My name is Nathalie Aubourg and I organise the Wolkersdorf Climathon in Lower Austria. While I am a graphic designer by trade, I am also involved with many volunteer projects such as founding a coworking space just outside of Vienna. This is where we launched the city’s first Climathon in 2019.
Community is a big thing for coworking spaces and you are always looking for interesting formats to get people involved. Having a get-together is nice, but having a purpose is even more exciting. I knew that hosting a Climathon could bring citizens together for a greater cause.
Austria is a very small country, but the regions are facing very different climate challenges. In the Northeast, we are dealing with drought due to warmer and warmer days. The melting glaciers in the Alps is a totally different story. Our challenge owner, the City of Wolkersdorf, has taken a broad approach and vision to this year’s Climathon topic. We are posing the question: How do we want to live in Wolkersdorf in 2030?
We want to spark ideas about improving citizens’ living and public spaces. Maybe it's upgrading your home heating system or adding biodiversity to your garden. Whatever it is, we want people to be a part of it and discover what “triggers” them.
Climathon allows people to break things down on their own terms, to find their own approach. It allows for flexibility on many levels while still offering a frame - like a playground - for organizers, sponsors, and participants to work out the problem in a way that makes the most sense to them.
We all have our passions that drive us to achieve incredible things. Giving people the opportunity to have an in-depth, substantial understanding of topics and of how processes work, empowers them to contribute to projects that help tackle climate change challenges.
You must find an ideal framework for participants to be creative and bring their ideas to life while at the same time understand how to accurately stretch your partners’ and the city’s vision so that their goals and needs are met. It’s a delicate balance.
From my experience, a successful Climathon hinges on two factors: awareness and support. First, it’s best to provide your potential participants with information early on. We are using Facebook and Instagram to disseminate different levels of information, both the technical and the inspirational. We want to use these platforms to build excitement around Climathon Wolkersdorf but also connect with participants following the event.
Every Friday in September, we’ll be at the weekly market with a table and a flipchart, ready to chit-chat with the town. We’ve found this to be the most effective way of communication. It’s more down-to-earth as we are communicating directly with locals.
My second piece of advice: Make sure you have cleared the way for follow-up solutions. This can be achieved through funding or other programmes as a service for your sponsors and your participants.
For the first time this year, we are offering extra support in collaboration with the incubator accent GmbH. Participants have the opportunity to fine-tune solutions and further collaborate with experts on 5-6 November following the Climathon ideation process.
The City of Wolkersdorf is also part of KLAR!, a 3-year programme funded by the Environment Agency Austria. We encourage those interested in providing the region with creative solutions for climate resilience to get involved!
The core of my vision for Climathon Wolkersdorf is to push the opportunities for low-level involvement, to connect participants with local associations and organisations, and to facilitate voluntary engagement. For instance, several participants who worked on the mobility challenge at the Climathon in 2019 got involved in the local bicycling lobby, as a direct result of the collaboration during those two days of ideation.
The city is pushing for an in-person event on 23 October during the Global Week of Action. We’re hoping to recreate the same energy and impact from Climathon 2019. Because we had to postpone our plans in 2020, we are stepping back to jump even further this year!