Create a project in 4 days
How the UPSHIFT methodology helps young people solve social and environmental problems
More than 80 boys and girls who study at Belarusian "green schools" gathered in Minsk in July to be trained in UPSHIFT technique. For 4 days, with the support of trainers, teenagers developed their own environmental projects from scratch.
"The UPSHIFT technique made me reconsider my worldview," says Sasha, a UNICEF volunteer in Belarus, who several years ago created a social project with the help of UPSHIFT, and then went through training and became a trainer herself. "I understood back then that everything is possible. Now I want to help others to understand it too."
UPSHIFT is a social engineering methodology. It teaches people to identify, study and understand problems in local communities, and then create effective solutions in the form of products or services.
The history of UPSHIFT began in 2014 in Kosovo, and the program currently operates in 22 countries around the world.
Since 2019, UNICEF Belarus has been providing trainings for young people to help them develop universal skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, effective communication and leadership skills; to unleash their potential through developing self-confidence, resilience and a sense of self-worth in adolescents and young people; to involve them in the life of their city; to develop entrepreneurship as a skill set and way of thinking.
"UPSHIFT influences not only the participants of the training, but also the communities through the projects that they manage to come up with and implement," says Maria Videvich, UNICEF Belarus coordinator for adolescent development. "Thanks to UPSHIFT, attitudes towards young people themselves are also changing – society begins to see them as an agent of positive changes, and not a source of problems."
It is the first time that the training deals exclusively with environmental issues, although in the past the participants of the UPSHIFT training were interested in this topic too.
For example, in 2020-2021, UNICEF Belarus supported the Plastic+ project for school children from Borisov. The adolescents collected plastic and agreed on its processing with a local plant. The plant in its turn made anti-vandal benches and bins from the collected garbage. The unnecessary plastic got a second life, while the idea itself was born and developed at an UPSHIFT training.
This year the participants created 21 projects. To support the adolescents, we will allocate funding and mentoring to implement the best ideas. Let's talk about some of the winning projects.
Why batteries are dangerous
The adolescents from Grodno really want to convey to their peers and older people why batteries should not be thrown away with other waste. "When a battery gets into soil, its body undergoes corrosion and releases heavy metals that kill all living things at a distance of 20-40 square meters," Lera explains seriously at the presentation.
These young people plan to discuss the problem during class hours at schools, speak at dialogue platforms, and post information on social networks. In addition, they want to install bright trash bins to collect batteries.
There is an ambitious plan to make trash bins interactive. To do this, the teens want to develop a mobile game: the main character is on a polluted island, the task is to clean up, and then travel to other places and clean them up too. Interactive trash bins will be a part of the game. If you throw away the batteries there, an individual QR code will be displayed. The player can scan the code and receive bonuses in the game: leveling up, coins or something else.
Feed garbage to a vending machine
School children from Zhlobin want to solve the garbage problem in the forests and near the lakes in their region. Therefore, they plan to buy and install reverse vending machines for collecting cans and bottles. Plastic or glass bottles will be sent to companies for recycling.
People who use reverse vending machines receive bonuses – discounts on goods or services. The children want to reach an agreement with transport companies so that the users would get a discount on traveling by trains and urban public transport. It is planned to install the first machine on a beach in Zhlobin.
In addition, teenagers want to gather volunteer teams and regularly collect scattered garbage in forests and near lakes and rivers in their area.
Teenagers from the Grodno region propose to install trash bins to collect plastic caps. "The caps are recycled separately from bottles," Lisa says with enthusiasm. "The cap is made of plastic that can be recycled really well. We want to make people aware of this problem so that they will collect caps separately."
The first bins to be installed will be made from recycled plastic – the caps that have already been collected.
To draw attention to the problem, teenagers are going to arrange a fashion show. But instead of standard fabric the outfits will be made of materials that can be recycled. All outfits will be recycled after the show.
The green bridge
Young people from Gomel want to create a unique for Belarus art and eco-project. Make a 100-meter "living" arch over the railway bridge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions near the busiest road section in Gomel. The children hope that this arch will also cast a shadow on the bridge and make it more comfortable for the pedestrians to walk there.
The guys were carefully choosing a plant that would be suitable for the arch. The final decision was creeper: it does not need to be taken off in winter, like, for example, ivy. In order to make an arch, the creeper needs to grow for 1.5-2 years.
In autumn, the participants will talk about the preliminary results of their projects and the solutions to the selected environmental problems.