Your Voice Matters series: Youth Engagement and the SDGs

*This blog post was developed based off the ACIC study, Your Voice Matters: Engaging Canadian Youth on the Sustainable Development Goals, as funded by the Government of Canada’s Sustainable Development Goals Program. The whole report can be found here.*

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In the final part of our blog series, we would like to wrap up with what we discovered about engaging youth with Agenda 2030. As part of the roundtables and interviews, we asked youth and youth-serving professionals about what they felt would aid in getting youth engaged with the Goals.

The main suggestion we heard was that it’s most effective to engage youth through educational institutions, interacting with both educators and students. Ideally, SDG-related content could be incorporated into curricula in order to raise awareness and potential action among students. According to some participants connected to provincial education, teachers are already encouraged to structure their curricula to include emerging global issues.

Another suggestion that came up frequently was the importance of valuing youth. Self-worth and confidence are feelings that made youth care more about the SDGs and contributing to them. Some ways that organizations can contribute to youth confidence and participation are formal recognition of youth accomplishments (i.e. awards), avoiding assumptions about youth culture, and truly listening to what they have to say about relevant issues.

Instilling a community connection to youth engagement with the SDGs was also a strong suggestion. Having youth see their importance as active contributors to their communities helps them see their own role in participating in sustainable development. As well, providing guidance from supportive community leaders engages youth in actionable life experiences.

Another major suggestion was having a connection to culture and expression. Using artistic, creative outlets allows youth to deepen their understanding of the SDGs through creating links to what they care about.

From this study, we saw that youth were outspoken and wanted to participate in leadership roles. While youth-led groups are the ideal way to get youth engaged with the SDGs, youth leaders did voice the need for some guidance from professionals in their initiatives. Despite that, youth leadership is a great way for young people to have responsibility and agency in developing the SDGs.

Finally, having safer spaces was identified as another important element of engaging youth with the SDGs. We define safer spaces as those where participants can develop a sense of belonging, where youth feel like they can trust and be open with others within these spaces. This provides youth with inclusive spaces to explore the SDGs, and to voice their opinions on matters related to them.

This concludes our series on Your Voice Matters. For further information on the methodology and results of our study, please refer to the full version of the report.

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