How young people can really have an impact on climate change
On 30 April, Young European Ambassadors (YEAs) hosted their #GreenTrack event in Rome, which gathered young people from civil society, aiming to make them reflect on key topics while having fun.
The event was structured in such as way as to first acquire some knowledge and new pieces of information, then put them into practice later in the day. The central topic of the day was the environment, from the perspective of how we, the young, can have a concrete impact in acting for it, using a tool of participative democracy such as the ECI (European citizens’ initiative).
In the first part of the event, the YEAs presented themselves to the audience and then left space for the association who attended to present themselves through the mean of the “open library”. Every participant gets some time to listen to the organisations to discover what they’re doing to make a change to shape the local (but sometimes even broader) reality, going around freely in the room. It’s a dynamic and engaging way of listening and discovering, and we were really surprised to see how the participants were eager to learn and ask questions to discover the association deeply, so that at every round more time was needed. The organisations that attended the event were: NOUS, Europiamo, LiberaMente, Eumans, and Ostia Clean up. Each of them plays an active role and stands up for different projects and objectives in their community, but every one of them relies on the most powerful and creative human resource: young people.
In the second part of the morning, we introduced the participants to the European Citizens Initiative by letting them take the stage and trying to guess the 6 stages needed to present an ECI to the European Commission. Gathered in groups, participants took the challenge very seriously and they came up with many different combinations. Well, none of them was right, but at least they tried and learned from their mistakes: after this event, they can now claim to be ECI experts. It was then time for lunch (finally, some may say). As you might probably be aware, Rome is not only Italy’s capital, but it is also the capital of good Italian food. But apart from the delicious vegan meal, lunchtime was above all a great moment for participants to network and get to know each other.
Informal learning is sometimes underestimated since it has the power to really create important bonds between people, which are especially vital for associations and local organisations.
It was great to see how people were interacting, wanting to know more about what another person is doing, not just to have a chat but to bring that piece of experience back home and to get inspiration from it.
After the lunch break, it was time for the participants to put their knowledge and creativity to work. They were asked to come up with an ECI proposal regarding the environmental issue. To present their proposal, they were asked to think about a logo, and a way to gather the signatures needed, and finally they had to pitch their idea to the audience. Even if the activity was meant to make participants aware of this EU-funded instrument, it also had the great outcome of lighting up the brilliant minds of the participants, who pitched really good proposals. They were having fun while proposing feasible ways to shape the reality and make a change.
It was amazing to see how and how much young people are willing to listen and make something out of what they learned. Some kind of magic happened during the event: people were smiling, talking, exchanging ideas and perspectives and participating with an enthusiasm that we could have barely imagined. But if I really think about it, I shouldn’t be surprised by the level of engagement and passion people put in taking part in the event. Because that’s what happens when young people are stimulated both intellectually and practically and they’re given the tools and the attention they need to make their voice heard. This event was organised to make people aware about the ECI and to discuss local actions to counteract climate change but it ended up as something more. At the end of the day, I brought home the feeling that during one day we had fuelled enthusiasm in young people, by giving them a space and a way to interact and get to know organisations in which they can play that active role they wanted to play but didn’t know how. This event proved that this generation has the will to make a change and take action if provided with the tools and the trust necessary.
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