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This is how you mobilise 150 people to design a conference session together

Picture credit: Youth In Landscapes initiative

What happens when you take 150 people and ask them to design a session together?

Some might say chaos, others might say equitable participation. At the Youth in Landscapes Initiative, we subscribe to the school of the latter – no matter how much trickier diversity may make processes, it is important.

So when it came to running our fourth youth session at the Global Landscapes Forum (see the firstsecondand third ones) we decided to mobilise our global alumni base to collaboratively design the session together. Virtually. Over 3 weeks.

We decided to use Facebook as the platform – mainly because that’s where everyone spends most of their virtual time so it’s not really hard to grab their attention. David Thomas, facilitator extraordinaire and CEO of Danaqa World Chic, kindly offered to facilitate the process for us and keep us on track.

We started off discussing our desire and intention for the session – did we want to brainstorm, innovate, get feedback, express youth attitudes? Promoting innovation and real solutions came out on top.

We then started to discuss the big problem we want to solve. A seriously interesting conversation emerged. Here’s a small selection of the many ideas thrown into the ring:

  • Upscaling: In most sustainability and landscape-related issues there are many successful experiences, but at a small scale, isolated or pilots (agro-ecological production systems, integrated catchment management, value chains,…for example). But in order to tackle climate change (just to name one wicked problem), they need to be implemented at a much larger scale and relatively fast.
  • Being consumers is all we know
  • The great disconnect: from physical places, ourselves and our communities
  • Rural-urban migration of youth
  • The pervasive negative perception of “rural” work and life
  • The failure of education to prepare graduates for the current world’s needs
  • Access to finance, particularly for rural youth
  • Power concentration and dysfunctional hierarchy
  • Intergenerational inequity
  • Engaging youth in the new GLF model

It was a real challenge to pick but we agreed there was a convergence of themes emerging:

1. The great disconnect/the lack of “interconnectedness” – the link between urban migration, the perception of rural work and the disconnect between consumers and producers.
2. Youth engagement in the new GLF model.

We then attempted to rephrase these themes as a challenge – i.e. what would we be challenging ourselves to achieve/solve/discuss within the 90 minute session? We were mindful of not being too narrow or too broad so that several solutions could emerge.

We had an excellent wide-ranging discussion and sharing of experiences on the ground. On the topic of interconnectedness, one person shared:

Find the original blogpost on the Global Landscapes Forum blog.