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Webinars to inspire action

Local universities broadcast CIWEM webinars to 'inspire better environmental behaviour'
ciwem Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

‘Imagine being associated with an exciting and influential event that has far-reaching and long-term positive impacts on the environment around the world.’

Inspired by The Guardian’s list of the 50 people most likely to save the planet, Andrew (Eddie) Robinson, chair of CIWEM’s East Anglian Branch, used this sentence to kick-start a series of webinars to open a dialogue between environmental professionals in the UK and acclaimed environmental thought-leaders from around the world.

Members of the CIWEM (Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management) already communicate and network through regional branches and specialist groups, but the idea of establishing webinars as a communication tool was inspired by East Anglia’s geography.

‘Our region covers a big area which makes it very difficult to find a location that is convenient for all of our members to meet at’, Eddie told us. ‘On top of that, we don’t want to encourage our members to increase their carbon footprint through unnecessary travel. So the idea of a webinar worked particularly well for us on a range of levels.’

Broadcasting ideas

Since its foundation 120 years ago, the CIWEM’s policy work, skills accreditation, training programmes, conferences and publications have all helped to bring about positive change in the sector and help water and environmental professionals to advance in their careers.

The sharing of evidence-based knowledge regarding water and environmental management has been key to the CIWEM’s success, and the decision to broadcast webinars is the next step in a long tradition of providing expert advice to politicians, professionals and the media.

‘Our members value our meetings for the networking opportunities they create’, Eddie explains. ‘There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction, so we didn’t want to have people watching the webinar alone in their offices or homes. The solution was to broadcast to hubs where people could congregate.’

University hubs

The branch used its strong ties to universities in the region to find ideal venues for its webinars. Partnering with Cranfield University, Anglia Ruskin University, the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia, the branch was able to use the universities’ facilities to create hubs that would serve members of the CIWEM while at the same time helping to inspire the universities’ students and staff.

‘We have had fantastic feedback from the students’, said Paul Biggins, an e-Communications officer at CIWEM’s East Anglian Branch. ‘The University of East Anglia provided a particularly vibrant location with the students asking lots of questions.’

For Eddie, broadcasting the webinars in universities will help to inspire further action to help the planet. ‘We are able to reach the students, who are the ones that will be shaping the future, and encourage debate and discussion not just over the web but in person, too – the best of both worlds’, he told us.

Leading environmental international consultants Royal HaskoningDHV and Mott MacDonald have also provided hub venues, and Royal HaskoningDHV covered the cost of the WebEx technology that enabled Eddie’s idea to become a reality.

Great environmentalists

So far speakers have included Aubrey Meyer, a nominee for Best Environmental Achievement Internationally and a key figure in establishing the concept of Contraction and Convergence as a tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Ken Yeang, the Malaysian architect, ecologist, author and pioneer of ecology-based green design and master-planning has also taken part, as well as a past Director General of the World Wildlife Fund, Dr Simon Lyster, and a past member of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers, Prof Bob Hahn.

The webinars are being recorded so that they can be shared and viewed long into the future, which helps to fulfil Eddie’s ambition to leave a positive legacy. ‘By producing these broadcasts I hope to reach a much wider audience than would otherwise have been possible’, Eddie told us. ‘The question and answer sessions that we have conducted with the great environmentalists of our day can now be shared with people across the globe and inspire better environmental behaviour.’

The broadcasts are available to watch via CIWEM’s website and will shortly be made available on YouTube.

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