Growing nature-savvy visitors

This blog post reports on work-in-progress within the DfG course! The post is written by group 1B dealing with Metsähallitus’ and the Ministry of the Environment’s brief on ‘The future of sustainable nature recreation’. The group includes Sofia Wasastjerna from the International Design Business Management program, and Mantė Žygelytė, Ninni Laaksonen and Xinyu Zhang from the Collaborative and Industrial Design program.

Written by: Mantė Žygelytė

Since the last blog, a lot of things have happened! To be precise, our team arrived at the finalized proposal and presented it in person during the Final Show, which took place on May 23. However, before jumping into our proposal, let’s take a small step back and look at what our team has done throughout the month of May to arrive at the final destination.

Co-Creation Workshop

Our team started the first week of May by organizing an online co-creation workshop with four recent nature enthusiasts (a new visitor group). The aim of the workshop was to gain a better understanding of the visitor’s needs and pain points from their previous visits to the National Parks and to ideate an ideal park experience that would support the visitors in behaving respectfully toward nature and foster the connection to nature.

After wrapping up the workshop and synthesizing the gained insights, our team ended up with two key learnings:

Learning #1: A good experience is well-guided – but requires low effort.

The information visitors obtain before the visit should not be overwhelming. Instead, it should make them feel well-prepared for the upcoming journey. The visitors are not interested in spending hours online before the visit. Nonetheless, there are certain aspects that would help them in advance to prepare for the upcoming visit.

Learning #2: A good park experience is offline.

The workshop participants mentioned that relying on the phone during their visit to the National Park takes away from experience in nature and noted that reliance should be kept at a minimum. The physical environment in the park (signs, posters…) should provide clear and easy instructions for the visitors to follow during their trip and more importantly support them in adopting a respectful behaviour toward nature.

Validation with Metsähallitus

During the validation session with Metsähallitus, our team share a WIP proposal. A challenge that we realized during the call was conveying our still abstract idea, as it was hard to fully express it in words. Nonetheless, Metsähallius was positive with the direction we were heading. From them we learned that specific examples of nudges and features would concretize our proposal, making it easier for them to understand and follow our proposal.

Besides the validation session, it was a great opportunity to learn more about the mobile app that Metsähallitus is developing, still in the early stages. As for us, that meant that we had the potential to suggest to Metsähallitus something that could support them and perhaps be surprised with.

Our ‘Aha’ Moment

After the rehearsal on May 16 and receiving feedback from professors and tutors, our team came to a common ground that the proposal we were having at that moment was too abstract. To be honest, we ourselves were struggling to concretize it with specific examples. Sitting down once more as a team, we started discussing what is lacking. By going over the current and ideal journey of the visitor, we realized that with our old proposal we were trying to tackle all of the issues at once, rather than focusing on one activity at a time. By taking a concrete example of barbecuing, we finalised our proposal.

Our Proposal – Growing Nature-Savvy Visitors

The proposal of “growing nature-savvy visitors” is aimed at strengthening nature connectedness among national park visitors.

From newbie to nature-savvy is a strategy for reducing the visitor footprint by building nature connectedness for beginner-level visitors. Cross-channel thinking and personalized nudges are used for activating reflection and sustainable behavior among the visitors throughout the whole park visit.

The approach of the strategy is to think about the visit in a holistic manner. Thus, incorporating what happens before, during and after the visit and providing the right information when and where it is needed. The proposal takes into account that when it comes to forming nature connectedness among the beginner-level visitors, the most important stage is what happens after the visit.

4 Core Stages of the Strategy

The key four stages of the “growing nature-savvy visitors” strategy are personalized nudges, immersive park visits, reflection activation and inspiring future experiences. They are meant to be followed in chronological order with the intention of considering the visit from a holistic approach.

  1. Personalized nudges

The effect of information and reminders is most impactful when they are targeted to the visitors’ intentions. Personalized nudges are more effective if they are framed on the visitor’s planned activity. This happens before the visit to the national park. For example, if a visitor is interested in picnicking, they would be provided with information on where to find a less crowded picnic spot or a reminder to take a trash bag with them. Whereas, a visitor interested in biking, would be suggested with the best track to follow, being reminded not to go off the route during their visit.

When it comes to beginner visitors, it is important that the instructions are given as a part of something that gives them other benefits – such as getting a personalized route recommendation.

As the visitor’s experiences add up, the personalization enables to provide new nudges and encourages not only neutral, but also pro-environmental behavior in the park.

Figure 1: Personalized Nudges based on barbeque scenario.

  1. Immersive park visit

In order for the visitors to be fully immersed in their park experience, they have to be present in the physical environment. At this stage, which happens during the visit, digital tools can be helpful. However, it should be possible for beginners to rely fully on the physical touchpoints as guidance within the park.

Figure 2: Immersive Park Experience based on barbeque scenario.

  1. Reflection activation

To build nature connectedness, the impact of the visit should not end as the visitor finishes their trip at the national park. To prolong the visit and stimulate thoughts, the end of the visit is a good place to encourage reflecting back on the visit. This stage happens after the visit to the national park.

Figure 3: Reflection Activation based on barbeque scenario.

  1. Inspiring future experiences

One visit is not enough to build nature connectedness. This is why this last stage, which also happens after the visit, is regarded as the most important one. By providing the visitor with personalized recommendations of routes and activities, they are inspired to continue exploring nature.

This is also the perfect stage for nudging towards activities that are shown to strengthen nature connectedness – such as activities where the visitor interacts with nature in a regenerative way.

Figure 4: Inspiring Future Experiences based on barbeque scenario.

Final Show

23 of May was the Final Show day. We felt well-prepared and excited to present both to live and online audiences. Overall, we were both happy and proud with how everything turned out. Stakeholders were keen on taking the proposals further, which means that potentially May 23 was not a final day for the Design for Government.

Lastly, on behalf of my team, I would like to thank you our project partners Metsähallitus and Ministry of Environment, as well as all other involved stakeholders who shared with us their time and knowledge on this journey. Thank you to the teaching team of the Design for Government course, who supported, inspired and challenged us.

The DfG course runs for 14 weeks each spring – the 2022 course has now started and runs from 28 Feb to 23 May. It’s an advanced studio course in which students work in multidisciplinary teams to address project briefs commissioned by governmental ministries in Finland. The course proceeds through the spring as a series of teaching modules in which various research and design methods are applied to address the project briefs. Blog posts are written by student groups, in which they share news, experiences and insights from within the course activities and their project development. More information here about the DfG 2022 project briefs.

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