle?

I spent some time working on insects as a new way of efficient food and ecological eating. Another story was the programme “Klimaneutral Leben” (climate-neutral living) in Berlin. I also covered the issues around Hambach Forest from two perspectives. On the one side there were activists fighting for Hambach Forest, on the other hand there were workers from the coal industry. (Find other interesting stories here).

Why do you think journalists should leave their own country to participate in an exchange?

Such an exchange can give enriching insight into different kind of issues and various options on how to solve them. It makes you leave the social bubble you might live in when you are always working in the same country on the same kind of topics.

During her time in Germany, Tereza Šťastná reported about the protests at the Hambach Forest. Photo: Tereza Šťastná

After being back from the exchange, have there been moments when you noticed the advantages of your experiences abroad?

Of course and in many particular moments. When I came back, I told my boss that we should focus more on climate and energy issues and he was very open to the initiative. I think that the number of reports on climate and energy increased by 50 percent since then. For example, I was able to prepare some kind of expert talk shows. I also brought some practical ideas back home to change workflows in our office.


“The number of reports on climate and energy increased by 50 percent.”

Tereza Šťastná, Český Rozhlas

Is there one wish or recommendation you have for the second cohort of journalists of this programme?

Yes definitely. Do not worry to try something new. Do not be afraid of not having necessary experience or skills, because you can learn them. In Germany and in other media around the world, people are kind and helpful. Moreover, you can broaden your network with people and experts. The exchange is absolutely enriching.