Many youngsters are looking for tools and opportunities to make their voices heard and to be drivers of a concrete change in our society.
According to the Survey carried out as part of the European People & Planet project and promoted by WeWorld in Italy among more than 300 young people, nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed the need to be involved in capacity-building and networking programs (65 percent), and nearly half (45 percent) said they would like to be actively involved by local authorities in policy decisions and processes. Also, according to WeWorld's educational perspective, the social and environmental crisis needs innovative solutions and the active involvement of citizens. How? By consolidating existing experiences of social and environmental activism, and supporting networking among movements, groups and individuals.
These are the premises of Be A Change Maker, a free policy and activism training course promoted by WeWorld from February 22022 to November 2022, targeting a group of nearly 50 young people with the participation of more than 10 thematic experts.
Be A Change Maker has been designed to provide advanced knowledge on climate change, sustainability, and human and environmental rights along with professional and soft skills useful for strengthening, supporting and giving voice to youth activism. This is an initiative promoted by the European Union's DEAR Program (Development Education and Awareness Raising), implemented as part of three projects that WeWorld is running: People and Planet: A Common Destiny, OurFoodOurFuture and ClimateOfChange. The young participants, coming from different regions of Italy and aged between 18 and 30, were selected based on their level of interest, prior knowledge on the issues addressed, as well as experience in volunteering or activism initiatives, social or environmental, on an individual or collective level.
This course was inspired by WeWorld's advocacy efforts on climate change, conceived as a multidimensional and global phenomenon with strong interrelationships with human rights as well as social and political issues. The attendees initially participated in a three-meeting common session aimed at analyzing the environmental problem from three different thematic perspectives: labor and business, water and resource governance, and migration, emergency perceptions and communication.
Afterwards, participants were able to choose between two different professionalizing paths to develop communication campaigns on the topic of corporate sustainability and due diligence (implemented in collaboration with Impresa 2030 and the contribution of many experts) and to develop policy proposals at local level on sustainability and environmental issues (implemented together with Avanzi – Sostenibilità per Azioni and many other guests, among which ASviS – Alleanza Italiana per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile). The methodological approach used in "Be A Change Maker" is the one of the Global Citizenship Education, to promote knowledge on issues related to climate change and human and environmental rights, and professional skills for activism and advocacy processes, but also the building of collaborative relationships and networks among participants, and the co-creation of concrete and usable products, with opportunities for dissemination at local, national and European levels:
"I was able to dig deeper into the more political and institutional parts of the decision-making process, which I found very complex before. This course has given me a lot of insights; at first, I couldn't pay so much attention to climate change, now I am ready to get active in my everyday life and participate more often in these kinds of events." this is what Gianpiero told us.
Maria shared with us some information about her policy proposal and what she learned through its realization: "My group's policy was related to SDG 12: 'responsible consumption and production.' We looked for different types of incentives to enhance ethical and sustainable companies, trying to create an active and sensitized community. Developing it was very important for me because it allowed me to learn how to work in groups and understand what mechanisms stand behind the implementation of different policy proposals, helping me to place myself in the shoes of those in charge of accepting them”.
Be A Change Maker also included a public event where participants could share the generated products, stimulate a reflection and thus actively participate in local politics. During the 16th edition of the Terra di Tutti Film Festival, the event Voices from the New Generations: Be A Change Maker took place in Bologna. Starting from the policies drafted, the young men and women together with Pasquale Pagano of Extinction Rebellion Bologna posed some questions to Annalisa Boni, Assessor of the Municipality of Bologna, and Francesca Cucchiara, Councilor of the Municipality of Milan, to reflect on the democratic processes necessary for the new generations to participate in the institutional dialogue on climate and social justice issues and to be driver of real change.
"This course allowed me to combine a practical component with the theory I learn at the university and gave me many experiences that I will bring with me. Speaking at the festival was a great opportunity to challenge myself and learn how to debate these issues publicly, as well as a great adrenaline bump” testified Giulia, one of the event's Speakers.
The journey has ended with the last meeting on Nov. 4th, 2022, but WeWorld will continue to pursue advocacy campaigns placing young people as a central point to promote social and environmental justice; events focusing on the role of youth in politics, but also advocacy to bring forward youth's political demands and proposals, and to incentivize real youth participation in institutional dialogue will continue.
The young men and women who attended Be a Change Maker also demonstrated that they are ready and willing to pursue these issues with us. Margherita to this regard told us, "I hope I’ll be able to take up all these issues again in the future, both in terms of work and as an activist. These are sensitive issues for me, I care so much about them. Along the way I have discovered things I did not know, I have delved into aspects I already knew, and I hope to be able to continue on this path to have more and more concrete knowledge."
Giulia, also said "In my future I hope to continue focusing on the policy aspect, building energy communities, planning, advocacy and communication, all the things we covered in these workshops".