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Children As Change Agents

Rationale:
This Pilot sought to support delivery of Camden’s LAA, by engaging and empowering young people, building community cohesion, and testing the theory that children can be effective agents of behavioural change for ‘greener’ lifestyles.

Community Housing Group manage a housing development near the Chalk Farm area of North London and expressed an interest in running a project with young people there. The majority of these attend a local school, one that is currently trialling the government’s ‘wraparound care’ initiative.

This presented suitable access routes in to the community and an opportunity to engage young people in a number of creative and fun outdoor learning experiences and activities.

Pilot aim:
To explore how effective children can be as change agents for environmental behaviours in their community. The pilot also sought to enhance cohesion and contribute to a safer neighbourhood in a culturally diverse and deprived community.

Key messages:
The local environment is more than bricks and mortar. By expressing their relationship with it through appropriate activities, children will become enthused about environmental issues, achieve local recognition, build community cohesion, and help to raise awareness and generate local action for more sustainable lifestyles.

Key partners:

Communication channels used:
Face to face contact via local youth groups, Housing Association youth engagement teams, local schools and local authority community engagement teams. Creative channels such as dance, art and football were also used to engage the children. Adverts promoting the activities were displayed in Camden New Journal, in the local high school and in the Community Housing Group newsletter.

Profile of target audience:
Primary target audience: the bulk of activities were conducted with children aged 8-15 years representing a cross section of ethnicities

Secondary target audience: the secondary pilot audience were approximately 180 adults, the majority of which had been classified as vulnerable or in some other priority group for housing and typically represented socio-economic groups D / E.

Motivators and barriers identified:
Motivators include the promise of reducing anti-social behaviour and crime on site, addressing a range of local liveability issues, building community cohesion and encouraging young people to expand their horizons and gain more positive experiences in relation to the urban environment.
Barriers include the low priority of environmental factors compared with the overriding priorities of safety, poverty and health.

Outputs / activities:

Monitoring and evaluation:
Focus groups with a sample of the estimated 600 people reached by this initiative, including children during pre- or after school sessions, and face to face surveys with adults

Key results / outcomes:
The level of awareness amongst children was higher than that of their parents. Parents also did not realise that their children cared so much about their environment. The children sometimes felt that that they did not have enough power/authority to be able to make a difference.

“My daughter is 15, and she wouldn’t normally go to a club, and she went for the whole six weeks”

“I was taken aback by how much they felt about the planet and their home town”

“When we see it in the park… we can say that we done that”

“I was impressed, we thought we were just coming to a dance class, then they talked about the environment”

The activities worked well to engage children and overcome barriers such as apathy. 83% of participants said that they had been encouraged to lead a greener lifestyle as a result of this activity. Hands on, interactive activities were the most popular and children enjoyed participating in these along with their peers. The children also liked activities with visually tangible outcomes, such as the floating wildlife gardens, which they valued as trophies.

We are also delighted to have received positive from our delivery partner:

“Thanks to all your hard work, I really think we engaged the kids. Thank you, you're doing a great job. Once again thanks for such a good piece of work.”

LB Camden were also pleased with the initiative:

“I find the project a brilliant idea and a great opportunity to get local residents to change their behaviour.”

Replicability aspects: successes / lessons learned:

 

 

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