Youth Activism

We’ve spent this course learning about the fundamentals of development and acquiring the tools to make the world better. It’s finally time to start putting our learning into action. So today was youth activism day.

We spent the day thinking about change—what are the factors that lead to change, and what are the conditions that encourage it? We learned, for example, about the abolition of slavery in England, and the coalitions that came together to bring about that monumental change. We considered the Montreal Protocol, and what it took to get it passed on a global level. We then discussed the different forms of power—power over, power to, and power with, exploring how power can be a source of both negative and positive change.

To understand how to effectively frame issues, we discussed lessons from social psychology, learning that people are happiness seekers, that they’re social, and that ultimately, they want to be good. The implications for campaigns are clear—positive messages resonate, and messages that normalize desired behavior are more effective than those that shame it.

Since we have so many inspiring participants, we spent the rest of the morning discussing advocacy projects they’re implementing in their communities. They shared their own stories—from city-wide sustainability projects in New Zealand, to refugee tutoring programs in Germany, humanitarian efforts in Cape Town, and mentoring programs in Swaziland. Just another way they continue to inspire us!

Finally, we discussed the importance of having a vision that guides your life and what you care about, so we spent the afternoon writing vision statements. To hone them, we did an exercise where they faced supporters and critics in their communities. Ultimately, they wrote newspaper articles from the future, from the time when their vision has been achieved.

The time is ticking down to the end of the course, and you can feel everyone trying to milk every moment for everything it’s worth. The common room is abuzz with laughter and conversation. Just two days to go!