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Top Tips! Engaging Young People with Climate Action

CCC-CATAPULT examines educational influences on young people’s sense of agency in the climate emergency by involving young people as researchers and giving them a meaningful voice. This project therefore involves recruiting and engaging young people in both the project work and environmental discussions in general. Engaging people to get involved in climate action is a challenge in itself, but it is different with young people. Eco-anxiety is growing in young people and many of them feel as though their voices aren’t heard. Yet young people are the future and the condition of the planet is going to impact them directly. This project specifically aims at engaging 15–18-year-olds, which are an age group who have grown up with social media. This provides a great opportunity to reach out to them using their popular social media platforms. But how can climate change researchers engage youth in their research successfully? This post looks at top tips to engage youth in climate change action.

Top Tips!

1 – Know your audience – Tailor the information and materials carefully for your audience. Know what young people interact with online, what posts and styles jump out to them, and keep it simple and not too academic or formal.

2 – Be positive – Positive messages are more attractive and make young people feel as if they can get involved and join the conversation. Be sure to talk about opportunity and positive visions as younger audiences respond badly to negative stories.

3 – Be creative and authentic – Artistic and creative posts help expand imaginaries of the future and inspire feelings of hope, responsibility, and care. Sticking to a more creative aesthetic will increase engagement and flow, and remaining authentic will create credibility.

4 – Be engaged – Interact with other social media accounts and be engaged by sharing other accounts posts, asking questions, posting stories, and creating polls.

5 – Be consistent – Create a daily, weekly, or monthly series so people see your posts popping up on their feed consistently. This gives you the opportunity to interact with your audience regularly.

6 – Focus on media – The power of the image, a picture is worth a thousand words and video is extremely engaging; research suggests it generates 1,200% more shares than text (McLachlan, 2020). Photos and videos are great because they can be shared on all social media platforms and they are very engaging.

7 – Keep statistics to a minimum – Don’t use excessive statistics, data, or graphs. It can be information overload and too much text and numbers for people to want to read. Be selective and simple.

8 – Be concise – The abundance of internet chatter and information can be overwhelming. Short snippets of information provided on Twitter or Instagram can shape the way people think and react (Tenbrink, 2021).

Challenges and opportunities

Social media provides great opportunities to connect with young people; in January 2019 there were 3,297 billion active social media users (Youth Link Scotland, 2019). Social media gives the ability to communicate with young people and enable conversations to happen outside face-to-face meetings as well as opportunities for relationship building and a sense of community. CCC-CATAPULT is using its platforms to let young people know about new opportunities they could get involved in, provide updates about our project and showcase work created by project members and the young people involved.

The challenges in engaging wider groups of young people have been highlighted in research by Climate Outreach (see: Bhardwaj, 2016). It is written that climate change has become politically polarized and is seen as an issue for white, middle-class, young people with left-wing political views. Furthermore, a growing disenchantment with mainstream politics and media has been found to be a significant factor for low levels of engagement among young people. It has been found that for a lot of young people ‘psychological distance’ of climate change is a reason too. This is that many young people from countries in the Global North believe that the impacts of climate change will be felt far in the future and isn’t a problem here and now. To keep increasing engagement among young people, we need to connect the impacts of climate change with both the local and the global. This project will understand young people’s points of view and change education for the better, so that young people are equipped to shape policy and become ambassadors for the future.

What CCC-CATAPULT are doing

Among other communication techniques, CCC-CATAPULT is using social media where possible to engage young people. We have an Instagram and Twitter page that is posted regularly to be consistent and relevant. The Instagram page has a colour scheme to have a bright, creative aesthetic. We have created content that is concise and simple. We have created videos as these have higher engagement, and we plan to create more as the project goes on. We have Instagram templates to use throughout the project to post updates and information. We didn’t want the Instagram page to be too academic so we post relevant information and quotes to keep people inspired. We will create a following and are currently reach out to young people in the project locations that can come and get involved in our Youth Action Partnership opportunity.

References

Bhardwaj, G. (2016). Guest Blog: Challenges and Opportunities of Youth Engagement with Climate Change – Climate Outreach. [Online] Climate Outreach. Available at: https://climateoutreach.org/guest-blog-youth-engagement-climate-change/ [Accessed 12 July 2021].

McLachlan, S. (2020). How to Increase Social Media Engagement: A Guide for Marketers. [Online] Social Media Marketing & Management Dashboard. Available at: https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-engagement/ [Accessed 10 July 2021].

Tenbrink, T. (2021). Eight ways to make your climate change social media posts matter – from a communication expert. [Online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/eight-ways-to-make-your-climate-change-social-media-posts-matter-from-a-communication-expert-161026 [Accessed 10 July 2021].

Today Testing. (2018). Types of Social Media. [Online]. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Types_of_Social_Media.jpg. [Accessed 24 August 2021].

Youth Link Scotland. (2019). Social media: The Basics for Youth Work. [Online] Available at: https://www.youthlinkscotland.org/media/3548/social-media-youth-worker-guide-branded.pdf [Accessed 12 July 2021].