My official job title at Project 90 by 2030 is “Behaviour Change Researcher”. My main research question is: How do we achieve a 90% lifestyle change by 2030? Well after 8 months, I don’t have an answer (yet) to how, but I am a lot clearer on why we need to achieve that change. South African youth are the ones who will live with the impacts of the actions we take now, and with this in mind in June we began the process of selecting 20 young (aged 16-23) environmental leaders from around the country. We based our selection on evidence of existing action to raise awareness and drive change at their schools and in their communities.
In July we facilitated a first meeting of the group at the Grahamstown national arts festival, where participants were guided through a process of looking inward, connecting with each other, and imagining the kind of future they would like to create. The buzz at the end of this first meeting was scintillating.
The next meeting would take place in August. A Facebook group was set up for interim communications, and mentors assigned to support participants as they prepared to meet with (older) leaders. Their goal: to deliver a powerful message to South Africa’s current leaders in government, business and civil society, to engage in a dialogue with them on main points for action at COP17 and beyond.
The second and final meeting of the Youth Forum took place last week. The event exceeded what we imagined would be possible. As one of the facilitators, I too returned transformed by the experience. I am humbled by the commitment, creativity, and openness of the diverse group of youth concerned with our country’s future.
With the help of a team of four dynamic facilitators, the group was gently mentored and guided as they polished their prepared messages to be delivered through the mediums of poetry, film, presentations, artworks, song, theatre and deeply moving testimonies aimed at touching the hearts of the older counterparts (delegates) over the course of 1 evening and 1 day.
The delegates all took time out of their busy schedules to join the group at the Johannesburg zoo, and without fail on departure were visibly affected and humbled by what they had seen and heard.
In the course of this process each and every participant found their unique voice, and together with the group’s diversity and common vision, and in a spirit of collaboration and openness, took one step closer to fulfilling their potential as future leaders of South Africa.
Listen to the young people in your lives and support them. They have the greatest stake in the world we are creating today. They will welcome your willingness to work with them and your wisdom. Bring on the next generation of leaders – they know what’s best for them!
Stephen Davis, Behaviour Change Researcher