This eco-social network is trying to bridge the geographical gap between like-minded nature lovers through a tech platform.
Nature lovers often look for a common platform to connect with like-minded people. Facebook and Instagram are full of groups and pages for several nature-related issues like climate change, forest fires, and desertification. However, geographical locations can be a challenge for such people. Although nature crises are global, the efforts taken to alleviate these are limited by geographies.
Keeping this need in mind, an eco-social network, WeNaturalists, was launched for everyone associated with nature, no matter where they are.
The Tech Panda spoke to Amit Banka, Founder of WeNaturalists, about their journey so far.
Nature crises are felt globally. And hence, the efforts to overcome these crises cannot be local or divided
“Nature crises are felt globally. And hence, the efforts to overcome these crises cannot be local or divided. From forest rangers to conservationists, wildlife photographers to researchers, NGOs, and charities to businesses, educational institutes to the eco-tourism sector, everyone is contributing in their own way. We need to amplify these efforts,” he says.
“For instance, people doing some phenomenal work in nature and literally saving our planet every day have no platform to talk about their work and share their knowledge, except through blogs on their website or social media,” he adds.
The platform is built to inspire global social collaboration and collective action. It brings a confluence of social, content, tools, and commerce through technology.
“We need to come together and find solutions, together, in unprecedented ways. This is our vision at WeNaturalists. We aim at creating the largest ecosystem for people working in nature from around the world,” he adds.
Banka´s inspiration comes from a combination of his passion for nature since childhood, his experience with businesses that depend immensely on nature, and innumerable conversations on his wilderness trips with people working for nature.
He is an ardent nature lover, wilderness explorer, and bird photographer. A critical milestone in his life occurred while he was working with Swades Foundation on holistic living projects in rural India. He realized the need for mankind to coexist with nature, and more importantly, our dependence on it.
We aim at creating the largest ecosystem for people working in nature from around the world
The learnings from these interventions reinforced his belief that our interaction with nature needs to evolve to create a larger impact. He says this tremendously influenced his outlook towards creating WeNaturalists.
“It is difficult to say what played a bigger part, but it has all led to my motivation of creating an ecosystem that gives a purpose to people’s passion for nature,” he says.
The platform allows users to collaborate for different ideas, work, and research; unite and contribute to environmental causes, find solutions and work towards them at global-local level; share knowledge, learn new skills and debate on important matters; inspire, be inspired, and get recognized for their contribution.
Our vision is to create that digital space – an ecosystem that is the go-to place for everyone associated with nature and any environmental action taken worldwide
“Our vision is to create that digital space – an ecosystem that is the go-to place for everyone associated with nature and any environmental action taken worldwide,” says Banka.
The platform has many features, including all common social media features like private and public messaging rooms, forums, and polls. Following are some of the unique features:
Their Experience Showcase feature lets users add all their experience in a visual, collaborative timeline, and invite reviews and comments from everyone. It becomes a repertoire of their work for anyone to see, hire, and collaborate with them.
“This is a place where these people will belong and have a unified voice for a larger impact. It will also enable people not actively working in nature to explore the naturalist in them and contribute to the greater good,” says Banka.
Users can look for new work prospects or events to participate in or training programs to attend with the platform´s Projects feature. Alternatively, organizations can post their hiring or volunteering needs or event managers can showcase their events, and education or training institutes can list their courses to invite more participation.
With the Explore feature, all nature-related news, and stories from over sixty global publications appear on the Daily Edition, customized to user preferences and interests.
They also have a feature called Circles for creating an invite-only community of like-minded people to engage and exchange ideas with.
They have also created a dedicated space for everyone believing in an environmental cause to express opinions and exchange solutions for that cause with the Causes feature.
“We are constantly innovating and adding new features based on our interaction with the community and understanding of their pain points. We have many exciting features like Research and Shared Calendars in store,” Banka says excitedly.
The biggest difference that WeNaturalists wants to make is overcoming geographical boundaries. Banka informs that they plan to bring in more than 500 million and 10 million organizations worldwide together.
“This ecosystem will empower individuals with tailor-made tools and nature-related content for better collaboration and a larger impact. It will help the community to learn, upskill, get a global perspective, find better livelihood opportunities, catalyze effective education, and create awareness through their work within and outside the community,” he says.
The possibilities are endless. And the impact would be phenomenal – a brighter future for nature and us
Organizations can also connect with relevant people to meet their project objectives of reaching global audiences, their meeting, hiring, and volunteering needs, exploring funding possibilities, monitoring project progress, tracking and measuring impact, and much more.
“The possibilities are endless. And the impact would be phenomenal – a brighter future for nature and us,” he adds.
The web application was launched in November on an invite-only basis. After successful closed-group testing and affirmation of the potential and deliverability of the platform, WeNaturalists opened the gates to the world in January with the web and mobile application.
This is a place where these people will belong and have a unified voice for a larger impact
Since then, they have seen web traffic of over 8,000 users from more than 100 countries. About 39% of their user base is from Asia, 31% from the Americas, and 27% from Africa and Europe. Their members spend ~6 minutes per session on an average on the platform and primarily originate organically.
“The feedback we have received from users, partners, dignitaries, and contributors is remarkable. We have already proved the potential of commerce generation and collaboration in this short time. We hope to reach over one million users globally within a year,” Banka proudly informs.
The platform is coming up with a couple of interesting, new features to enhance the user journey. Banka informs that the focus now is on community outreach and increasing engagement across different features and tools.
“We are running at full throttle across all functions and facets currently. I am excited and scared in a good way to see the outcome of the journey we have embarked on,” he says.
Regarding critical measures in the short term, they plan to establish a global presence with offices in three major continents within the next few months. Also, a global advisory council is on the anvil to help them in shaping the ecosystem better and treading new paths carefully.
“We are currently working towards creating a collaborative working model with organizations and are reaching out to people who are working at the grassroots, too,” he concludes.