BTO Youth Summit

Our Trustee Alasdair Robertson was delighted to be invited to the BTO Youth Summit held in Cambridge on 17th - 18th February.  The summit was organised as a collaboration between BTO’s Youth Advisory Panel, RSPB’s Youth Council, and WWF-UK’s Youth Ambassadors. Read his report below.

It was good to see over 150 young people attend the various talks, lectures and panel discussions that were organised.  One panel discussion with RSPB, BTO and WWF was about the right way to do youth engagement within organisations; themes that emerged were around proper resourcing of and commitment to youth programmes, ensuring transparency and meaningful engagement and avoiding tokenism.

The talks were well attended

The leaders and young people then reconvened to put those lessons into action with a workshop where we split into small groups and were prompted to discuss why engagement is important and how to do it effectively. The young people I was grouped with independently brought up many of the issues that had been discussed in the leaders' panel, as well as bringing insight into the barriers that young people face and how they can be overcome.

There was a choice of talks for the afternoon session and I went along to a workshop run by the ZSL Youth Advisory Board members on how organisations can take their youth engagement to the next level. We were taught about Hart's ladder of youth participation and Shier's pathways to participation and how these can inform an organisation's engagement.

I chatted with Juliet Vickery about the work of the Trust, which she was very positive about. The young volunteers wrapped things up at the end of the afternoon and we had some more informal networking time. I ended up joining a small group including some who have been involved with the Trust before for dinner at a nearby pub before returning for the screening of Our Beautiful Wild, a youth-led film created by over 100 young people working together. 

The film takes the form of an extended spoken word piece intercut with scenes from nature, covering the beauty of the natural world, it's role in young people's lives and the grief of seeing damage done to it. It was really moving to see the passion with which they spoke, and I was impressed by the confidence with which the panel answered questions in the Q&A afterwards. What was lovely was that they had worked together on the project remotely for months and were meeting each other for the first time this weekend. I spoke to a few members of this group who were keen to start a podcast to tell stories of young people connecting with nature and encouraged them to submit a young naturalist fund application if they saw a way in which we might help.

On Sunday I set up a Trust stall and I met Ieuan Evans from the BTO, who said that the whole summit had really come about because of the BTO camps that CBT had made possible, which was lovely to hear.

Alasdair with Alicia Hayden

After lunch, each organisation had an opportunity to stand up for two minutes and describe their work, so I gave a quick background to the Trust, Cameron's Cottage and the Young Naturalist Fund and encouraged people to come and chat at the stall. We then had the Youth Empowerment Fair, which was very exciting. I spoke to lots of people in quick succession about the work of the Trust as they came to the stall. Emily Hunt joined me for a while and was able to tell people about her experiences and about the wildlife writing camp this summer. The stack of Alicia's books was very popular, and lots of CBT memorabilia was handed out. The final part of the afternoon was a Careers Session; I sat in the main lobby and was approached by a few people asking about working at Natural England. We finished things off with several rounds of applause for the organisers. It really was a brilliant weekend full of inspiring people and I'm sure youth engagement across different organisations will continue to build off the back of it.


News Home

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