Lawson Foundation explores ways to support work in its newest impact area and will open a call for proposals this spring.
In 2014, the Lawson Foundation revised its overall strategic direction to focus on the healthy development of children and youth. This triggered an interest in exploring the interdependence of healthy human development and a sustainable environment and led to a decision by the Foundation to support leadership and development opportunities for adolescents and emerging adults within an environmental context.
Because research shows the importance of nature connection to healthy development. This link is becoming increasingly important, given rising rates of certain physical and mental health issues and the fact that young people are more sedentary and are spending less time outdoors.
Studies also show that youth believe a healthy, sustainable environment should be a top priority for governments. However, this belief does not necessarily translate into action by youth to take leadership roles on environmental issues.
Given this, the Foundation is excited to announce that we will be supporting initiatives targeting young people who are 15-25 years old, given the developmental importance of this period and the opportunity to bolster support for this cohort in the youth and environment space.
What we’ve learned so far
One of the first things we did was to fund two systematic literature reviews to help us build our understanding of the field that we were entering. These foundational reviews were an important first step, as they assessed the existing evidence about the importance of connection to nature for healthy development. They also were an opportunity to identify recommendations for research, practice and policy on how to best connect children and youth with nature.
Children and Nature: What We Know and What We Do Not
Dr. Robert Gifford & Dr. Angel Chen (University of Victoria)
Children and Nature: A Systematic Review
The Human Environments Analysis Laboratory
In addition to these literature reviews, we spoke with leaders from organizations who are engaged in the youth and environment field to get their insights on key trends, including a heightened focus on reconciliation between Canada’s Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples; the connections between environmental issues and other social causes; and the importance of genuinely engaging youth in decision-making.
In June 2017, we hosted a retreat in Toronto that brought together a diverse group of young people from across Canada who are actively engaged in environmental organizations and causes to hear first-hand about their own experiences and connection both to nature and to the environmental movement. Their input has helped define our thinking and approach to connecting youth to nature.
Throughout this journey – including the literature review, interviews and retreat – our primary objective was to listen – to both people and the field – rather than jump headfirst into action through traditional grantmaking. We believe that this ground work is both strategic and critical to the success of the Foundation’s philanthropic contributions to this field.
Building a cohort – Upcoming call for letters of intent
We plan to invest in 8-10 projects with funding support (between $50,000 and $100,000 per project per year) over a three-year period. Our investment will include the development and animation of a cohort of young people from the funded projects and will support opportunities for them to come together periodically for networking, capacity building and knowledge sharing. We have seen tremendous value and success in this cohort approach over the years and most recently with our Outdoor Play Strategy and Child & Youth Diabetes Strategy. We are keen to continue to learn from this approach in our newest impact area.
More details about the call for letters of intent, including project scopes, requirements and the submission process, will be shared later this month.