Youth is already organized, you just have to knock on their student groups’ doors
How can youth meaningfully participate in the movement toward a sustainable, prosperous and equitable Canada? How can Canadian civil society create space for youth, moving beyond just few youth representatives, to include diverse youth as active, fully engaged global citizens?
That is the problem the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship (FES) set out to tackle in 2016-2017, partnering with student-organizing groups across post-secondary institutions in Canada to bring the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy and Local Implementation program across the country; from St. Johns, Newfoundland in the Maritimes, all the way to the west coast in Kamloops, British Columbia.
The first initiative of its type, the SDGs Youth Training Canada program is designed to engage and mobilize young people and build their capacities in sustainable problem solving, exercising this muscle to make it our generation’s core competency. Understanding the history, guiding principles and measurement of the SDGs is just the first step of the program, which is what students are introduced to at the training on their campus. The most important part of engagement with students is facilitating the design and implementation of an SDG Project in their local communities, catalyzing them to action.
Every campus SDGs Youth Training event hosted this year was entirely organized and driven by students, for students. Club organizers, student activists, elected departmental representatives and all other types of student leaders were the drivers of the SDGs Youth Training on their campus, and they are the leaders taking on the mantle of local implementation.
It is FES’ firm conviction that youth serving work must center the value, capacities and goals of youth themselves. Through the cross-country tour, Canadian students have demonstrated irrevocably that youth are willing and able to be the champions of the SDGs.
Nearly 6000 Canadian students came out from coast to coast to 32 trainings, representing 77 post-secondary institutions across the country. When asked if the training increased their understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals , 96% of the 400+ respondents asserted that it did and, perhaps most humbling for us is that when asked how much more likely they are to take action (e.g. advocacy and local implementation) on the SDGs after this training, 81% of respondents said they were likely to do so.
With the energy the program has generated at the grassroots, and guidance from FES SDGs Program Staff, students are collectively organizing the first ever Canadian Student Network for the Sustainable Development Goals, a national level youth body that will represent student voices in policy advocacy!