• Environment & sustainability

    Environment & sustainability

    Teenagers enrolled in the United World Colleges’ summer school put their critical thinking skills to the test as they worked to solve a fictional environmental crime and developed their own plans to investigate sustainability-related cases of their choosing. They were guided by experienced investigators and activists from the Seek Initiative, the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International and the Paraguayan youth-led organisation reAcción. 

    Youth-led research for a sustainable future

    United World Colleges (UWC) is an international education movement that provides young people aged 15-19 with a life-changing education and inspires them to work for peace and a sustainable future. As part of their 2023 summer school, the UWC hosted “New Tools for Engaged Citizenship”, a programme co-organised by Seek Initiative and Transparency International, aimed at inspiring young people to reimagine their political activism and consider how evidence-based investigations can contribute to climate action, sustainable societies, and advancing environmental justice. In a series of online and in-person workshops, the participants were invited to solve a fictional case about a polluted river and created their own roadmaps to investigate real incidents that resonated with them, including the environmental costs of war, chemical and oil spills, child labour, and politically-motivated attacks.

    Used Pathways

    Students were invited to participate in a hypothetical investigation about a polluted river. The first clues about the incident appeared on social media accounts of residents who had witnessed unusual odours at various locations in their neighbourhood.
    In the fictional scenario, the group shared a questionnaire with residents and asked them to keep a record of any smells they noticed, including where and when they occurred.
    In the fictional scenario, the investigators searched the government’s environmental protection agency database for recent warnings issued to polluters in that area.
    In the fictional scenario, the investigators talked to an employee at the mayor’s office to find out what they knew about the incident.
    The group was asked to brainstorm other Investigative Pathways that could be used to continue the investigation. They suggested looking at the website, annual reports, and other business records to build a profile of a factory operating near the river.
    In the fictional scenario, investigators consulted academic papers to determine what the bad odours could be and if they posed a health or environmental risk.
    In the fictional scenario, the questionnaire with residents was used to plot the odour complaints on a map to help determine the origin of the smell.
    In the fictional scenario, the group analysed fines issued to polluters over several years, looking for any unusual patterns in the data.
    The workshop participants were asked to brainstorm what other Investigative Pathways could be used to continue the investigation. It was suggested water samples could be taken from the stream and analysed at a lab for toxic substances.
    The students were asked to brainstorm other Investigative Pathways that could be used to continue the investigation. It was suggested they could request records of any permits held by a factory near the river to handle hazardous chemicals.

    WHAT IMPACT after the investigation?

    The long-term impact of this project is set to be measured in 2024, but immediate feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive. In one participant’s words: “Going into the workshop, I was admittedly a bit nervous about my ability to grapple with complex concepts and theories, but as we dove deeper into case studies and started discussing our findings as a group, I realised that I had a lot more insight to offer than I gave myself credit for. It was empowering to feel like my contributions were valued and to see firsthand how far I’ve come in terms of being able to think critically about real-world problems.”

    SEEK Suggestions

    Spearhead an investigation or become a trainer for one of our partner communities, NGOs or funders. Whether you’re an armchair detective or certified investigator, we've got the right opportunities to match your expertise.
    School corruption
    November 28, 2023

    School corruption

    Students in Paraguay uncovered systematic corruption in school infrastructure projects across their city. Their investigation ensured repairs were made at the most needy schools, so children could learn in a safe environment.
    Real estate
    July 4, 2023

    Real estate

    Germany’s non-profit media outlet Correct!v crowdsourced rental contracts from residents to understand who controls the real estate market in major urban centres in Germany and Europe.