Written by: Emilie Egelund Rademacher | Student and co-researcher | Copenhagen, Denmark
The idea behind the workshop
On May 2nd, we, in the Danish case, held a national workshop. The workshop's idea was to discuss how to engage youth in their local environment through sustainable activities within everyday life, education, volunteering, and public information. We invited youth organizations, researchers, teachers' unions, libraries, educators, consultants, and youths to the workshop. The workshop engaged 20 people with experience or interest in one or more of these areas.
The workshop lasted from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon. Several speakers (youths, teachers, and library workers) were invited to give presentations throughout the day to share their specific experiences on youth and sustainability. A question-and-answer session followed the presentations. The presentations gave inspiration for the following workshop sessions.
Before the workshop day, we asked the participants to submit their perceived challenges in their work with young people and sustainability, which provided the basis for the discussions during the workshop. The participants were divided into mixed groups to discuss potential short-term and long-term strategies for the identified challenges.
Our findings in the different areas
The perceived challenges participants submitted before the workshop included young people feeling pressured to make a difference in the case of climate change. This feeling can lead to a sense of hopelessness.
Some strategies discussed were that events are organized to promote youth-friendly sustainable communities. It is crucial to make things concrete and show young people that their actions make a difference so they do not get discouraged by the numerous challenges. Furthermore, it is essential to provide spaces where youth can build action competence to get the courage to act in their local environment.
Through the education session, the participants mainly discussed the need for better training of teachers to educate students about sustainability and how students who are genuinely interested in this topic might be labeled as environmental fanatics. The discussions suggested that schools could benefit from integrating practical skills within education and incorporating elements that contribute to building students' resumes. It is central that educators collaborate with the local actors through projects and field trips to understand the local challenges better. Additionally, one of the key points was that if young people develop an enjoyment for nature and their local environment, they will be more inclined to take care of it.
The perceived problems that participants had submitted before the workshop included the difficulty of reaching out to young people who were not already involved in volunteering work. Participants in this session discussed that involving the youth in planning the volunteer work would be beneficial to ensure their motivation. Furthermore, it was suggested to frame volunteering work in a way that shows how it can contribute to their career choices. Volunteering local sports initiatives have, through many years, proven successful in engaging young people and the local environment. The Participants found examining how sports initiatives could support local engagement and sustainable action competence relevant.
Reaching and engaging the young generation within the area of public information can be challenging. Some of the bullet points from the discussion were that especially the social aspect is crucial. When creating a community for young people to participate in, providing food and drinks can be beneficial. Additionally, the facilitator's role was seen as essential, and it was emphasized that this role should be paid. It is also essential that the youth can identify themselves with the facilitator. Otherwise, they will tend to stay away.
It was a very inspiring and instructive day, where we gathered participants from different knowledge fields to discuss and create strategies for further collaborations and support of youth civic engagement. After the workshop, we send out a resume of the discussions and talks and a mailing list for all the participants. The discussions gave new ideas for the project, and new potential collaborations were made.