Please note: this article was originally published April 2023 as part of Spur Change’s Annual Report made to Global Affairs Canada.
Before joining the third cohort of the Youth Champions Program, MJ was job hunting within the sustainability sector in Canada, based on her interest in climate justice. After searching for a year with no luck, MJ turned to the YCP as a way to gain some experience and skills related to public engagement and engage with like-minded youth on ways to promote the SDGs and the empowerment of women and girls.
Through participating in the series of online workshops, MJ “gained valuable project management skills like RBM, creating a budget, public engagement strategies, and monitoring & reporting” which she was able to transfer to her personal and professional life. While noting this skills acquisition as one major takeaway of the program, MJ also noted the opportunity to engage with such a wide range of other youth as an invaluable experience:
“The Youth Champions program allowed me to better understand social issues like gender equality, intersectionality, and anti-oppression, & international development. I could also explore topics like climate justice and the SDGs from a different perspective. The program has the fantastic component of being global, so you get to hear unique views from your fellow champions.”
This concept of knowledge sharing and collaboration amongst youth, fostered by the setting provided by the YCP, informed MJ’s approach to her public engagement activity. Opting to deliver a social media campaign, she created an Instagram called Stories Changing Climate with the aim to provide a space for other youth to share their own experiences and learn from one another:
“The main purpose of Stories Changing Climate is for people to share their perspectives on climate change without the need to be an expert, scientist, or knowledgeable person on the topic. We understand life experiences’ power and want to explore their potential as a tool for change.”
Using the platform to first highlight her own experiences in Canada and her home country of Colombia, MJ created an informational animation comparing the relief responses to climate disaster in both countries, including subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. This opened the door and got the conversation going. With an open google form linked to the account encouraging youth to share their own stories, MJ also organized a webinar with a panel of fellow youth and peers from her university. The conversations ended up being diverse as experiences were shared on a variety of topics, from general climate change to climate grief to expressing this grief through art and other mediums to lead to climate justice.
Since the cohort has finished, MJ now works with the World Wildlife Fund. While not engaging directly on issues of climate justice (and its numerous social factors) at work, MJ doesn’t hesitate to share her own perspectives when discussing wildlife and habitat conversation in the workplace. Additionally, the Ontario Environment Network (OEN), the organization with which MJ was paired, was inspired by her engagement and the collaboration fostered by the YCP initiative and is implementing a climate justice committee to their organization–inviting youth to apply to share their unique perspectives on effective techniques for encouraging change for future generations.
MJ has also been invited by the OEN, the Inter-Council Network, and YOUNGO (Child and Youth Constituency to United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change) to present on a range of topics from meaningful youth engagement, to the SDGs more broadly. The online workshops for cohort 4 of the Youth Champions Program have also seen past participants invited back as speakers (including MJ) to speak on their experience and where they are at now.
The Spur Change team couldn’t be happier to have supported the level of engagement and enthusiasm that MJ brings to her work and her passions. We are very much looking forward to staying in touch and seeing how she continues to engage and promote the SDGs in the future.