Gen Z & Climate Change

The Resilience by Design (RbD) lab recognizes the amazing potential of youth to be climate action leaders in their local communities. The Generation Z (Gen Z) and Climate Change project wanted to explore and contribute to the empowerment of young people by hearing what helps or hinders their participation in transformative climate actions. The Resilience by Design lab team engaged youth in workshops and conversations over a two-year span.

The Gen Z project aimed to empower youth by identifying the factors that either support or discourage participation in climate change action. The project explored ways to increase the disaster resilience and adaptive capacity of youth and their communities by:

  • Working directly with youth
  • Enhancing youth engagement in climate action through equitable participation and social innovation
  • Contributing to existing literature.

The project, funded by a Social Science and Humanities Insight Research Grant,  launched with a Theory of Change workshop held in Victoria, B.C., in February 2018. That workshop, held on the campus of Royal Roads University (RRU), brought together faculty from RRUy and other post-secondary institutions, climate action leaders, service providers working with youth, youth educators, youth, and other stakeholders and Rights holders to discuss youth engagement, youth and climate change research, and youth empowerment.

Analysis of these conversations informed a research plan that incorporated a mixed methods approach to exploring youth engagement.  The plan included a process designed to gather youth perspectives on climate change through workshops and interviews and capacity building activities. The focus of this work was to better understand and increase youth engagement with climate change related issues, initiatives, and opportunities. 

The multi-methods study included one-on-one and group interviews with youth, youth-focused workshops, a quantitative survey, and youth participation in the research data gathering and analysis:

  • The RbD lab conducted a week-long design-thinking workshop with youth (18-30 years of age)  in 2018
  • The workshop was run again in 2019 with a new cohort of youth participants, plus two youth from the previous cohort who returned as co-facilitators
  • The workshop was to run a third time in 2020, but did not occur due to COVID-19 and the subsequent departure of registered youth to their home communities.

In each of the workshops, participants completed six of the eight modules required to receive the Resilience Innovation Skills Certificate designed by the Resilience By Design lab, and offered through Royal Roads University’s Continuing and Professional Studies. 

Activities in the workshops were designed to support competency development in design thinking and social innovation, research, and climate change related topics. These workshops included creative arts-based methods that supported youth exploring climate action topics of interest to them with professors, guest speakers and subject matter experts, and their peers. Participants in the second cohort completed the workshop virtually.

This research was among the first in this field to build and validate a model of Gen Z youth engagement, and using social innovation to guide transformative learning. 

  • Created, piloted, and evaluated youth-centred engagement strategies
  • Supported peer-to-peer knowledge 
  • Contributed to youth-informed policy development
  • Identified barriers and drivers predictive of youth engagement
  • Contributed to literature on disaster risk reduction and climate change action 
  • Contributed to theories of change and social innovation though developing youth-informed, youth-centric models for capacity and skill development.