Globally disseminating interactive
curricula to leverage the role of religious beliefs in environmentalism & sacred landform preservation.
Please confirm you meet the following criteria
We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
We have been working on this project for at least three months
We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
eco-divine.webflow.io (website still under development)
Date You Started Your Project
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Start-Up (first few activities have happened)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Despite over 80% of our global population practicing religion (which is proven to impact human behavior), religion has hardly been explored as a solution, rather than cause, for our environmental concerns. With sacred rivers like the Ganges being home to the cremated ashes of millions and having 3+ billion liters of wastewater being added to them daily, uninformed religious practices are often inadvertently hurting sacred landforms themselves.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
1.) Diverse Curricula: Split into several, comprehensive, location-based modules, EcoDivine hopes to offer self-paced lessons to users, exploring how certain religious practices (like bathing in the Ganges River) have negatively influenced sacred landforms. Users will be able to read more about these practices, potential solutions, and future eco-friendly action steps all on the app.
2.) Hands-on Activities and Labs: We’re looking to also hopefully offer in-person workshops in areas where technology access is limited, with chapter leaders being able to design their own curriculum tailored to the religion most prominent in the area or making use of our pre-developed curriculum. For these workshops, we’d like to also provide activity kits (ex: water quality testing) to help make our educational content more engaging.
3.) Involvement Opportunities: Aside from simply learning about the issue, users will also be able to get involved by signing up to host chapters in their communities and/or volunteer to fundraise for our activity kits and app development efforts. We’ll also have a discussion board for app users to collaboratively share their efforts and successes.
3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.
As a mobile app, EcoDivine will inherently leverage technology (specifically, Python and Java) to allow individuals to educate themselves about ecotheology. Users will be able to follow the self-paced, digital lessons available on the app that will have been designed following the region-specific curriculum our team is still developing.
We’re also looking to supplement our digital curricula with in-person workshops in the future in low-income areas where access to technology and digital smartphones is limited. For these workshops, we’d like to provide participants with interactive kits with materials (like pH strips) and instructions for simple experiments like water quality testing; in the long term, we’d like to offer engineering kits as well. While workshop students will already be instructed by chapter leaders about how their specific religious practices impact a local sacred landform, these kits will allow users to also test, calculate, and validate these findings for themselves. Such self-guided discovery will help inspire individuals in such communities (and particularly youth) to reconsider their religious practices and ultimately help preserve sacred landforms globally.
4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
Growing up, our grandparents educated us about the cultural significance of the gorgeous Ganges River in India. As they continued to send us pictures of the river over the years, though, we began noticing a change -- the lily pads and flowers of earlier images were being replaced with cloud-like foam and pervasive algae. We began researching and learned that the villagers bathing in the river or pouring cremated ashes were often mere inches away from life-threatening bacteria, and that their religious beliefs & lack of sufficient environmental education had left them oblivious to the environmental damage that had happened at their hands. EcoDivine attempts to address this issue -- leveraging religion for, not against, the environment by spreading awareness of the emerging field of ecotheology and mobilizing local inhabitants to better understand the science behind their sacred landforms.
5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”
6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.
We’ve collected 50+ customer discovery survey responses from potential app users; begun developing location-specific curriculum for the Ganga, Indus, and Yamuna Rivers with hands-on activities; begun working with water plant specialists in India to plan potential distribution pathways and fundraising options for water quality testing kits; contacted mentors to assess the cultural competency of our curriculum; and started developing our website and app with Python and Java.
7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
Rather than leading an oftentimes lackluster, solely science-based discussion regarding environmentalism as has often become the norm, EcoDivine will be the first global, youth-led social organization to prioritize ecotheology awareness through its free, hands-on curricula available both via an app and future in-person workshops in low-income areas. Prior efforts towards this goal have mostly targeted individuals of certain religious beliefs; instead, we want to mobilize & unite individuals across different faiths and even those that don’t practice religion at all, to build a union for change.
8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.
We’ve already virtually beta-tested a module of our curriculum with potential app users; they provided us with positive feedback and constructive criticism that has since been utilized to further modify our app interface design and curriculum. We’ve also brainstormed the specific components of our water quality testing kits (pH, color comparison, and chemical-presence strips) that will be checking for high levels of potentially toxic chemicals like chlorine, ammonia, and phosphates. As we soon finalize our app and actually distribute our official testing kits, we’ll look into tracking app downloads, app engagement, app reviews, testing kit success (which users can rate directly on the app), number of students educated, total number of chapters, and both our costs and sources of funding to ensure our initiative is both environmentally and financially sustainable.
9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
We’d like to pilot test our finalized app soon with at least ten students living near the Ganges River. By then, we’d also like to have secured sufficient funding to manufacture and test our first batch of water quality testing kits, and have developed instructions for the kits in Gujarati, Hindi, and English. We’d also like to begin forming partnerships with schools and environmentalist organizations (like the Sankat Mochan Foundation) near the river localities in India where we anticipate launching our app. Long term, we seek to establish a global chapter system to also reach audiences in countries like Peru (which hosts the sacred Urubamba River), and develop other testing kits for air quality and nitrogen to supplement our curricula.
10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.
In recruiting our youth points-of-contact in India, we’re already in the works of developing three EcoDivine chapters with a collective potential audience of 150+ students. As we now hear about one of our past app testers independently testing the water quality of their local river with their parents (who had never heard about environmental sustainability before then), we’re inspired to continue empowering changemakers that leverage generations of religious beliefs to prioritize the environment.
11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?
With our upcoming global chapter system, chapter leaders would be better able to host religion and region-specific ecotheology workshops in their localities while continuing to exchange self-developed curriculum with one another. By building such a religiously-diverse database of curricula, we ultimately look forward to further building out our app and reframing environmentalism as a universal responsibility, indiscriminate of religion and for all -- students, activists, and even policymakers.
12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?
As many people still remain oblivious to the interconnectedness of religion and environmentalism, we’d first simply like to engage with environmental conferences and media outlets like People & the Planet and Grist Magazine to raise awareness of both the issue and our pioneering solution -- free, hands-on ecotheology workshops across the globe. We’ll also make sure to use marketing language free of gender, religion, or regional biases, and maximize our usage of transformative statistics.
13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations between $100-$1k
14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.
Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?
How did you hear about this challenge?