Youth Leading the World (YLTW) is an award winning program that was established by OzGREEN nine years ago with a seriously bold agenda. “Our ultimate goal is to support a rapid transition to fairer futures, where we live in harmony with each other and the Earth. YLTW enables young people to learn about big challenges (like climate change) in a way that empowers them to become passionate change-makers,” says OzGREEN co-founder and Bellingen local Sue Lennox (above centre).
Youth Leading the World adopts a simple, yet brilliant model to fulfil these goals. “We work to equip local people with the skills they need to organize and run YLTW in their own local area,” says Sue. Those who receive the training become ‘Facilitators’ who then go on to educate and harness the energies and passions of youths in their region, ultimately supporting these youth to effect change.
Sue and her late husband Colin founded OzGREEN as a strategic response to their deep concerns for the environment, with a vision to build a more sustainable, peaceful and equitable world. Sue now has more than 30 years experience in environmental education program innovation, development, management and implementation in urban, regional remote and indigenous communities in Australia and Asia.
Bellingen will host a YLTW Facilitator Training Course September 18th, 19th and 20th from 1pm-5pm at the Bellingen Youth Hub. We thought this was a good opportunity to chat with Sue about the success of the program and where to from here.
The Youth Leading the World program has been a huge success. Why has this program been able to have such a wide reach?
How many Youth Leading the World Facilitators have been trained to date?
976 globally as of July 2018.
How many countries have become involved?
We have reached more than 100 regions across 20 countries.
And do you have a tally of the number of 12-25 year olds who participated at last year’s Congresses?
Last year was a very difficult year, following the sudden death of my husband Colin Lennox, OzGREEN’s co-founder. I withdrew from most activities. Even so, we have a wonderful team of partners and volunteers – 127 new Facilitators were trained and 1134 youth participated in YLTW Congresses.
Can you describe some of the youth-led initiatives that have resulted since the inception of YLTW?
There are so many … it’s hard to choose. Some examples of Youth Action Plans include:
- A clean-up campaign for stormwater and litter in Phnom Penh
- Campaigning to get schools to go solar – getting staff, student body and school council on board
- Establishing school environment clubs, installing veggie gardens
- Training as YLTW Facilitators and organising YLTW in their own school
- Getting elected to local government, to gain greater influence at a policy level
- Campaigning to ban single use plastics in their school and community
- Establishing rooftop food gardens in Dhaka
Have there been Youth Action Plans established here in Bellingen?
In 2014 Bellingen Shire youths involved in YLTW were really concerned about the health of the Bellinger River. But they were even more concerned about a perceived lack of community awareness about riverhealth. Knowing how much Bello likes a festival, they decided to organize one, so they could report back to the community on their investigations into riverhealth and showcase other youth initiatives.
The Festival was called ‘Festival for Our Future’ and was held at Northbank Community Garden. They organized the whole event. We expected about 50 people to come (friends and family) but on the day over 500 came. The response from the community was amazing and when word got out that food had run out, local businesses like Hearthfire and Kombu just showed up with fresh supplies.
We would like to think that Bellingen residents have a strong sense of the need for environmental sustainability. How much success has YLTW had in major cities where youth might be a bit more disconnected from environmental issues?
It is even more important in major cities. We deliberately target young leaders, (early adopters and innovators) to ensure they have the skills to be successful, increase their impact and the support of a global network. That connectedness is really important – they rate the impact of this as increasing from 20% to 90% through YLTW.
We have seen many instances in the last year of the young people involved in YLTW being at the forefront of relief efforts in tragedies such as the volcano in Guatemala. We also get first-hand accounts of what is happening- such as the impact of the recent Hurricane on Hawaii or reports of police violence against youth during the recent student protests in Bangladesh. Young people also tell us they really value working as respected collaborators, in partnership with adults. They don’t want it to be just a youth initiative.
So, where to from here?
Really we are focused on getting back on our feet after a very difficult year in 2017. We rely on huge volunteer contributions and really need to find some financial support. We find out about a UNESCO Award nomination in the next few weeks.
We are delighted by the response from the Bello Community – we have a couple of parent-teenager and family teams that have registered for the Facilitator Training this week.
And the global YLTW network is buzzing – people want to see positive social change and are glad to have a way of contributing. In the last week I have been talking with teams who are organizing in Sydney, Melbourne, Hawaii, Canada, Kiribati, New Zealand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana and Uganda. It’s very special to be part of a global community like this. I try to talk with one new group each day.