This profile was prepared when Ximena Abogabir was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Ximena Abogabir Scott is approaching her work in the field of informal environmental education in Chile in an unusually innovative way. Rather than working through a single organization, Abogabir has chosen to direct her energies to improving the effectiveness and impact of some 300 organizations already engaged in that field. And, unlike most "green activists," whose principal motivation is to prevent further environmental degradation, Abogabir views the environmental movement as a critically important catalytic instrument for engaging the country's citizenry more broadly in civic action.Drawing on a careful assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of existing environmental education efforts in Chile, Abogabir has designed and is deftly orchestrating a series of activities that will address their most pressing needs. She arms them with new materials, training, access to information and networking opportunities, thereby enhancing the visibility of their endeavors. In so doing, she is demonstrating that innovation consists not only of creating new mechanisms of social change but also of designing new methods for supporting the ideas and labors of existing mechanisms.From Abogabir's perspective, nonformal environmental education is the most promising vehicle, in the current Chilean setting, for promoting civic participation of a type that the country has not witnessed since the 1973 coup of General Pinochet. In her view, Chile's most pressing challenge is to find new formulae for resolving a variety of social, cultural and economic conflicts that neither governments nor the free market can effectively resolve. And, from her vantage point, each ecological crisis is "an opportunity to invent more harmonic forms of cohabitation, and to motivate people to learn how to act for the common good."