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Ready for youth social action

Youth led Conference inspires environmental projects across England

Tuesday 30 March 2021 will go down in the Trust’s collective memory as a truly momentous day. Hosting the first Annual Green Influencers Scheme Conference, The Ernest Cook Trust brought together some of the most inspirational youth social action activists in the country with an eclectic range of experts, youth and community workers from environmental charities and not-for-profit organisations.

By necessity, all 115 delegates met virtually, via Zoom. Promoting ‘youth social action’, the Conference was designed to inspire, encourage and support Green Mentors in their youth-led environmental social action projects. We welcomed Helen Whyman (Head of the #iwill Fund) to share the Fund’s vision and purpose, best expressed though this ‘Power of Youth’ video.

Guest speakers included Amy Meek who co-founded ‘Kids Against Plastic’ at age 12. Now 17, she is a veteran of youth social action, with a relevant and resonating message, summed-up with this bold reminder to our delegates,

The youth voice is one of the most powerful forces on the planet!

Black Girls Hike founder Rhiane Fatinikun spoke about her work creating a safe space for black girls to explore the outdoors. BGH’s ongoing work with brands, organisations and the media addresses the need for more diversity and inclusion, countering the sad truth that the outdoors has predominantly been a white middle-class domain.

Professor David Sheffield shared fascinating research conducted by the University of Derby on ‘Nature Connectedness’, presenting a raft of academic and scientific findings. Delegates were then asked to brainstorm ideas on how to integrate ‘nature connectedness’ into activities with young people. The resulting enthusiasm and passion confirmed our belief that everything really is better outdoors.

The afternoon workshop sessions provided an invaluable opportunity to learn, experience and participate in activities and discussions designed to equip youth and community workers in their leadership role. We are very grateful to all who gave their time and expertise: LIFEbeat CIC, Groundwork, the Youth Advisory Board, Action for Conservation and our own Outdoor Learning Officer, Alison Cross.

Perhaps the stars of the day were our Youth Advisory Board members whose vibrant enthusiasm and focused vision shone most brightly. Their sense of responsibility as custodians of the environment was remarkable to witness. As Dr Victoria Edwards, the Trust’s Chief Executive commented,

I, for one, am going to sleep so much better tonight. I really don’t need to worry. Our beautiful planet is in such great hands.

Dr Edwards thanked her Trustees for supporting new ventures like the Green Influencers Scheme and for trusting all those who make these programmes happen. She encouraged the Green Mentors to be equally trusting when working with young people in their social action projects, to let them make decisions and take risks because,

…we will only achieve wonderful things with that trust going both ways.

(cover image features one of the inspirations behind the Green Influencers Scheme, Heather from Fairford, who can be found on Twitter @Heatherlitter)