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European Sustainable Energy Week
Nieuwsartikel16 augustus 2022Europees Uitvoerend Agentschap klimaat, infrastructuur en milieu

Empowering youth for a sustainable energy transition

By Livia Kalossaka, Saila Nieminen and Eleonora Cherubini, YES-Europe

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Youth has a huge potential to play an active role in the energy transition but how can we create a vision and inspire youth to work collaboratively? How can we ensure that the overwhelming amount of news and information does not undermine bold ideas to drive climate action?

Shifting the energy sector toward a sustainable state requires an urgent systemic change - all societal, public and private stakeholders need to synergise their efforts for a successful transition. At Young leaders in Energy and Sustainability (YES-Europe), we believe that by creating a positive mindset with a multidisciplinary background we can spark interest and catalyse change.

Currently, youth has a huge potential to play an active role in the energy transition, as this becomes a digitalised one, we have the power in our hands to be the best equipped generation to drive this change. However, we often require complementary skills, connections, confidence and knowledge necessary to accelerate the energy transition.

Through the establishment of YES-Europe we promote the active participation of our members to take the lead and demonstrate their potential through various projects thanks to our holacratic organisational structure. As the famous quote goes: "Think global, act local", our approach is to have a capillary network coordinated by an international team, reaching not only major cities in Europe but to truly connect all European Youth. We need to recognise that technology has definitely helped bridge the distances to help us achieve this objective.

THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY TO BUILD A EUROPEAN COMMUNITY OF YOUNG ENERGY LEADERS

With the advent of technology we can be overwhelmed by the amount of news and information available. In a world filled with uncertainty, we have seen a need for building meaningful connections and growing a community of individuals with a common drive to build a better future. As reported by McKinsey, one of the most important drivers for people to resign is the lack of sense of belonging. Losing a sense of connection and community can change the way a person sees the world. On the one hand, technology creates convenience, and convenience takes away a person’s need to venture out into the world and interact with people face-to-face. On the other hand, at YES-Europe we use technology as a way to promote interaction and thanks to our platform we aim to bring our members face to face as much as possible, to create meaningful connections.

Local communities need to be supported with more than just promises. We actively support our local communities to take action, and provide our members a safe space to go out of their comfort zone, embrace new projects, learn from others and build a skill set needed for a better future. 

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THE TRAILBLAZER OF TOMORROW?

Current leaders are often criticised for being too slow and lacking bold ideas. As young people, we need to engage with them to scale positive innovators and pioneers to become the standards of tomorrow.

One of the main barriers for youth to be part of the energy transition is that they do not know how to get involved. There can be a plethora of initiatives out there but they may seem too prestigious, technical or bureaucratic. As a result, creating a community that is from the first interaction (whether on a website, social media or in person) accessible, inspiring and multidisciplinary (if you cannot believe it, check this video) can attract the participation of a larger number of young people and foster positive growth.

We think that there are four core principles that are universal to promote change: education, courage, inspiration and energy. The difference is that our generation is confronted with a problem that can be used to unite as all: climate change.

Education is paramount for a sustainable energy transition. In specific, generating questions, building a common understanding of the energy landscape and encouraging people to learn by taking responsibilities, are just a few ways we promote knowledge sharing within our community.

This takes us to the next point: courage, a critical lever for driving the energy transition. Growing as a generation that is not afraid of speaking up, taking uncommon paths and make decisions for the betterment of humanity. To promote this kind of behaviour, we need education from a young age and bold heroes in the field that inspire us.

Lastly, energy, we need it to play a long game in a system that prospers on short-termism. No success comes without passion and hard work. Promoting an environment that allows youth to be motivated and find the energy to focus on problems that matter is the key enabler.

CREATING A COMMON VISION

We need to convey a message of hope, that we are ready to tackle this challenge together. In order to create a common vision, at YES-Europe we use appreciative inquiry. It is an approach to develop a strategic vision of the future by focusing on the strengths of an organisation and using it as a base for future directions. Instead of focusing on problems, we take an optimistic approach by envisioning a future we would like to see by finding those positive, anticipatory images that can collectively inspire us. With that in mind, we finally design strategies to propel the organisation in the direction we want.

In order to achieve a collective vision, promoting a dialogue is crucial. Dialogue should be perceived as a team sport, a cooperation to get together to a common understanding. The roots of dialogue come in fact from the greek, dia (through) and logos (word), which means that through words we can reveal the truth of our realities.

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About the author:

Written by Livia Kalossaka, Saila Nieminen and Eleonora Cherubini in the name of YES-Europe. Young leaders in Energy and Sustainability, created through an initiative of the EPFL University of Lausanne in Switzerland, brought together 50 students from nine European countries for the first annual conference organised in May 2016 to connect and find meaningful ways to make a difference in the energy field. Since then, YES-Europe grew internationally to have an impact at the European level. YES-Europe offers a platform to develop both international as well as national initiatives to shape the future of energy in Europe and give a space for youth to act within this fundamental transition.

 

Disclaimer: This article is a contribution from a partner. All rights reserved.
Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use that might be made of the information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the European Commission’s official position.

 

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➔ Engage youth to accelerate the energy transition: 3 ways to go beyond rhetoric

 

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