Involving students in the development of climate-friendly solutions.
Young people are becoming increasingly concerned (they experience climate anxiety) about climate change. This, along with a feeling of powerlessness due to a lack of opportunities to bring about necessary changes, has a negative impact on well-being and health. However, it is the younger generation in particular that can do a great deal that sets the stage for a better future.
Project Content and Goals
This project's overarching goal is to alleviate climate anxiety and dispel the feeling that there is not much that can be done to counteract global warming. To achieve this, we work together with young people on concepts and ideas for programs and services that encourage people to live more sustainably. The following are the project's primary research questions and aims:
- What makes it difficult for young people to act in a climate-friendly way in their daily lives? To answer this question, we collaborate with students to identify challenges they confront and then select one or two primary topics that serve as the foundation for the idea/concept phase.
- How can a digital service educate students toward more climate friendly behaviour, assist them in handling difficulties that come with it in everyday life, and lessen concerns and feelings of powerlessness? To give an answer students create concepts and ideas.
- How can regional stakeholders (e.g. community representatives, regional businesses) support the implementation of the ideas/concepts?
- The ideas developed are be implemented as a prototype in a subsequent project involving young people and regional stakeholders in the model region of Waidhofen an der Ybbs.
In line with the motto "changing the world together rather than alone," students create target group-specific ideas for initiatives/services that promote climate-friendly behaviour in everyday life. Information (customized to the target population), motivation (elements of play, community activities, collecting points, etc.), and reward (points for positive contributions) are the three main pillars of the initiatives. Because many Austrian children and young people own smartphones, the ideas and concepts are turned into a digital solution. Together with the students we work on key issues (e.g., transportation, leisure, or consumption) and find and develop appropriate methods of implementation (app, chatbot, TikTok channel).
The ideas created and the ways in which they can be put into practise are discussed regional stakeholders (such as community leaders and business representatives), who serve as the project's advisory board. For a follow-up project, promising concepts are taken up, refined, and further developed in collaboration with the project team from the University of Applied Sciences St. Pölten. Because the St.Pölten UAS already holds ties to a local school and other stakeholders, Waidhofen an der Ybbs serves as the project's model region.
We gain a greater understanding of how young people deal with climate change and how it affects their daily lives as a result of this project. What is more, the ideas and concepts worked out pave the way for follow-up projects. The student participating in the project benefit in several ways. Their views and wishes are heard (in this case, by the municipality of Waidhofen), they take on responsibility and actively work on a research topic of broad relevance and make a contribution to initiate change. This and being actively involved in all stages of the project and the future of their educational institution should calm worries and reduce feelings of impotence. The municipality of Waidhofen an der Ybbs benefits as well, because it not only learns about the challenges its young population faces, but also what possible solutions could be. It also gets the chance to encourage and inspire young people in their commitment to a better future.