In Sweden, a non-profit provides young people the tools and platform to weigh in on environmental policy.
Anders Varger, a Swedish high school teacher and entrepreneur, was noticing a trend. He felt that young people are rarely invited to conversations about how to build a sustainable world – even though policy decisions made today will impact their future.
To tackle this problem, Varger founded the non-profit Framtidens röster, which translates to ‘Voices of the Future’. His aim was to create a platform for students and young people to engage with politicians and other decision-makers on environmental issues. The organization’s Expert Panel consists of about thirty of Sweden’s premier managers and researchers on sustainability, who have made themselves available to coach young people.
Voices of the Future is also equipping classrooms across Sweden with tools to educate pupils about environmental issues and articulate their vision for a sustainable future.
One method is ‘positive cartography,’ where students choose environmental topics to research and build maps of what a positive future could look like. The map consists of images that students download from the internet or draw and paint themselves. The class then puts these together into a common map, where they identify what obstacles exist on the way to the goal of sustainability and can discuss how to address them with members of the Expert Panel.
“We involve young people in issues impacting the future. Our goal is for the children to meet those in power who influence the issue they have chosen. There are no pats on the head, but real dialogues that inspire. Then the students publish their material on our website and regularly follow up on what is happening. The format has been very much appreciated,” says Varger, the founder and Chairman of Voices of the Future.
Voices of the Future started working with schools in lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021. They have since grown to collaborate with 500 students across Sweden. In spring 2022, the organization toured the country, stopping in ten locations.
Anna Wik, a schoolteacher at Platengymnasiet in Motala, sees Voices of the Future as a means for students to be involved in social change.
“Issues related to sustainable development impact all parts of society, and for students to feel included in these conversations gives them motivation,” she said.
At Platengymnasiet, students have focused on environmental policy, social inclusion and gender equality. They have consulted with the Expert Panel on several occasions and had the opportunity to dialogue with municipal officials and local entrepreneurs.
Students who have participated in Voices of the Future will present their vision and findings with Members of Parliament, United Nations officials and other delegates at the Stockholm+50 international meeting in June 2022.
They will also participate in World Environment Day 2022 in Stockholm. Tune in to the live feed here: World Environment Day Live.