Youth Climate Communications: a pilot
Written by: Sophie Laggan
Published: 17th March 2022 originally on the UWE Science Communication Website
Please note, this is a repost of an article posted on the UWE Science Communication site. Due to our Youth Action Partners involvement with this project, we have sought permission to reshare it. For the original publication of this blog, please go to: https://blogs.uwe.ac.uk/science-communication/youth-climate-communications-a-pilot/
On 24th February, 12 young people, aged 15-24, headed to UWE Bristol’s Prototype and Play Lab, in the School of Engineering, for a training day in Climate Communications. Passionate about addressing the climate and ecological emergency, and eager to learn and connect with likeminded people (figure 1), the delegates came from across the Bristol area, with representation from five different schools/colleges and from the University.
The young people were recruited through the Avon Schools Eco Network, CCC-Catapult and through the researchers’ student networks, with the researchers full-knowing this was already a captive audience with some experience in climate communication (figure 2). While the training was free, with lunch vouchers provided and travel costs covered if needed, in exchange the young people were required to provide detailed feedback on the sessions. This feedback would then allow the researchers to adapt and evolve the training, so it could be replicated, converted into different formats (e.g., e-learning and guidebooks) and scaled to other youth groups and schools regionally, nationally and internationally.
The training emerged out of the collective interest of researchers at UWE Bristol, from the Science Communication Unit, FET, ABE and DGEM, keen to share their knowledge with and empower the younger generation. The first to live through climate breakdown since a young age, over half of young people experience some form of climate-related anxiety (Hickman et al. 2021). While some level of anxiety is a natural response to an external threat (Clayton, 2020) and can act as a motivator (Taylor, 2020), too much can be debilitating (Hrabok et al. 2020). To steer young people away from overwhelm, timely action, forethought and trust in science are needed (Manzanedo & Manning, 2020). And according to Climate Outreach, to resonate with young people we, as adults, need to validate their negative thoughts while avoiding overly optimistic communications, and provide resources that can alleviate their anxiety.
Drawing on this research, and the interests of young people, the Science Communication Unit shaped the programme of activities to build trust in the need for well-thought through evidence-based communications, tailored to audience that have the most power and influence to make impactful pro-environmental decisions.
Using the example of solar panels, Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers and Research Fellow Sophie Laggan explained that why one household may buy solar panels for environmental reasons, others will do so out of economic/energy security, while others still will do so because their neighbours did – because it is the ‘norm’. These different ways of viewing the world shape how we make decisions, and it is only through meeting people where they are at that we can forge meaningful dialogue and promote pro-environmental change.
The participants ran with this idea in a role-playing exercise where they tried to convince someone ‘not like them’ – and in a position of power and influence – to install solar panels on the roof of their school. With a bit of context about what makes their partner tick, the participants were able to tap into the other person’s values and use it to their advantage.
Following lunch and a tour of the Campus’s community garden led by a UWE Bristol student, the group returned for an engagement activity on passive houses with Dr Deborah Adkins. Each table were given a wooden replica of a typical UK house and asked to stick post-its on the areas they thought could be improved for sustainability, everything from solar panels to insulation and green roofs. The task was accompanied by a short presentation, allowing the participants to learn more about sustainable housing.
Deborah’s session was followed by a more depth explanation of the value of physical engagement activities, by Sophie, with the chance for each participant to prototype their design for an engagement activity based on the issue that mattered to them, be that local food or slow fashion. Their issues of concern were formulated in the opening session of the day – “Start with the why”.
The day was concluded by top tips by Josh Warren on filmmaking on a budget, before the young people were set to task on recording their own short film on a sustainability topic. The group enjoyed watching each other’s films and spent the last few minutes of the day reflecting on how valuable the day was for their activism and general understanding of people ‘not like them’.
Analysis of the before and after surveys, revealed some promising findings, which the project team will now monitor in future training activities. Perhaps most significantly, the young people’s negative thoughts (scared, angry, concerned, powerless, guilty, confused) all reduced following the training (except for mournful) and positive thoughts increased (empowered, hopeful, optimistic and determined) (figure 3).
Confidence in communication skills also increased. For instance, 100% felt confident/very confident in engaging their audience after the training, compared to just 11% (N=1) before (figure 4).
Nearly all participants rated the activities highly, with the eco house activity and ‘start with the why’ activity receiving the highest praise (figure 5). The average scores were attributed to either a lack of time to fully explore a topic or a lack of scaffolding to support the pupils to come up with good ideas.
Lastly, survey respondents were asked if anything was missing from the day. Suggestions included training on social media, graphics and poster design and engaging children, as well as time to provide more examples of communication best practice.
Shortly after the training day the team found out they were successful in their bid to the HEIF FET-FBL Award. This now means that the training can be replicated again, in person, to different youth groups, with a focus on from more diverse backgrounds, and that they can create e-learnings and printable toolkits. This work sits under the umbrella of the Climate Action Hub at UWE Bristol, which acts as a space for researchers to connect with communities interested in tackling the climate and ecological emergency. To facilitate this exchange, the Hub is looking at setting up a Staff Network to allow staff the time to build these connections. If you are interested in connecting to the Hub in any way, or have ideas on how it should operate, then please contact Sophie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the coming weeks we will publish a blog written by one of the participants, who will share their experiences from the day.
By Sophie Laggan, Research Fellow in the Air Quality Resource Management Centre at UWE Bristol.
Clayton, S., 2020. Climate anxiety: Psychological responses to climate change. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 74, p.102263.
Hickman, C., Marks, E., Pihkala, P., Clayton, S., Lewandowski, R.E., Mayall, E.E., Wray, B., Mellor, C. and van Susteren, L., 2021. Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(12), pp.e863-e873.
Hrabok, M., Delorme, A. and Agyapong, V.I., 2020. Threats to mental health and well-being associated with climate change. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 76, p.102295.
Manzanedo, R.D. and Manning, P., 2020. COVID-19: Lessons for the climate change emergency. Science of the Total Environment, 742, p.140563.
Taylor, S., 2020. Anxiety disorders, climate change, and the challenges ahead: Introduction to the special issue. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 76, p.102313.
Climate Outreach, 2020, Britain Talks Climate, 18th November 2020. URL: https://climateoutreach.org/reports/britain-talks-climate/
 Britain Talks Climate, a research project by Climate Outreach, segmented the UK population into different categories according to their views on climate change. 13% of the UK population identify as “progressive activists”, to which a large proportion are young people.
Climate Conversations: An International Youth Action Meeting
Written by: Bronagh Dillon, Rosamund Portus and Annette Mansikka-aho
Published: 12th January 2022
Who or what are Youth Action Partnerships?
Writing on the significance of co-produced research, Cutter-Mackenzie and Rousell (2019) say that children and young people know things that adults do not, describing this as knowings. In recognition of the need for a project examining young people’s experiences and lives to be guided through the knowings of young people themselves, the Challenging the Climate Crisis: Children’s Agency to Tackle Policy Underpinned by Learning for Transformation (CCC-CATAPULT) team recruited young people to be Youth Action Partnership (YAP) members across the four international research locations. As YAP members, they have the opportunity to learn how to gather information about young people’s thoughts on and experiences of climate change (data collection), how to make meaning from data gathered (data analysis) and how to share results by presenting at events and producing creative content (research output). For more information about YAP opportunities, click here.
On the 8th of December 2021 at 5pm (GMT), nine YAP members from Finland, the UK and Ireland joined five researchers from the CCC-CATAPULT team for the inaugural international YAP meeting. The meeting was held online and just lasted one and a half hours. The decision to keep the meeting short was deliberate for, in a time when many of us have necessarily moved our lives online, the CCC-CATAPULT team was conscious of not requiring young people to engage in lengthy online meet ups. This decision was met positively: Johanna from the Galway YAP group told us that, “I think the length was really nice, not too long and not too short.” As this was the first time YAP members had met YAP members from other countries, each attendee was first given the opportunity to introduce themselves. Following this, an ice-breaker game led by one of the researchers, which involved asking attendees to turn on their cameras if they agreed with various statements chosen by YAP members before the meeting, highlighted the many commonalities of interests among the YAPs. It was a great way to relax everyone before YAPs shared their presentations (PowerPoint slideshows) on their topics of interest relating to the climate crisis.
What did YAP members talk about?
There was a wonderful range of diverse topics presented at the meeting. These ranged from climate and social justice (Bristol YAP), glaciers and rising sea temperatures (Galway YAP), climate warriors and carbon neutral companies (Finland YAP), the environmental impact of Bristol (Bristol YAP), renewable energy sources in Finland (Finland YAP), how to redesign cities to make them climate and environmentally friendly (Bristol YAP), to questioning what type of climate activism is most effective (Bristol YAP). The depth and breadth of the topics explored through the presentations was truly astounding! Extremely challenging questions were raised by the YAP members for all to consider. Many of the YAP members had ideas about how to engage with and mitigate the problems they explored. They brought these creative ideas about ways of looking at the world around them into the activity following the presentations. This was centred around YAP members having conversations with each other in individual breakout rooms. The topic for the breakout rooms was about how climate aware are people in Finland, Ireland or the UK, although YAP members were encouraged to also discuss any other topics of interest to them. Each YAP member brought their own knowings to the topic of conversation, as they talked about their experiences of what their country is like to live and learn in. Conversations flowed, with topics evolving as YAP members got to know one another. Indeed, all matters of shared interests, such as plant-based diets, ended up being discussed. As one YAP member remarked, “we started on one topic and ended up with a different one.”
What can we learn from YAP members?
The YAP members showed how engaged, motivated, interested and knowledgeable they are about the climate crisis. Listening to the YAP members at this inaugural meeting led to discussions amongst the researchers of how young people are challenging mainstreams ways of life for the well-being of both their own and future generations. As Trott (2021) suggests, young people are agents of change. More importantly, as the climate emergency shapes our world, we must not underestimate the importance of developing connections and networks which help us to engage in climate conversations and understand environmental challenges (Hayhoe, 2021). Indeed, as one YAP member, Morien, commented, the meeting made them feel “more hopeful for the future as there are lots of smart and funny people working together to help tackle the climate emergency”. So, although here is much work to be done, a wonderful first step on the journey towards developing climate networks and developing the conversation around global climate issues was taken by YAP members and CCC-CATAPULT researchers on the 8th December 2021.
Cutter-Mackenzie, A., & Rousell, D. (2019). Education for what? Shaping the field of climate change education with children and young people as co-researchers. Children’s Geographies, 17(1), 90-104.
Hayhoe, K. (2021). Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. New York: One Signal Publishers.
Trott, C. D. (2021). What difference does it make? Exploring the transformative potential of everyday climate crisis activism by children and youth. Children’s Geographies, 1-9.
Wilson, C. (2021, June 21) Exploring the CCC-CATAPULT approach to co-production. https://ccc-catapult.org/youth-action-partnerships/
Top Tips! Engaging Young People with Climate Action
Written by: Leah Nudds
Published: 8th September 2021
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.
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 (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 toengage 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.
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].