Designing for active engagement, enabling resilience and fostering environmental change

Robert Phillips, Amina Abbas-Nazari , Nicholas Gant, James Tooze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contemporary societies are increasingly distancing themselves from nature; driven by rapid urbanisation, biodiversity loss, lack of connection, industrialisation, loss of green space and parental fear… all factors are reducing our care/empathy for nature. Conservation and grass roots reporting highlight nature’s wellbeing, requires impactful citizen led responses.

Youth leaders of our time are holding up a mirror to adult humankind, stating ‘our world is on fire’, and demanding action. It is well known that interactions with the natural world provide health benefits, resilience, and prove transformative to our attitude, values and behaviour.
The My Naturewatch project facilitates people’s engagement with their local environment, and by doing so, helps its comprehension. Observations of nature help connect, engage, and foster custodians, at a time where growing separation from wildlife necessitates active engagement.

The work specifically challenges our understanding of ‘designed engagement(s)’, not as passive activities but as impactful active engagements, open to all. This article proposes criteria encouraging public participation within the natural world. It presents value to NGOs, change makers, design agents, individual agents and funding bodies.

Thirty experts from design, ecology, conservation, museology, engagement, rewilding, wildlife and community work, were interviewed, informing ‘design for environmental change through active engagement’. The work identifies design’s role, in creating interventions that better engage people with the surrounding natural world, yielding long-term mutual benefits. The objective fosters active public nature engagement, identifying barriers, opportunities, and pitfalls, leading to nature engaged interaction(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-70
Number of pages28
JournalDesign, Business and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The CC BY licence permits commercial and non-commerical reuse.


  • social responsibility
  • design for environmental change
  • sustainability
  • nature
  • design for active engagement
  • community conservation
  • Community conservation
  • Nature
  • Design for environ-mental change
  • Sustainability
  • Design for active engagement
  • Social responsibility


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