Arts-based methodologies for youth leadership, empowerment and meaningful engagement in climate change

14:00 Wednesday 29 May


Room S5


Julia Bentz (Portugal) 1; Robin Cox (Canada) 2

1 - Ce3c Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes, Faculty of Sciences, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal; 2 - Resilience by Design Lab, Royal Roads University, Victoria BC, Canada

Worldwide there is a lack of youth participation in public decisions around climate change. These same youth are disproportionately affected by disasters and climate change hazards and have limited voices over the decisions and policies related to disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation (CCA), and community resilience (CR) despite calls for their empowerment as strong stakeholders in these issues. Engaging youth as stakeholders has implications for human rights, because those that are mostly marginalized and less likely to have their voices heard, are the same who are also at risk of adverse impacts of climate change and disasters. Additionally, youth will soon be moving to leadership roles in spaces of decision-making, and inheriting the consequences of climate change and policies and actions that are being co-constructed today, they must have their voices heard now. Although there has been an increase in formal education programs that engage children and youth in DRR, CCA, and CR, few of these initiatives include them in policy-oriented action to address not only these complex problems, but also the systemic issues that underlie them, such as poverty, marginalization, and civic disenfranchisement. Actively engaging and empowering children and youth to address these complex problems is a critical step to achieving resilience at local, regional, and national levels.

But how can we engage and capacitate young people so they become leaders and empowered climate agents? This session aims to address this question by providing examples of meaningful engagement of youth in climate change dialogues using arts-based methodologies.

Art has the capacity to not only raise awareness but also enable creative ways to address sensitive issues, support reflexivity and act as a conduit for cultural renewal. Artists are often at the forefront of innovation for the novel ways of addressing problems, free from disciplinary constraints. Arts-based methodologies have the potential to challenge current thinking on climate change, presenting new ways of approaching complex problems and engage youth. Creative ways of integrating the practical, personal and political dimensions of climate change contribute to more successful social transformation and adaptation to climate change.

Target audience

This session, which intersects arts and science, bridges three areas of complementary literature (Environmental Education, Visual Arts and Participatory Action Research) and links research across Canada, Brazil and Portugal. This session is directed to researchers, practitioners and policy-makers. It presents and discusses tools and approaches for meaningful engagement of young people in processes of climate change adaptation. Researchers and practitioners interested in arts-based methods, youth engagement and empowerment can gain new insights from the presentation of different case-studies and share their own experiences and address questions of interest in the following interactive discussion.

Proposed format for the session

  • Number of speakers: 4 (each speaker presents their key findings)
  • Duration of each speaker: 5 min.

Panel discussion:

Each speaker will address the audience as a whole for 5 minutes, when they will introduce themselves and highlight the most relevant aspects of their research (key findings). Next, in a World Café format, the 4 speakers will sit in different tables in which the audience will choose which speaker to follow. This will allow the audience to choose whatever topic is more appealing to them for more intimate, informal, and in depth conversation with the speakers. The audience may choose to rotate tables following other speakers. The table sessions will run for 40 minutes. Finally, the key points that emerged during these informal conversations will be shared with the audience at large. World Café methodology is a simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue. It facilitates open, informal dialogues, in-depth conversation and knowledge-sharing. Our world café tables follows these 5 basic principles:

  1. Setting: three tables;
  2. Welcome and Introduction: The host introduce and explain how the world café works, while putting participants at ease;
  3. Small Group Rounds: intimate conversation with speakers;
  4. Questions: each table is prompt with a question to the speaker around climate change and the arts to spark the conversation on that table. Which table will have a few questions that they can choose from;
  5. Sharing: The world café tables share insights from their conversations with the rest of the large group

Contributing Authors abstracts

Robin’s Abstract:  Arts-based methodologies for youth empowerment and meaningful engagement in climate change

The escalating impact of climate change demand a whole-of-society approach to adaptation and resilience building. Bridging between generations as well as the need to assure a strong future for all points to the urgency of supporting the engagement and empowerment of youth in actions and policies at the nexus of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. This session is grounded in the premise that youth have the capacity, interest, creativity, and right to contribute to designing the policies, plans, and decisions that affect them now and will shape their future. It draws from multiple research projects that have worked alongside youth to explore climate change, disaster risk reduction, and adaption using arts-based methods, processes, and expressions. We explore their innovative ideas for enhancing the adaptive capacity and resilience of their families, communities, and societies, drawing on the dynamic conversations and digital and visual-stories generated by youth in multiple participatory and collaborative research projects. We will share stories of youth-driven and youth-friendly climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction initiatives and speak to the need for the increased, meaningful engagement of youth as change makers and resilience leaders.

Julia’s Abstract:  How to empower young people in climate change solutions? Project Art For Adaptation

Addressing climate change in its complexity requires new ways of thinking, creating and acting, as well as engaging stakeholders who weren’t traditionally involved in finding solutions to it such as young people. Project Art For Adaptation aims to empower youth for new climate narratives and solutions through transformative learning and art. It engaged students of an art high school in Lisbon in an experiment with change: to choose a sustainable behavior and adopt it for 30 days. During the 30 days, the students explored what it means to change and in group dialogues shared difficulties and lessons learned and the relationships to the many facets of change. After completing the 30 days, each student developed an art project about the experience with change. The qualitative data collected in the experiment, including recordings of group dialogues, blog entries and artworks were analyzed and showed that the students’ awareness and critical thinking about climate change was increased. Evidences for new insights and perspectives were observed together with a greater sense of empowerment. The results highlighted the importance of experiential, creative learning approaches to climate change comprising the potential of finding new, more inclusive and more engaging solutions to it.