Earlier this month, the Lawson Foundation brought together a diverse group of young leaders for a retreat to gather ideas and advice on how we could best support young people to connect with nature and help amplify their voices as leaders and stewards in environmental work – a new area of strategic focus for the foundation.
This follows on the heels of research that we commissioned to help us build our understanding of the field that we were entering, including two systematic reviews (links below). We also 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.
The retreat 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.
Their advice included: take a holistic approach, as environmental and social justice issues are interconnected; prioritize accessibility to nature; “do nothing about us without us” and ensure that young people have an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way; connect young people with good ideas to resources and intergenerational mentoring; be flexible, so that young people can balance other existing responsibilities; and support reconciliation and culturally relevant programming.
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.
We look forward to share more about this journey in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned to our website to learn more!
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
Developing Canadian Youth as Leaders and Stewards of the Environment
Ilona Dougherty and Dr. Amelia Clarke