Interview of Mr Thomas EGLI, Founder of Geneva Forum, the Geneva Foundation for the Future and the NGO Objectif Sciences International


Can you tell us about your background and what led you to create the NGO Objectif Sciences International?

R: II have always been passionate about science, nature, travelling to other places and I studied physics at university. After my studies, I worked in different fields related to scientific research and education. I confirmed my position as a child that there was a lack of training in self-determination for young people, but also for adults. This is why the association I had created at 17 years old to allow young people to conduct real scientific research for the environment, has developed into what has become OSI. This NGO now offers educational experiences in the sciences to young people and adults, which transforms them in depth on the idea they have of themselves, while producing real solutions for the planet.

How does your organization work to achieve its goals?

R: Objectif Sciences International offers tailor-made educational programs for youth around the world. This NGO works in partnership with universities, scientific institutions and local organizations and NGOs (French, Swiss, Togolese, Chinese...) to offer practical experiences that allow them to learn in a completely different way than with theoretical courses. As for the adults, OSI gives them the opportunity to go on solidarity trips in their own time, which multiplies their potential. All these projects are carried out in an extremely involving format, which I invented in 2004, and which is now called Participatory Research Stays.

What challenges does your organization face in working with youth?

R: One of the challenges is to find funding for educational programs to make them accessible to all youth. Another challenge is to get young people interested in science, especially in countries where scientific culture is less developed... or is in decline. In other words, in all countries!

How does your organization measure the impact of its educational programs?

R: OSI staff conduct surveys with the youth who have participated in their programs to assess their level of satisfaction and interest in science, respect for nature, etc. Having passed the 30-year mark, OSI is also evaluating the academic performance of young people, now adults, to see if its programs have had an impact on their professional success. There have already been publications on how academic success is multiplied through the learning-by-doing format on real-life action research projects to address sustainable development.

What are OSI’s future plans?

R: As OSI continues to expand, its leaders plan to extend their work into new countries and develop new educational programs for youth and adults. OSI teams are also working on additional scientific research projects in collaboration with universities and research institutes, always in the service of solving the Sustainable Development Goals.

How has the organization been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic?

R: Surprisingly, the pandemic had a very positive impact on the development of Objectif Sciences International’s educational and scientific research programs, as the NGO increased the number of projects and sessions that welcomed both children and adults. Indeed, OSI’s activities were already fully adapted in native language to allow for small groups and nature. It must also be said that I have a particularly assertive character when it comes to overcoming a difficulty. In 2022, I was still part of the decision-making teams within OSI. At the time of the first lockdown, a lot of people thought they were putting the activity on hold, which would have led to the NGO being unable to conduct the participatory research season once the reopenings were announced. I was very involved in ensuring that another strategy was chosen, and we led an "a priori" implementation without any visibility capacity. This exercise required everyone to get out of their own way. And I must admit that the result was incredible. The behaviors are frank and without moderation, in such times of crisis, and it is very good to be able to see clearly in everyone. In the end, the very strong growth of the activity of the NGO during the 2 years of confinement, provoked an awareness of themselves in all, and a change of paradigm in some.

How does your organization work with local communities to provide educational programs?

R: We work in partnership with local NGOs to identify the educational needs of youth or adults and to design programs adapted to their cultural and social context. We also work with local universities and scientific institutions to provide educational resources. We also work with partners to raise funds for our educational programs.

How can youth get involved in OSI programs?

R: Youth can apply to participate in our programs as young as 7 years old. It is quite amazing to realize that many 7 year olds, 9 year olds, 13 year olds... are authors of scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals as a result of their involvement in the science trips they have taken.

Could you explain to us why you created the Geneva Forum organized at the UN?

R: The Geneva Forum was created to provide a platform where stakeholders can come together and discuss global challenges. We created this event to bring together experts, government representatives, businesses and civil society organizations to discuss innovative and sustainable solutions for a better future. The main objective is to advance sustainable development and contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

How can the Geneva Forum encourage impact investing for sustainable development?

R: The Geneva Forum provides a unique opportunity to bring together stakeholders from different backgrounds to share ideas and discuss global issues. We have created specific sessions to discuss impact investing and sustainable finance, and we are inviting leading experts in the field. We want the Forum to be a platform to connect investors and social entrepreneurs to create investment opportunities in sustainable development.

What about the Geneva Foundation for the Future? Why are you creating this organization with your partners ?

R: The Geneva Foundation for the Future is being created to encourage scientific research and innovation for sustainable development. We believe that science and technology are essential tools to solve global challenges such as climate change, food security and global health. The Geneva Foundation for the Future works with scientists and entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions for a sustainable future.

How can the Geneva Foundation for the Future help companies and investors invest in sustainability?

R: We work with businesses and financial firms to help them identify opportunities to invest in sustainability. We help them understand the challenges and opportunities in their sector and help them develop sustainable strategies. We also collaborate with scientists and innovators to develop sustainable solutions for these same companies when they are involved in on-the-ground issues.

How can impact investing help achieve the UN’s SDGs?

R: Impact investing can help achieve the SDGs by funding projects that have a positive social and environmental impact. Impact investors seek a return on their investment, while improving social and environmental conditions. Impact investments can fund projects such as sustainable infrastructure, renewable energy, affordable healthcare, quality schools, water and sanitation solutions, and more. By supporting these projects, impact investing can help achieve the UN’s SDGs.