Apologies for the hiatus! It's been nearly two months since my last post, and I think it's time I try to get back to a normal posting schedule, hopefully once per week. The topic for this week? Well, it was actually one of the big reasons I was unable to write a post for so long. This topic, combined with a heavy course load and other commitments meant I was unable to find time for relaxation, let alone writing. But now that I'm past the hardest hurdle, let's talk about what was taking up so much of my time: The Empowered Young Environmentalist's Summit!
Now, I already talked about EYES in great detail in other post, which you can check out here. That post was written about a month and a half before the event. This one, however, is being posted a week after the event has taken place (which was on March 29th and 30th) and will act as a bit of a recap of what happened, as well as a reflection on both the successes and failures of the event. It's both a means of sharing my experience as well as jotting down some notes on what should be done with the event next year. So, let's start!
Before the Summit
I and a few other members representing Greening Forward in Massachusetts left for New York City Thursday afternoon. After a five hour car ride, we arrived at our home for the night: an airbnb. Once everyone else from the team arrived, we spent the time playing games, talking, and getting to know each other. After all, while we had communicated quite frequently online, being spread out across the country, this was the first time the full team got to spend time with each other in person. It was great!
Friday morning continued the fun with a tour of the Museum of Natural History. Ana Porzecanski, one of the workshop presenters at EYES, was kind enough to give the Greening Forward team a tour of the new climate wall within the Hall of Planet Earth. She talked about the different elements of the wall, as well as what went into making each of them a reality. I highly suggest anyone visiting the museum to stop by the exhibit. Truly a fascinating and informational way to educate visitors about climate change!
We also got to see a few other exhibits briefly, such as the Hall of Biodiversity and the rest of the Hall of Planet Earth (we were given full passes for the day, but unfortunately had to leave early to meet up with some of the other team members before heading to the conference venue).
EYES 2019 officially began on Friday at 5:00PM. After setting up our resources, the Greening Forward team and I led some ice-breaker games with the attendees, and got the conference rolling. The first day, being a shortened one (and with a lower amount of expected attendees) was pretty laid back. We played games, screened the documentary Chasing Ice (an incredibly interesting look into melting ice in the arctic) and had a few interesting discussions about the roles young people can play in the environmental movement. Overall, I would call the first day pretty successful.
Saturday was the main day of the conference, and was absolutely packed with different activities. As planned, we started the day with our tabling session. As attendees checked in and got breakfast, they walked around and could talk with eight local organizations from around the New York City area. Next, we played some ice-breaker games, welcomed everyone to the conference, and continued with our first student speaker: Jade Sweeney.
We then transitioned into the first workshop session, which from what I heard went very well. Next was lunch, our second student speaker Ananya Singh, and the second workshop session. Unfortunately, due to attendance, we had to cancel the third workshop session and the final debate. Thus the second workshop concluded EYES 2019.
I would say this year's biggest success was found in the quality of our presenters. We brought in an incredible group of organizations and workshoppers, like Think Ocean, Ana Porzecanski from the Museum of Natural History, the NYC Soil and Water Conservation District, Green City Challenge, The Waterfront Alliance, and more. From talking to attendees and the Greening Forward staff members who attended the workshops, they were loved. On top of this, we had two incredible student speakers who shared compelling and personal stories of their experiences as activists.
But, unfortunately, this year's EYES had one big shortcoming: lack of attendance. The first day was fine, with around 30 attendees (we weren't expecting much more) but the second day, which also had 30 attendees, fell far short from what we were hoping for. We were shooting for around 100 or more, and seeing only thirty show up was, I have to admit, a big shock. In essence, we had over prepared for what we thought would have been an event with a much higher number of attendees.
From what I understand, this discrepancy between expectation and reality is a result of both a failure on my part, and circumstance. We had two student groups who were planning to attend (with a good number of students) cancel at the last minute. However, I could have certainly done more in terms of outreach for the event (and I wish I had!). Ultimately, these two reasons meant that we did not get nearly as many people to attend as we thought we would, leading to a lot of stress on my end. Much of the preparation we had worked so hard on was, in effect, meaningless without people to experience it.
So, live and learn, that's the hard lesson I'm taking away from this event. Because as disappointing as it was not to see as many people as we wanted in attendance, I have amassed a great deal of knowledge I did not previously have. Like, for instance, to put a lot more emphasis on outreach! I really wish we could have had more people for our wonderful workshoppers and presenters, but if I had to call the event as a whole a success or failure, I would still call it a success, because we were able to make it meaningful for those who DID attend. So, I'm going to take all that I've learned, all the successes and failures, and put it into making next year's conference even greater. In terms of attendance, it's only up from here, and who knows? Maybe, because of this failure, EYES 2020 will be that much better. Only time will tell.