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].