Ilaria Bo, MSc student in Sustainable Development, started a work placement at Global Action Plan (GAP) as part of the programme.
GAP is a charity founded in 1993 which is based in London, and it is specialised in sustainable behaviour change, sustainability in general and environmentalism. The organisation has three main action areas: air quality, wellbeing and consumerism, and youth and schools. It carries out different and very interesting projects which help people to live more sustainably, in harmony with the planet. There are projects in collaboration with local schools, with children and young people, and other programmes which involve the local community and households, and finally other projects which involve employees. Indeed, what GAP does is active research to connect people and businesses with the environment, exploring what facilitates their behavioural change in order to build a greener future. Moreover, they also aim to help young people to develop the skills, knowledge and tools to face environmental issues. In other words, they work with other charities, businesses, the government and the public, to make a real change in the world.
My placement, in particular, took place within a project helping to inspire children to take collective environmental action. The project is new, and it is primarily addressed to children and young people in schools of the UK and Turkey, with the future perspective to expand it in the rest of the world. The main idea is to closely work with children and inspire them to become a force for positive change in their community and, eventually, for the planet. Indeed, the ‘unsustainable emergency’ we are living today, and the enormous risks we are facing, are problems that affect children and young people a lot. They feel very anxious about what is happening and frustrated by the lack of action by the institutions and governments to protect our home. Therefore, the aim of the project is to give them the necessary support to act to protect the planet in the future and feel confident in doing so.
Children and young people, to be able to take real action for the environment, need the knowledge to understand the problems we are facing today. They also need the skills (both cognitive and manual) to implement their actions concretely, and the self-belief and confidence that they can actually help to make a real difference, i.e. they should feel that their action is contributing to a collective effort that will make a real change. Still, the project, and GAP more generally, have recognised that something else is needed in order to make young people confident enough to take action. Indeed, it is important that children and young people share the same compassionate values and know it. It is, in fact, known that most young people have compassionate values and care a lot about the environment. However, when they perceive that others may do not share their same values, they can feel as the ‘strange’ one inside the social group. Therefore, this ‘Value Perception Gap’ could be a threat to their action and underpin their environmental action and their wellbeing. Being able to fill this gap could be a ‘turning point’.