Why we built the Youth in Nature Summit
BTO Youth discuss the environmental sector's failure to consistently engage with young people, and set out their goals for the first ever BTO Youth in Nature Summit.
The environmental sector often caters well for younger children, but not for people in their mid-to-late teens and early twenties. This causes a drop-off in interest and involvement in this age group. Several organisations have started to act on this issue – the development of BTO Youth through the Youth Rep network and Youth Advisory Panel reflects BTO’s work in this area.
However, this task is gargantuan, far too big for just one organisation; we could achieve so much more if we could unite and work together to run events and create an inclusive community for young people who love nature.
BTO’s Youth Advisory Panel have shaped and planned the Summit, ensuring that the visions of young people are carried forward into reality and building useful skills as we go. In a sense, the Summit embodies what we’re aiming for: youth-led youth engagement that’s valuable for everyone who’s involved.
It has been a steep learning curve for us. As the day approaches (doesn’t time seem to speed up at moments like this!), we can look back and consider how we will plan aspects differently in the future. But we are also full of pride for our Summit. We know it will be an enjoyable, useful and inspirational day for all.
The Summit: goals for the day
The Summit’s biggest aim is to bring people together to share, celebrate and increase youth engagement. After years of disrupted youth events thanks to COVID-19, this is an opportunity to bring people together in the same room and form valuable connections – there will be ample opportunities for networking and with-sandwich conversations.
However, part of bringing people together is making everyone feel welcome and at home in this community of nature lovers. In the environmental sector, many groups are underrepresented; being actively inclusive and building a more diverse community is therefore a focus of the day and a focus for the future.
Financial barriers have been consistently identified as a problem for young people wanting to engage in nature, so we have made entry free for all under-30s, with travel bursaries also available. On the day itself, Lauren Rudd’s Inclusivity session will open the door for important conversations in a welcoming space around inclusivity and diversity. Defining the barriers faced by young people, and ensuring these barriers are recognised by senior leaders, are valuable outcomes of this session. They are also crucial precursors to building a diverse, inclusive and welcoming community of young people in nature going forward.
Inspiring attendees is also at the heart of the sessions we’ve planned. During the Young People’s Panel, we’ll be hearing a group of young people talk about how volunteering in an organisation and developing their own ideas has benefitted them. Demonstrating the positive impact of young people on conservation organisations is the focus of the Leaders’ Panel.
Between these two panels and a session on Youth Networks, Partnerships and Driving Change led by Emily Fox, Charlie Nwanodi and Bobbi Benjamin from the London Wildlife Trust, we’re hoping that young people will leave the Summit feeling they can make a positive difference in the sector. We’re also hoping that more senior attendees will leave feeling positive about the future and with more drive to support young people in their organisations.
The Summit: going forward
We know that partnerships deliver conservation success stories. Whilst the BTO Youth Advisory Panel has organised the Summit, eight other key conservation organisations are represented by speakers and session leaders. Long term, we can move towards building together a framework of youth engagement to ensure integrating young people into organisations is valuable for young people, for organisations and for nature. Signing off the day with pledges from organisations which commit to action is just the beginning of this process.
Going forward, the Summit will lay the groundwork for organisations to collaborate through a network of young people, creating partnership opportunities that will enhance both the experiences of young people within organisations, and the young people that those organisations affect.
The combination of youth engagement goals and passion across the panels, speakers and workshops will be sure to produce some inspiring stories. The Summit is not a stand-alone event: this sharing of experiences will be a springboard for attendees and organisations to form connections which last beyond the Summit.
For the future, as the Youth Advisory Panel, we have a vision of building an inclusive, diverse and engaged community of young people, united by their love of nature, who have meaningful opportunities within the conservation and nature sector to ensure their voices are represented throughout organisations and at the heart of decision-making processes. The Youth in Nature Summit will celebrate what everyone has achieved so far and unite our community to make positive steps forward with young people in nature.
Join us at the Summit
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