Young people and the environment: we’re celebrating a year of successes!

Policy and Campaigns Manager, Roberta Antonaci gives an update on the Our Bright Future #owningit campaign.

With its 31 projects running across the UK, Our Bright Future is creating and improving many places and changing the lives of many young people across the four nations. We have already engaged more than 80,000 young people, breaking our original target of 60,000 young people by far.

It’s been a year since the launch of #owningit – our campaign to show how young people’s future is inextricably linked to the future of the environment and support positive change driven by young people. Now that we are about to launch its second phase I think it is the perfect moment to share some of our successes and give you a flavour of our exciting plans ahead.

This year’s most fascinating adventure has been collecting more than 700 ideas from young people and youth workers during eight events and youth-led research, involving more than 300 people across the UK. We asked them: “If you could change one thing for you and the environment, what would this be?” They replied that they wanted:

  • more time spent learning in and about nature
  • help with routes into the environmental sector, support for environmental social enterprises and recognition of the value of volunteering
  • more attention given to young people and the environment’s needs by Government, employers, charities, businesses and schools – viewing them as a resource to be protected and enhanced

We will develop these three asks and use them to challenge decision makers, including Government, the private and the third sector, to think about young people and environment in a different way. #owningit is entering a new exciting phase. Now that we know the kind of change we want to make, how do we go about making it? We are very bold. Our Bright Future aims to be youth-led, so I’ve opened a discussion with the young people in the programme about how to turn the three key areas of change into a reality. The annual Youth Forum meet-up early in 2019 will focus on this – so, watch this space!

We’re also proud to have contributed to crucial Government work through active engagement of young people and youth workers in the programme. For example:

  • we gave our input to the Government’s 25 Years Environment Plan. As a result, the plan has a clear focus on young people and we are currently working closely with Defra and a group of organisations to empower more young people to take action for the environment.
  • we took part in research to investigate the motivations of young people in environmental volunteering. This research will help Defra’s work to support more children and young people from all backgrounds to engage with nature and improve the environment.
  • we responded to the Civil Society review highlighting the importance of initiatives like Our Bright Future in bringing environmental and youth sectors together, developing approaches to empower young people to lead environmental change.
  • we responded to the Government’s Full-time Social Action Review. As money is one of the main barriers to young people’s involvement, we said that more funding is needed to enable full time volunteering opportunities for young people with an additional need for bursaries to support those who are disadvantaged.

It is so important to create a legacy that reflects the breadth of the programme, reaching beyond Westminster to the devolved nations. That’s why I am excited that in Wales we are arranging a visit for 15 young people to the Welsh Government to learn more about policy-making and to get our messages across. The great thing about this event is that young people have been key part of its planning and delivery from day one.

Last, but not the least, we are going through our own internal revolution. Here’s how:

  • Big Lottery Fund has invited two of Our Bright Future Youth Representatives to a key meeting to discuss future funding in support of environmental work.
  • Sian, a young member of our Steering group spoke at a campaign conference organised by The Wildlife Trusts. She fired up the audience with her enthusiasm, talking, among other things about plastic pollution. This was a great opportunity to have a fresh perspective from a young person on how the Trusts can engage young people better when it comes to driving change.
  • Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust now have young trustees and many organisations involved in Our Bright Future are rethinking the way in which they engage with young people.

I firmly believe that youth voices should be at the centre of the decision-making processes that are having an impact on their lives and the environment. We have achieved so much in the first year of #owningit campaign and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

 

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