Filed under: Development 2.0 Environment Social innovation

three young participants of World Environment Day pose for the camera

World Environment Day 2014 celebrations in Borjomi, Georgia (Photos: Vladimer Valishvili/UNDP)

This is a story of how we won hearts and minds in Georgia with our World Environment Day campaign.

But first, let me start with a bit of background.

In April, I went to the UN System Staff College in Torino to attend their art of communication training – an excellent exercise I am happy to recommend to anyone interested in learning the finer points of effective communication.

I came back full of grandiose plans: life-changing campaigns, dashing press kits that conquer the world, and social media with thousands of likes and followers – I was lost in this magic stream.

Finally, I reminded myself that common sense is supposed to be one of my best assets, so I decided to come up with a project that would meet three main criteria:

  1. Add inspiration to the UNDP’s communications work
  2. Be relatively short-term and realistic
  3. Help me to leave my comfort zone and develop professionally

The solution presented itself immediately – World Environment Day is on 5 June – a perfect time for public campaigns, appealing messages, and some creative outreach.

UNDP has an impressive environmental mandate in Georgia. We are involved in a range of green initiatives and raise our flag high on most environmental occasions.

The event always been a flagship for us, a perfect opportunity to go public with some big issues effecting Georgians throughout the country.

kids brainstorming new ideas

Brainstorming for environmental ideas. May 2014, Tbilisi, Georgia

We invented numerous ways to do that: nationwide clean-up campaigns, tree plantings, drawing contests for kids, contests for journalists, awards for green businesses and public organizations, street performances, concerts, and more.

But when I looked back at all those events, I realized there was something they had in common – all of them have been designed by UNDP and presented to the public as the ready-made product.

Yes, people took part and, in most cases, enjoyed the process. They were active and responsive. But they were not the architects and thus, had no ownership.

It was the right time to start doing things differently, bring people on board and work with them as partners. In one word that shaped us: crowdsourcing.

My fellow UNDP-ers raised eyebrows when I first suggested it, but as the ideas started rolling in, the advantages became clear.

We reached out to civil society organizations all over Georgia, schoolchildren in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region where we’re running projects on forestry and biodiversity, and young innovators who took part in our Diplohack innovation challenge.

The response exceeded our expectations, with an impressive list of initiatives proposed in just a few weeks.

Check out some these awesome ideas that we incorporated into a nationwide campaign over two months alongside the Ministry of Environment:

Most of these activities took place in small towns and remote villages which made it a truly national effort. Some are yet to come, such as the testing of an eco-patrolling airplane, which we very much look forward to in September.

UNDP once again reinforced its image as one of Georgia’s leading partners in environment protection.

Our simple and powerful slogan – “My Environment” – has been picked up by the media as a phrase of the month.

The results of our first attempt at crowdsourcing are obvious:

  • It breaks routine and helps to come up with something new
  • It links you with new partners and like-minded people
  • It creates a vision

And finally – it’s fun!

We’d love to hear from you! What do you think of our crowdsourcing methods and how could we incorporate them even further into our projects?

>> Check out more beautiful photos of Georgians going green together


  • Jayne Cravens

    Crowdsourcing – it’s a TERRIFIC example of virtual volunteering! Well done!