eXXpedition has a proactive and passionate community who are always striving to make a bigger impact using their skills and experiences. In our community, we have sailors and digital nomads, as well as those who have run citizen science projects in their own communities.
Two of our most common questions we receive from inside and outside our community are ‘How can I organise my own expedition?’ or ‘How can I do more good through science when I go on my next adventure?’ When we received an email from ambassador and entrepreneur Lucy Cullen about her planned slow travel around South America, we organised an event to discuss what the key areas are that you need to think about when planning your own impactful trip.
This session was led by our founder Emily Penn, who highlighted the four key areas that you need to think about: science, storytelling, community and funding.
When science is carried out by non-scientists on expeditions, it is known as ‘citizen science’. It can be simple and require no equipment – such as collecting visual litter information for an app like the Marine Debris Tracker – or it can be more complicated and require detailed protocols and specialist equipment.
On eXXpedition voyages we utilise a manta trawl to collect microplastics. It’s built based on the spec suggested by the 5 Gyres institute, which means that the data is then comparable to data collected by other people all over the world with trawls built to the same specs. It’s good to note that you can also make more accessible trawl options from tights and a plastic bottle – easy to make but not good for comparing data to that collected by others as there would not be consistency in protocols. Particularly important for science papers! This doesn’t mean they don’t have value though, because citizen science can be used for public engagement, to communicate your own work and the importance within your own community.
Scientific permits – you need to approach governments for these and the process is different in each place that you apply. Allow as much time as possible to work out the process and allow them to check and approve. Lots of these permits require local scientific partners so keep that in mind when planning! If you are sailing offshore – more than 200 miles – then you are in international waters and you do not need a permit!
Telling your story is a key part of any expedition, because you can be doing the best and most powerful project in the world but if you do not communicate it then you are not going to make as large an impact. Social media is a great way to this (we previously ran a session on social media so we won’t cover this here) but it’s also important to think about writing a simple press release and sharing with local partners and local media. If you have a bigger budget then you can work with a PR expert to help you get it in front of the right people. And don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call people – often you can get a stronger response if you can build a bit of a personal relationship.
Top Tip: Storytelling
eXXpedition’s Head of Communications Larissa Clark says, “Think outside of the media realm too when you are talking about storytelling – think about the stories you can tell in situ through talks. This could be in the places you visit or where you live. There is something really powerful and inspiring about sharing personal experiences.”
“Think outside of the media realm too when you are talking about storytelling – think about the stories you can tell in situ through talks. This could be in the places you visit or where you live. There is something really powerful and inspiring about sharing personal experiences.”
The scope of ‘community’ is really broad. It could be the people you meet and work with on your journey. It could be your remote community or your social media community. Make sure you are reaching out and making sure this stays fresh and live. We are facing such huge challenges and there is no way to solve them on our own as individuals. We can only be successful together.
It can take a while to work out the best funding model for you and your project, and each type of funding has its own pros and cons.
- Crowdfunding – time consuming to do effectively and can be slow to get traction. Need to focus on what the rewards are that you are providing and how much time / money they are going to cost you to produce. Targeted usually at individuals giving small donations.
- Corporate – businesses provide money to support your cause. This is usually in return for something so make sure you are clear on what value you will be bringing them, ie talks, consultancy, photos of you with their logo. You are more likely to get funding from businesses that have a personal connection to you – because they are from your town or because they already employ you!
- Grants or Government Funding – forms to apply can be time consuming and complicated to fill out. Be aware that you usually need to be able to provide data and stats for reporting so stay on top of this from the beginning. Timelines for receiving answers as to whether you are successful and receiving money into your account tend to be longer. Some funds are only available for incorporated organisations rather than individuals.
Top Tip: Insurance
You need to make sure you have insurance to cover your operations. One way of doing this is partnering with an organisation or company that already has insurance in place to deliver the activities – for example a paddleboarding provider.