Our event, “Pizza and the Planet,” was put on April 15 2018 as a part of the BLI Leadership Lab. Our original goal was to educate University of Michigan Students on sustainability initiatives occurring on campus. We ended up doing that by giving our event attendees an overview of the Planet Blue Ambassador training program and having UMBees come and talk about their org. We also provided pizza and compostable materials in order to make our event Zero Waste.
We learned a lot about how to communicate with diverse individuals in a more professional setting, especially through meeting with our stakeholders. These meetings also honed our problem-solving and quick-thinking skills. Specifically, our meeting with a representative from the Office of Campus Sustainability helped us understand how we could go about planning our event. We did further research and ended up meeting with a representative from Planet Blue in which we realized the need for education on surrounding sustainability initiatives on campus and the Planet Blue Ambassador Program.
One BLI habit that was essential to our project was “Start Small.” When exploring potential topics to address through our project, we began with the broadest possible idea: the environment and health. As we progressed through the Leadership Lab, we narrowed our focus and learned to define concrete goals for our project. Starting small has encouraged us to plan and execute seemingly insurmountable tasks and focus on achieving our goals. Another BLI habit which was vital to our project was “Work to Learn.” Our project team had already been utilizing this habit in planning our event. We received great feedback from our peers in the Leadership Lab and we incorporated their suggestions into our project. In addition, we both learned how to execute our event and grew as leaders through taking concrete steps toward a project in which we lacked prior knowledge. Finally, we “Engaged the World.” Engaging the world is what helped us narrow our focus for our project. After meeting with a representative from the Office of Campus Sustainability, we learned that they would value having the word spread about their various initiatives. We learned what one of our stakeholders needed and we tailored our project to suit that need. By utilizing these three main habits and parts of some others, we were able to learn both how to execute an event of this nature and what it means to be a leader while doing so.
On top of the aforementioned habits, another one we ended up using a lot was “Expect Challenges.” The most notable challenge occurred the day before our event, when we received an email from a representative from Planet Blue. Although there had been no information about this online, we were informed that we were supposed to be officially trained to guide others through the Planet Blue training. We then had to come up with an immediate solution on since our event was happening the next day. After brainstorming, we were able to come up with a response satisfactory to all parties. Doing our own research, we were able to create our own presentation to give to our audience. From there, we let them know of the Planet Blue website so they could pursue the training if they wished to. Of course, we faced many other challenges throughout the course of the project, the first one involving the topic of our project. We had no real “vision” for our project until after the first few weeks had passed. We wanted to focus on what our stakeholders had to say about our topic, because they had way more expertise than any of us did. After these meetings and brainstorming both on our own and with our peers, we could finally form a vision for our project.
As a result of our event, we had twelve students become Planet Blue Ambassadors. This truly speaks to the idea of starting small. Not only did we really step back and put on a small event, we had a smaller crowd show up. This is usually seen in a negative light, but we believe the small crowd fostered a more intimate environment than a standard
presentation would have. Feeling comfortable is one of the most important factors to consider when putting on an event like this. The people who a ended our event were engaged with the material we were presenting many people said the part they liked the most was either the material itself or the way it was presented. We also found multiple comments regarding the learning environment we created. It felt great to feel like our event could have made a difference, even if it wasn’t one we had originally considered, and we hope our progress continues as we move into the future.
Going forward, our group plans to meet with more Planet Blue representatives to establish a more formal event for the fall. We would like to actually be trained to present the full Planet Blue Ambassador training content, as we had a comment regarding this in the “comments/suggestions” sec on of our survey. We hope to be able to reach out to more student organizations on campus and have them involved with bringing awareness to their initiatives, in addition to crafting an opportunity for them to recruit more members. There is also the potential to work with the School of Public Health in order to inform incoming students of their programs. We are looking forward to seeing what happens when we have the me and resources to implement a larger-scale event!
By: Madeleine Conrad, Andres Davalos, Olivia Gregg, Jessica Kosticak