Bjorn van As spent six months in Mechelen, Belgium engaging in an internship at Natuurpunt, a nature NGO. This is his story.
I conducted my internship at Natuurpunt (Non Governmental Organisation) in Mechelen (Belgium). This is a non profit nature organisation active in Flanders and Brussels. Here I worked at the policy department. Within a year several policy campaigns are launched to offer the public and politics insights in nature conservation issues. This with the final aim to improve the: conditions of nature, biodiversity and the possibilities for people to visit a nature area.
Specifically I worked on the policy campaign launched in light of the Flemish elections in May 2014. During the internship I participated in different activities related to this campaign. The main activity consisted of writing a roadmap in order to facilitate the process of campaigning next time. The central question was: how does the general set up of a policy campaign at Natuurpunt looks like and what can be improved? In order to create this report I conducted a literature study and interviewed several colleagues. It turned out that creating such a campaign is a complex and challenging process with many different departments and persons involved. Starting on time with a detailed planning of the campaign, and making clear choices within the set up turned out to be the most important issues. I learned a lot by writing this report. Since it was my first time to participating in a team working on a large campaign.
Secondly I helped writing the report ‘nature on walking distance’. Here I wrote cases to illustrate the range of visiting options in nature, like: mountainbiking, gps tracking and trail running. This report mainly focussed on the shortage of nearby nature in Flanders and to emphasize the importance of nature for people. Third of all I screened the political party manifestos on the presence of ‘green issues’, like the topic of creating natural floodplains. The results of this screening were published a few weeks before the elections in order to give people a ‘green’ voting advice. Fourth, I worked on the final event of this policy campaign. A manifestation was set up in Brussels to show the Flemish politicians the urgency of investing in nature. For the creation of this event we worked together with an artist to be able to use 10.000 collected messages from Flemish citizens, with a call for more green. As the fifth and final point I worked on the set up of the field trips for Flemish politicians in one of the nature areas of Natuurpunt.
After this internship I can look back on a time in which I learned a lot. I had to use skills and knowledge gained during the courses at the University, like interviewing. I consciously made the choice to conduct an internship abroad. During the study I learned a lot about problems related to nature in the Netherlands. With the internship I wanted to experience in practice how a different policy can look like and what the consequences of a different policy might be. For me this was eye-opener and the internship provided me with many new insights.
Bjorn van As