Wait a minute… What is the actual ecological impact of our ecological project?

Balancing social and ecological impact: why we decided not to go on with our original idea for the Knowmadic Trail

Anne-Laure Romanet
Jan 29 · 4 min read

At Knowmads Hanoi, the idea of the Knowmadic Trail, aka “program for international participants”, has been in our mind for several years already.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to bring people to Vietnam to take a learning journey here with us? Instead of “just traveling” to South-East Asia, you would actually embark for a hosted journey of self discovery, meaningful connections and mindful time in nature. Then you would go back home as a new person ready to bring positive impact to the world. Sounds great, right?

And we actually have the capacity to do it! Organizing, designing and facilitating programs is what we do. We have a strong network in Europe and Australia to spread the word, and a strong network in Vietnam to handle the logistic.

Hurray, let’s do it then! That’s why last summer we built a project team and kicked of the work.

Everything was going well, until…We raised the following question:

“But what is actually the ecological impact of our program?”

As we are inviting participants from overseas to join this program, they might take flights all the way to Vietnam for a couple of weeks.

Yes, this program will definitely bring positive impact to their lives, and they will bring their inspiration back home. It will also connect people from all over the world to the social innovation field of Vietnam, and beautiful things will emerge from it.

But how can we be sure that this positive impact compensates the CO2 emission of the travel, knowing that each plane we take directly harms the planet — and more specifically threatens South-East Asia?

We considered of course emission compensation programs, which are by the way a great option when you don’t have other choice than taking a plane.

But still. Knowmads’ moto has always been “Real change starts with yourself”. Are we actually being true to ourselves and to our values with this program? Our answer is “no”, and this is why you actually didn’t see any add for the Knowmadic Trail: none of us felt like advertising for the idea of taking a plane to go to the other side of the world for short holidays, even if it was for meaningful ones.

We came back to the purpose of the project. What is actually the need we are trying to serve? If it’s for Europeans or Australians to reconnect with themselves and get inspired, there is actually an abundance of such programs to join in their own regions. Why would we do marketing to push them to travel as far as Vietnam if they can find what they need closer to home?

However, in parallel we witnessed a lot of enthusiasm from Vietnamese when hearing about the Knowmadic Trail. The concept of “slow & sustainable tourism”, the perspective of traveling together as a tribe of mindful individuals looking for different ways of being and working, the idea of getting inspired by local social innovators…Yes, there is a growing local need out there for that, even if there is low financial capacity to pay for the costs of organization

So let’s try something else, and gather all those who are interested in co-organizing this program together! As a common adventure, not as a “commercial offer”.

If it’s something that resonates with you and if you want to get involved… …Come and join the project!

We are calling for a team of co-creators in Vietnam. Just drop a message at: priscillamilis@hotmail.com. We will define together how we want this journey to look like, and how we can self-organize to make it happen!

So what were our biggest leanings through the process of this project?

  • Yep, global warming sucks. But doing as much as we can to minimize our footprint, both in our life and in our work is not optional, even if it means that some cool stuff will not be happening. The coolest of all is to protect our planet, and to keep it safe & beautiful for next generations.
  • When such doubts arise while working on a project, speaking up for them is the right thing to do. Yes, it is scary and it is highly uncomfortable. However, it is perhaps what true leadership is about — keeping the big picture in mind, and having the courage to let a project die so that a better one can arise.
  • Having grown solid foundations within the team is the only way to build enough trust so that doubts can be spoken, heard and discussed. To know more about this topic, you can have a look at this paper about our collaboration practices :-)

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