Young people today have the power to drive big and positive changes when given the chance. They are globally connected, they are great innovators. At the same time, they already witness the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss and anticipate much worse to come in their lifetime.
Many young people in Central and Eastern Europe are not conscious enough of the consequences of wasteful consumption and their own lifestyle and that they can become part of the solution. In addition, due to the lack of experience and opportunity, they share the view that they do not have the power to contribute to positive change in their society ...
In order to fill this gap, it is ever more important to engage, empower and include youth in WWF’s work.
WWF YOUTH WORK AIMS AT:
Empowering youth to take action for their nature-positive future - providing support, knowledge and leadership to young people interested in environmental protection and sustainable development.
In Central and Eastern Europe, WWF has been engaged in various educational and youth empowerment activities over the past decades - developing education materials for schools, participating in festivals and events, organizing volunteer activities, cooperating with youth organizations, etc. Building on this experience and being an integral part of WWF’s global youth empowerment strategy and WWF Austria's Generation Earth model, WWF Central and Eastern Europe has created its CEE regional strategic approach.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE ... on a regional level
WWF-CEE REGIONAL OPINION SURVEY
For the first time in 2021 we conveyed a youth survey among 1,500 young people across our region to better understand their perspectives, interests and motivation in life.
Nature conservation and awareness raising were ranked high, but policy change (for sustainability for nature) was at the top. They also believe that individuals by themselves do not have the power to make a real difference. The most important finding is that young people in the CEE region are looking for meaningful change in public policies, education and business practices – and they look to WWF and other civil society organizations to help make this happen.
Dozens of reports and research show that the climate around us is changing, altering the world we know and the lives we lead. Scientists are certain that global warming, melting Arctic ice and the natural disasters that follow are the result of human actions or inactions. One of the most important missions of WWF is to combat the climate crisis. To accomplish that, WWF is looking for climate heroes!
The search for young active citizens began in spring 2021 within the Climate Heroes project which takes place in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Czech Republic. It aims to empower youth to contribute to halting climate change - raise understanding, build capacity and facilitate active networking to encourage determined action of young people aged between 15 - 24 from the respective countries. So far it has engaged 49 climate heroes in its first year, who in their turn organized 24 initiatives to engage their peers. The second round of the leadership trainings will be ongoing until September 2022.
The Climate Heroes training program includes developing leadership and organizational skills, proposing, planning and implementing initiatives and civic actions and directly getting involved in activities and discussions about climate change. Find out more here ...
... on a country level
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT IN BULGARIA
WWF-Bulgaria strongly believes that the empowerment of young people can make them advocates for sustainable development of the country and in 2021 the innovation program Panda Labs started in Bulgaria. Panda Labs is one of the first initiatives of WWF-Bulgaria that successfully combines the pressing need for green innovations and Research & Development with active involvement of students and young adults. During its first year, the program was divided into three semesters focusing on hot environmental topics: waste, food and mobility.
The WWF Team worked with more than 230 young people from over 20 cities. After three semesters, nine days of hackathons, three weeks of master classes and shared experience of over 45 lecturers, three sustainable ideas in the fields of waste, food and mobility, found their way to realization:
- heating pellets made from coffee and other residual material
- a bio-alternative pesticide made from garlic and nettle
- proposal for electrification of old cars for shared travel service
Urban transport apps and beer from leftover bread were some of the other solutions the Panda Labs the participants created and developed throughout the program’s pilot year. More hackathons and creative solutions are coming up from the following Greenhouse sessions.
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT IN HUNGARY
PandaBanda is a community of volunteers established with the support of WWF-Hungary. The young pandas go through training once a year to gain deeper knowledge of the conservation work of the organization and the way it is communicated to the public. Trained volunteers can join the WWF team at outdoor events and exhibitions.
Starting from 2022, trained volunteers can join the country-wide education program, called “WWF for Children” in which they go to schools and hold 45 minutes long classes on biodiversity conservation, ecosystem mechanisms, ecological footprints and how students can resolve these issues with their tools.
WWF-Hungary also welcomes students coming from the field of conservation, wildlife biology and environmental and communication studies to work with the team on internship programs.
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT IN UKRAINE
The project “INSURE” is aiming to achieve integration of nature-based climate solutions into Ukraine’s policy reform agenda by establishing the necessary knowledge base and stakeholder support while building the capacity of key drivers of change.
A key part of the project is the YOUTH EMPOWERMENT component - a Youth Leadership programme inspired by Generation Earth (WWF-Austria). The heart of the programme is a 5-months training on such topics as leadership, project management, and nature-based climate solutions. The selected participants will have the opportunity to create their own initiatives to popularize among their peers and communities.
98 young people applied for this initiative before the outburst of the Russian military actions in Ukraine. 15 participants were selected and will participate in the initiative.
WWF VISION FOR YOUTH WORK BY 2030
- Our goal is to ensure that the new generations become active environmental stewards, positive influencers and policy advocates for a nature-positive future in the Green Heart of Europe.
- We are working to empower, inspire and mobilise young people, who are a formidable force for achieving a sustainable future of harmony between people and nature.
- We define youth empowerment as giving young people the space, the “know-how” and experience, resources and opportunities to be involved in decision-making, self-expression, and execution of their ideas.
DID YOU KNOW THAT …
The first 100% biodegradable and fully compostable laminating film was invented by two young people in Bulgaria: Gergana Stancheva and Angela Ivanova. Their start-up project is named Lam’on and their innovative product made of corn is already on the market.