Scottish Rural Action (SRA) were delighted to join the Youth Climate Camp in Badaguish from the 7th to the 11th of August 2023. SRA Board director, Aimee Spence and staff member, Catriona Mallows attended and delivered a workshop encouraging young people to reflect on the ways in which their voices, both individually and collectively, are heard. They showcased the importance of working collaboratively on a variety of issues, encouraged young people to think about their engagement at different levels (i.e., locally, regionally, nationally) and encouraged them to self-organise and deliberate solutions to some complex problems. Aimee and Catriona also sign-posted attendees to various platforms for rural and island people within Scotland and across Europe, including the Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament and the European Rural Parliament.
Thursday 10th August: Workshop
10.30am – 11.00am: Icebreaker
All attendees played bingo. Despite having spent several days together already, this was a chance for all to get to know each other a bit more and speak with folk they might not have had a chance to converse with yet. This game was then followed by a game of ‘wildcat, salmon and midge’ – thanks to Alan for facilitating and encouraging people to move around!
11.00am – 12.00noon
Aimee and Catriona then asked attendees to reflect individually on the ways in which their voices are heard, and then share with the broader group. They answered the following questions, with responses below in bullet-point form.
How do you think your voice is currently heard? By whom?
- I think it is sometimes heard but often only by young people, and if heard by others it can be very tokenistic and tick box;
- There are geographical differences in the way our voices are heard – so some national parks are good at hearing from young people, but others are not.
- Voices can be heard and acted on but can stop at certain levels – sometimes our thoughts and ideas don’t go as far or are as impactful as we might want.
How do you want to be heard? And by whom?
- I want to be heard at a local level to make a difference to my local area;
- We are right holders: not just stakeholders and that must always be understood;
- My voice should be heard at all levels of policymaking and more;
- Things must be more than just creating space to ‘hear’ from us – we need to be able to influence things;
- My voice, and other young people’s voices, must hold people to account – they must change things!
- Our voices need to be heard all together.
If more voices like yours need to be heard, how do we build that in a movement and what considerations need to be put in place?
- We might be heard, but systems don’t really involve us;
- There are still very hard to reach groups whose voices are not heard and there need to be better ways of encouraging them to get involved and break down barriers in doing so;
- We need to be included at all levels of decision-making about our futures;
- We need organisational support to help us – but it must be youth-led and co-designed;
- We must ensure there are ambassadors for children too – i.e., under 16s;
- Ensure there are similar values in the work we do but celebrate diversity of ideas, too;
- Start with where you are at – dig where you stand. We don’t want to tick boxes. We have unique experiences. That must be considered;
- Ensure people feel comfortable to share their views. How they see the world is a beneficial thing to include;
- We want to be making a bigger difference. It feels like a big responsibility to have a voice locally, with a particular challenge in rural communities, but there could be better systems to ensure we can be heard in kind and impactful ways;
Some brilliant quotes during this session included:
“If you want to go far, you have to go together”
“We are heard but not listened to”
“We are moving and shaking but is it making a difference to those who hold power?”
“Thought AND action is great, but critiquing the system is making REAL progress”
“Be bigger, be louder”
12.00noon – 13.00pm
In part 2 of the workshop, everyone was encouraged to identify ONE issue they felt most strongly about tackling. Upon writing this down on an individual post-it note, they were then encouraged to self-organise these different topics into broader themes, and within their self-organised groups, they were asked to propose solutions to these bigger thematics.
The following list includes the individual issues people cared most about:
- Rural employment retention
- Media segregation
- Mental health
- Failure of public transportation
- Lack of action
- Break the chain of importing produce – buy and sell locally to improve food economy and invest in local action
- Lack of transport options
- Spreading better knowledge and awareness of climate and social issues
- Apathy about environmental issues
- Failure of political systems
- Education about/in nature
- Responsible outdoor access
- Youth changing education
- Second home ownership
- Single use plastics
- Diminishing water quality
- Overconsumption and consumerism
- Detachment from nature
- Knowing where to start and how to get youth together and change education
- Aversion and denormalisation of wildlife
- Funding and support
- Support guidance and recognition
All attendees then grouped these individual issues into the following themes:
GROUP 1: Access to public transport
GROUP 2: Lack of communication, knowledge, and organisation
GROUP 3: Trends, especially in the media
GROUP 4: Environment (greed and consumerism)
GROUP 5: Systems change
GROUP 6: Funding priorities
Everyone was then asked in their groups how they were going to change this: what solutions do they propose, and à who needs to hear them?
Group 1: Access to public transport
Encourage more people to use public transport
Reduce price and increase frequency
Increase under 22s bus travel to include more age groups and ensure that it is taken up in more rural areas, and really assess what to do if there is no bus service: could this be applied to train travel?
- Local councils and politicians
Group 2: Lack of communication, knowledge, and organisation
Connect individuals and organisations to nature
Improve knowledge and communication through education
More rangers and volunteers
- Funding organisations and trusts
- Support organisations to assist with funding opportunities
- Schools – students and teachers
Group 3: Trends, especially in the media
Make environment issues ‘trendy’ and influence things online!
Encourage people to buy ‘sustainably’ (and define that/set parameters on what it actually means)
More transparency in where money is going in consumerism, especially things being bought online: is it ethical?
- Everyone – conversations, doing things kindly
Group 4: Environment (greed and consumerism)
Exposing root cause of greed: who is profiting?
Societal refocusing of values and priorities
Championing minimism and simplicity of living
- Young people and politicians
Group 5: Systems change
Group 6: Awareness:
Make a video
The sessions seemed to work well, and we were pleased to hear from everyone and liked how the session flowed from individual thinking time to small group discussions to broad discussions. It gave space for people to think, reflect and participate.
One piece of feedback for next time would be to ask simpler questions and to ensure that groups had more time to propose solutions to these complex questions. It was interesting to see that groups self-organised along the lines of broad, structural and societal challenges rather than around more niche topics such as water quality and housing, for example. This, however, meant it was more challenging to really identify clear and concise solutions: addressing these topics is difficult and hugely complex.
All attendees were then invited to the Scottish Rural and Islands Parliament, taking place on the 1st to the 3rd of November 2023 with a specific youth event on the 1st of November. More information is available here: www.srip.scot.
(Written by Catriona Mallows, Scottish Rural Action. All Photos credited to Cairngorms National Park Authority)