The Environmental Education Network


The Environmental Education Network links, harnesses the capabilities of, and provides visibility to numerous informal environmental education initiatives that are springing up throughout the country.



Santiago, Chile

Problem Overview:

Mounting ecological damage in conjunction with dwindling environmental education

As of 1990, Chilean traditional channels of participation — political parties, neighborhood associations, student federations and trade unions — continued to suffer from declining membership, even as the process of democratic consolidation was moving forward. Chilean youth were particularly disaffected and disengaged. Indeed, for many Chileans, soccer clubs were their only channels for enthusiastic expression and collective action. Contemporary Chilean society was also characterized by a grave and troubling lack of consciousness and understanding of environmental problems. Once a picturesque capital city known for its striking mountainous backdrop, Santiago had become one of the world’s most polluted cities, shrouded in a thick layer of smog. And little was being done in the formal school system to provide the intensive environmental education necessary to produce behavioral changes of sufficient scale to arrest a mounting tide of ecological destruction.

Ximena Abogabir Scott, an Ashoka Fellow, recognized three principal problems:

The Chilean Minister of Education was preparing to implement a reform plan for the entire educational system which did not specifically address environmental education.

The initiatives developed by the social and educational leaders were running the risk of falling apart due to lack of motivation, frustration, or the departure of the agent of change who generated the initiative.

Chile vehemently adopted the "neo-liberal economic system," which essentially opened Chile’s economy to the exploitation of natural resources without any debate as to the social or environmental sustainability of that development model. This system generated serious conflicts once the environmental costs of ‘progress’ became evident.



Abogabir organized and coordinates an Environmental Education Network that links, harnesses the capabilities of, and provides visibility to numerous informal environmental education initiatives that are springing up throughout the country. This is a new approach in the field of informal environmental education in Chile that enhances the effectiveness of the numerous organizations that are currently working in that field and stimulates urgently needed citizen participation in more general civic activities. Her initiative employs a well-planned and coordinated combination of new educational materials, training, networking, publicity campaigns, and publication of a bimonthly newsletter. The newsletter, entitled "Mosiaco" (Mosaic), serves to demonstrate the value of a global vision made up of individual initiatives.

Informal programs, sponsored by local and regional environmental organizations, and the activities of a handful of concerned university professors, emerged as the principal vehicles for environmental education and advocacy on behalf of needed environmental reforms. But their effectiveness was hampered by inadequate methodologies, insufficient technical and financial assistance, lack of access to data and an absence of coordination, which resulted in duplication of efforts and a constant reinvention of the wheel. Not surprisingly, therefore, surveys of the views of Chilean environmentalists and registered environmental groups detected strong feelings of isolation, frustration and declining motivation. The country’s principal environmental actors perceived their actions to be disconnected and powerless in the face of massive environmental degradation.

Abogabir, a person with a background as a journalist and publicist, drew on a careful assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of existing environmental educational efforts in Chile to design and orchestrate a series of activities that would address their most pressing needs. Abogabir, who views the environmental movement as a critically important catalytic instrument for engaging the country’s citizenry more broadly in civic action, began to provide a much-needed antidote for the twin ills of declining civic participation and environmental neglect in an innovative informal environmental education strategy.

Extensive experience working in environmental NGOs had given her familiarity with small educational activities that take place at schools, neighborhood boards, parochial groups, youth organizations, etc. resulting from the spontaneous motivation of hundreds of individuals. As she describes her effort, after fifteen years in the private sector working for press organizations and commercial and advertising firms Abogabir decided she could no longer tolerate what she describes as a "value contradiction" between her advertising activities and the world she aspired to leave to her children. She thus decided to abandon the commercial advertising arena and direct her energies to changing behavioral patterns with important social implications. Abogabir made the transition to social entrepreneurship via several environmental protection campaigns which enabled her to capitalize on her strong communication and networking skills.

As the coordinator of "Earth Day 1990" in Chile, Abogabir converted former clients into patrons, publicist friends into pro bono public relations managers, and media colleagues into press agents. She initially assigned responsibility for the development of new materials to a carefully selected team of experts. The team began its work with intensive analysis of the regional environmental surveys that were jointly organized in 1993-4 by her nonprofit organization, House of Peace, the National Commission on the Environment and UNICEF. The findings of that review were synthesized and documented, and drawing on those findings, the team produced an illustrated technical assistance manual that was distributed among the 300 organizations identified in the surveys. The manual includes in the most innovative and effective methodologies that have been developed by environmental educators across the country, and it presents and explains the experts’ recommendations concerning the content of environmental education.

The objective of the Environmental Educational Network Project was to collect the efforts of this group of environmental education initiatives by means of training initiatives, the production of educational materials, and, especially, through the publication of a bimonthly newsletter. This newsletter was entitled "Mosiaco" (Mosaic) to demonstrate the value of a global vision made up of individual initiatives

The Network Project began with three strategies:

In order to institutionalize the links among agents of change, the Environmental Education Network (REDAM) was formed. It initially consisted of 128 members. To accomplish this task, it was necessary to create a database of current, substantive information on each of the Network members.

To harness the potential of each REDAM member’s efforts, a plan was established to produce educational materials that would help elevate the quality of each Network member’s initiatives.

In order to provide visibility for the members and exchange information that would facilitate their efforts, an initiative was formed to edit and distribute a newsletter covering various topics of interest, such as available funds, success stories, educational techniques, etc.

Training for local environmental educators is provided in four-day workshops. In carefully sequenced series of interactive seminars and group discussions, participants explore various dimensions of the challenges they face and the tasks they are pursuing. They assess the strengths and weaknesses of ongoing projects and examine alternative strategies. At the workshop close, the participants receive diplomas designating them "monitors in environmental education" signed by appropriate officials of the National Commission on the Environment, the National Training and Employment Service, and the Chilean Association of Municipalities. The decision to award a diploma responded to a widely detected need among informal environmental educators for self-validation and legitimization in their local communities.

A bi-monthly bulletin, a computerized database and a series of audiovisual materials serve as vehicles for maintaining and motivating an active and informed network of environmental educators long after each workshop ends. Members of the informal environmental educators’ network are able to tap into the databank for information on new methodologies, reports on international environmental actions and suggestions for potential funding sources.

The material development, training and networking activities are accompanied by publicity initiatives aimed at enhancing the public visibility of informal environmental educators and their work throughout Chile. Organized by a professional editorial and production team led by Abogabir, the campaigns provide members of the press with continuing flow of news stories and profiles. In addition, the informal environmental educators network’s editorial staff generates its own publications documenting the local and regional activities of its members.

The restrictive factors were principally:

The weak participatory culture among Chileans which forced them to invest significant energy in "energizing" the network by sending letters, flyers, faxes, etc. to motivate the members to give feedback with their news.

The scarcity of funds available to better "energize" the network, such as funds to print a greater number of bulletins (from 1,000 to 2,000 copies); to increase the frequency of publication (from bimonthly to monthly); and, to publish a longer bulletin (from eight to sixteen pages). Fortunately, the Dutch agency NOVIB and the Swiss agency COSUDE did contribute indispensable financial support to the Project.

The Project was institutionalized by Casa de la Paz (House of Peace), which formed a team to carry out the various tasks: a journalist edits the bulletin, another "energizes" the network, a group of professors reviews the educational materials, etc. Their compensation is far below the market level for providing these services, but it allows for the security of the continuity and professionalism of the work.

Abogabir and the House of Peace have received important awards for their contributions to environmental education and advocacy. Abogabir was named "Distinguished Educator of the Year" by the Latin American Secretariat of Education, and the House of Peace has been designated an "Institutional Messenger of Peace" by the United Nations Secretary General. Abogabir is an environmental consultant to UNICEF and other overseas connections have given her growing access to the international stage.


Today, the Environmental Education Network has 660 members throughout Chile, two manuals of Environmental Education have been edited, 12 training workshops have taken place (with 150 participants), and 23 editions of the "Mosiaco" newsletter have been distributed. The REDAM experience has served as an inspiration for similar types of networks across the country.

The Project has fortified the educational activities of its 660 members and has improved the impact of the recipients’ efforts. The "Mosiaco" newsletter was able to increase the number of recipients to 2,000, the frequency of publication from bimonthly to monthly, and the number of pages from eight to sixteen, doubling the space available for the dissemination of information about the activities of the network members.

The Project is considered to have been exceedingly successful since it completed all of its goals: increasing the number of network participants, generating educational materials, sustaining an informational newsletter over time.

The project continues to be successfully underway.


Their next challenge consists of obtaining financial independence for the "Mosaico" newsletter, the "energizing" of REDAM, and the implementation of workshops. To accomplish this, the Environmental Educational Network Project is taking a variety of steps:

Promoting "Mosaico" subscriptions: "we already have 76."

Recovering 30% of the cost for the training workshops through participant fees.

Selling books and edited manuals.

Submitted by:

Jodi Stewart - Ashoka
Changemakers site:

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