Envirofest Singapore

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A motley crew gathered at Singapore Botanic Gardens, catching up with news about the Draft Blue Plan launch, International Coastal Cleanup and a few upcoming seminars.

The NJC Greenlink students who are co-organising Envirofest turned up and we found the room left unlocked helpfully. So we all settled down and got started after a roll call – it helps that we mostly know each other so we could figured out who was coming and get started.

The NJC students presented the theme for the year – the family, and provided an overview on powerpoint that featured the fringe events, the tagline options and publicity.

In addition to the NJC students, Wenhua has recruited AJC and Cedar Girls Secondary students. Of course, Wenhua was her usual whirlwind self, having just come after her last exams as a student over at NTU. As she rapidly fired information at us, I’d stopped multi-tasking and concentrated like the rest did!

We had 21 organisations on board – with the venue and date changes she has been battling with these past few months (partly due to the depressed economy), it was inevitable that some organisations had other commitments (including an AGM!). recruitment is not over and with some new faces to the scene, a clearly defined lifestyle section looks to be possible for the first time.

With most of the unknowns out of the way, a discussion broke out amongst the biodiversity groups to see if a trail, anchored by NPArks, would be possible. The venue at Toa Payoh Hub posed some challenges due to its porous and crowded nature and we pondered over a rough map to see if a new approach would be possible.

Since we’re (wisely) adopting the “one step at a time” philosophy to Envirofest, after a discussion, we decided to experiment with the biodiversity groups this year and see what we could learn from the experience for future years.

Will it work, will it not work? We’ll see…

Now its down to each of us to recruit manpower, train our guides and get ready with information about the various groups as well as the special free events for the public AFTER Envirofestt. It certainly is going to be a great event to learn about grassroots environmental volunteerism in Singapore!

Our third and final meeting is on 15th May 2009 at Singapore Botanic Gardens at 7.00pm. We should all be ready by then!

Well, we had a first cheery meeting with representatives of various groups who came down for the briefing at the venue Karen (of NParks) had secured for us at Singapore Botanic Gardens. We started off with a few short updates:

  • Wen Hua brought us up to speed with operations (she was excited and spoke very fast),
  • Karen shared how NParks had grown in its exhibition presentation by learning from others and evaluating each effort in order to maximise the impact of outreach,
  • I explained the value of Envirofest we had recognised and how a little preparation and planning might help and
  • Ria explained the significance of the month of July to NYC and SHINE and how Wen Hua was tapped into that.

The community was easily supportive of the practical plan presented about for Envirofest – with everyone struggling with a full schedule in the year, it will be nice to share one major collaborative effort with everyone that maximises our combined attractions.

So the public will get a buffet table of grassroots and governmental efforts in nature and the environment, green products, animal welfare, and hopefully a peek into sustainable living as well. This time there will be an array of trips and events they can sign up for immediately after. Who says nothing in life is free?!

The array of groups and issues on display will also serve as as educational opportunity for green groups in schools and JCs too. A group could pick 2-3 issues that they might to highlight in their own school – at Envirofest they can tap on some very experienced people and material, as well as study the various communication methods in play over the two days. Many of us have already learnt from each other and have been at this for decades, so what better place for mentorship?

Of course, Envirofest will also be an opportunity for the groups to get to know each other well instead of meeting only during the exhibition itself when we are focusing on attending to the public. These early meetings will allow some coordinated effort and I could see wheels already turning that evening about collaboration during the post-Envirofest offerings!

During the discussion that spontaneously interrupted the introductions through out the 90 minutes, a variety of issues were highlighted and evaluated – it was certainly a great delight discussing such issues with a bunch of very experienced practitioners in the local scene! Most have struggled with the issues and so everyone could recognise the value of practical ideas as well as the difficulties of some realities.

But boy, oh boy, does this bunch have the fire burning in them or what? I am really looking forward to meeting them again!

No photos but Wen Hua, Karen, Ria, friends and myself had a good discussion – the first time all four of us were together since last August. The important first face to face meeting with nature groups was decided for Thursday, 5th February 2009: 7.30pm at Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG).

There was wireless at SBG so that allowed the registration form to be prepared on the spot. When the rest approve it by tomorrow, it can be sent out along with a blurb to the various groups.

Wen Hua has volunteered to revisit her old job of contacting participants. We needn’t really feel guilty about burdening her—it will be fun to contact the many friends she made over the 2006 and 2008 festivals. And she did convince us that her almost completed final year project and lecture schedule are not in jeopardy so we relented gratefully.

After Envirofest 2008, I dashed off some observations on the Toddycats blog. Amongst the notes was this:

  • Exhibitions of this nature have always been the best time to network and plan, and Envirofest itself was the main topic of discussions that I had with various other groups.
  • Unable to cope with numerous festivals and exhibition requests, I would like at least one major predictable festival that the community can plan, prepare for and collaborate on.
  • Also, to collectively offer activities to the public in the weeks after Envirofest.
  • Everyone I talked to was game, so Wenhua, call for a post-Envirofest debrief!

Wenhua, Ria, Karen and myself, along with Debby met after the first day of IYOR (08/08/08) to catch up with this discussion during Envirofest earlier in July. We sketched out a rough plan in which the nature groups would look to getting a bit more organised so Wenhua can focus on the venue, sposorship and the like. Over email later, Eugene from Asia is Green agreed to do the likewise for green businesses.

Since then, I’ve had a couple more meetings with Wenhua and at the last on 7th January 2009, she updated me about the NJC students who will run this blog, the venue and sponsorship options which have of course dried up with the financial climate. Still, she is about to confirm a date and it will be time for us to get things started very soon…