Young Pioneers Programme: Impact Report

 In Ākāśa Community, Sustainability Leadership, Young Pioneers

Our first cohort completed the Young Pioneers Programme on 16 December 2014. During the twelve weeks of their autumn journey, the twelve incredible Young Pioneers worked together to develop and apply their own sustainability leadership abilities. We used this time to experiment with a few different learning models and activities. We are excited to share some of the key findings from this experience in our impact report. We are now exploring the feedback and our own lessons learned to improve our model and develop next steps to reach more young changemakers.

A few highlights…

Ākāśa is a Sanskrit word meaning space. This is at the heart of our first priority of creating a safe space for our Young Pioneers to share. We set up our basecamp in Impact Hub Islington as a comfortable co-working space in the heart of Angel. Our twelve Young Pioneers gained a sense of ownership over their space, while feeling part of a wider community of changemakers. The dynamic space also allowed us to change the layout of the space each week to complete different activities. We also arranged classes at King Henry’s Walk Garden, a peaceful community garden in Islington, to allow our Young Pioneers to get a sense of how to interact with nature within central London. The capital provides an endless source of spaces to stimulate creativity and we organised as many extra activities as we could within twelve weeks. The most successful were the collaborative painting with Anton Chernikov at his studio in East London; Mini-Future Day at the Science Museum; and the microadventure along Regent’s Canal. As we develop the next programme, we will continue to focus on how to create a home for young changemakers and find new spaces across London to visit together.

The Ancient Hindus believed that the infinite space of Ākāśa could only be experienced through sound. This inspired us to recognise the importance of choosing the right voices for our Young Pioneers to listen to. For six months before the start of the programme, we interviewed a diverse range of experts to ensure we moved beyond a single dominant narrative and promoted different ideas about sustainability. During the first session of the programme however, the Young Pioneers expressed their desire as a group to listen to each other’s journey of sustainability. We promptly included this on our online learning platform and the sharing of stories became one of the most important sources of reflection and learning for everyone. You can read about the journeys of Sasha and Wen in their blogposts: “Seeing the world anew” and “Past, Present, Future”. Looking ahead, we will continue to interview fascinating sustainability academics, sustainability professionals, journalists, photographers, changemakers. We will also ensure we provide a platform for more young people to share their stories about sustainability.

The sound of Ākāśa runs through all life. It is considered to be the fifth element that brings together the natural elements of earth, water, air and fire in balance. It is, in short, the soul of a sustainable world and we wanted to ensure that our programme focused more on the wellbeing and inner journey of our Young Pioneers than technical solutions to crises. We designed the course around principles of transformative learning that help our Young Pioneers see the world anew. We ensured that at least three guides facilitated each session and stayed available for mentoring online and in person outside of the classroom. We got confirmation that the most significant element of the transformative learning process happens in one-on-one interaction that puts each Young Pioneer at the centre of our focus. Greta delivered 36 additional hours of coaching to support the progress of each of the Young Pioneers in their own journey. The level of engagement with this process exceeded our expectations and feedback overwhelmingly called for more coaching. We are now working on models to include more individual coaching at this crucial stage of development and Greta is pursuing official training in youth coaching.

We learned a considerable amount from this first autumn journey with our Young Pioneers. We have identified a number of areas for improvement, but we have established a solid foundation to build upon. Perhaps most importantly, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with some new and old friends. The final session that allowed everyone to share appreciation of each other was a special highlight. We are looking forward to delivering a new and improved programme some time soon.

The Ākāśa Innovation Team


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