Effective Youth Engagement in British Columbia: Co-Creating a Sustainable BC

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Youth mapping out their project ideas based on a gap identified in the Thompson region. Photo: Brock Endean

Last year, Fraser Basin Council (FBC), a province-wide charitable non-profit organization, launched a new pilot initiative to create opportunities for young people to get more deeply involved in core environmental, social, and economic sustainability issues affecting their communities. In the first year of the initiative, called Co-Creating a Sustainable BC, the organization welcomed a diverse group of youth (ages 16-30) from two regions in British Columbia: the Thompson and the Sea to Sky regions.Youth participants worked alongside each other over eight months to deepen their understanding of leadership within the context of sustainability and climate change, to identify barriers to making meaningful and lasting changes in their communities, and to practice a collaborative approach to identifying potential solutions. During the program, funding from Employment and Social Development Canada through the Canada Service Corps program allows youth to participate at no cost, with travel and meal expenses reimbursed and ASL interpreters or other accessibility needs, such as childcare, accommodated.

The Co-Creating a Sustainable BC initiative created an opportunity for young people to deepen connections to their communities, experience the benefits of being actively engaged civic participants, witness the importance of serving and contributing to a community, and learn how to embrace leadership roles. Through a series of dialogue sessions, youth heard from guest speakers who are leading way as climate and sustainability champions in different sectors, including municipal government, Indigenous communities, industry, and community organizations. Exposure to these different perspectives offered participants well-rounded knowledge about regionally specific sustainability issues and initiatives already underway in their communities. Participating youth also had the opportunity to expand their networks and create valuable connections with leaders in their communities.

Through a systematic process of identifying regional gaps and key areas for action using knowledge acquired through dialogues and skill-building sessions, youth identified and developed plans and got ready to implement sustainability projects that address a gap in the community. In alignment with FBC’s mandate, youth explored community gaps through an environmental, social, or economic sustainability lens to develop projects that address climate change. Projects in both regions are currently in the implementation phase and are expected to be completed by the end of May 2020.

As Co-Creating a Sustainable BC’s inaugural year nears its completion, the Fraser Basin Council youth team is looking forward to bringing this initiative to more BC communities in the coming year. If you are interested in learning more about the Co-Creating a Sustainable BC Initiative or in bringing it to your community, you can visit www.fraserbasin.bc.ca/youth.html or email FBC Youth Program staff youth@fraserbasin.bc.ca. -GG

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