A Youth Voice project was established to enable young people to develop a speech and questions to present at the Planet Under Pressure 2012 conference.
Problems and Purpose
The Planet under Pressure 2012 (PuP) conference brought together individuals from policy-making, science, industry, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), health, the media, and other disciplines to develop a ‘new vision for trans-disciplinary research and broader partnerships’ to underpin the development of understanding and solutions to address global sustainability challenges. During the planning stages, members of the organising committee were keen to find a way to involve young people, resulting in the Youth Voice project which involved 12 young people from across the UK being selected and supported to prepare and present a speech at the opening ceremony of the conference. 
The aim of the Youth Voice project was to ensure that the perspective of youth was presented effectively at the PuP conference and that their voices were heard. The specific objectives of the project were:
- To select and prepare a group of 12 young people who have an interest in one or more of four relevant research areas
- To convene the group in a one-day workshop to discuss the conference topics, aided by researchers provided by the Research Councils through their cross-council theme Living with Environmental Change (LWEC)
- To support the young people to summarise, prepare and present their views at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London’s Excel Centre in March 2012.
- To encourage the young people involved to find ways of involving their school, college, or university in the work leading up to the conference (e.g. by surveying the student body) or after the conference (e.g. taking a school assembly about their conference trip; using Practical Action/CREST resources with their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Club). The researchers were encouraged to continue engaging with other students and/or schools where appropriate. 
The conference was hosted by The Royal Society, the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) programme and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The conference provided a platform for the NERC and LWEC communities to demonstrate the progress that is being made in addressing the global challenges being faced. It was also intended to demonstrate the benefits of working in partnership through co-design, co-production and co-delivery to develop solutions to the problems. The conference conclusions were to be fed directly into the Rio+20 Earth Summit and, thereby, had an opportunity to influence and inform international policy.
Background History and Context
Planet Under Pressure (PuP) 2012 was a major international conference focusing on solutions to the global sustainability challenge. It aimed to provide scientific leadership towards the 2012 UN Rio +20 conference and identify opportunities for enhanced partnerships between research, policy, industry, and the public. 
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Total budget: £19,995
The dialogue was commissioned by Research Councils UK (RCUK), the Royal Society, Living with Environmental Change (LWEC). Sciencewise-ERC also provided funding (£9,997) and support. The project was delivered by the British Science Association, while OPM was appointed as the project evaluator. 
- Research Councils UK (RCUK): The strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils
- The Royal Society is a Fellowship of the world's most eminent scientists and is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence
- Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funds world-class science in universities and their own research centres that increase knowledge and understanding of the natural world.
- LWEC is a ten year environmental research programme which represents a partnership of organisations
The project deliverer, the British Science Association, provides opportunities for people of all ages to learn about, discuss and challenge the sciences and their implications.
OPM is an independent centre for the development of public services and provides consultancy, research and leadership development. OPM was responsible for the evaluation. 
Sciencewise-ERC is a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills funded programme to bring scientists, government, and the public together to explore the impacts of science and technology. Its core aims are to develop the capacity of Government to carry out good dialogue, to gather and disseminate good practice, and have successful two-way communications with the public and other stakeholders.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
- Young people involved: 12
- Researchers directly involved in the workshop: 5
- Stakeholders involved in evaluation interviews: 3
- Stakeholders involved in conference: over 2000
The 12 young people selected to take part were aged between 14 and 18 years and were of different ethnicities and from a range of locations from Bristol to Inverness, including four from Scotland. Ten of the young people came from state schools and two were from fee-paying schools. 
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The young people attended a one-day workshop at the Royal Society in November 2011. This was an opportunity to meet each other, discuss views on the environmental issues that would form the basis of their speech, and to agree on a process and detailed timetable for preparing their speech between the workshop and the conference. Five LWEC researchers attended this workshop to help support the young people in preparing their ideas for the speech.
Between the workshop and the conference, the young people developed their speech for the conference, developed survey questions and surveyed their schools. They communicated via an invitation-only Facebook group. During this time, the British Science Association project manager liaised with the young people using Facebook to check their progress and to ensure they were meeting the project milestones.
The young people presented their speech at the opening ceremony of the conference. The young people also had a stand at the conference, which included displays summarising the project, the results of their survey and hand-outs of their speech. 
The key messages from the young people and their questions to the conference were:
The Earth is unique, full of possibilities and natural wonders, many of which are yet to be discovered. The Earth is also fragile and damage may be irreversible. Biodiversity in many eco-systems is being weakened to meet the demands of current lifestyles. “What laws can be implemented to protect and promote the diversity of our eco-systems?”
While there is growing evidence of the environmental cost of food production, there are also examples of successful conservation projects. “Will we find a solution which balances the conservation of biodiversity with feeding our growing population in the next 10 years?”
How can all countries over the next 20 years work towards environmental targets and best practice while sustaining populations and population growth? “How can developed nations assist developing nations in achieving targets and creating sustainable infrastructure?”
There is a need for humans to find a way to live in harmony with the environment. “Should we be looking for quick fixes or slower, more sustainable solutions?”
Social networks and the media have a large impact on the public perception of the current environmental situation. Therefore, it is important to focus on the beneficial outcomes of initiatives and policies aimed at combating environmental problems. “How can news agencies be encouraged to report on environmental success stories?”
How can people be encouraged to reduce their personal impact on pollution? “What should our priorities be in the fight to reduce pollution and how can we encourage people to exercise individual accountability?”
Water has more pressures on it than ever before and there is an impending shortage – by 2025, more than 66% of the world’s population won’t have enough to drink. “How can we find sustainable ways of sourcing and providing water?”
Energy and resources
A greater public exchange of knowledge between science and industry would help people to make informed choices about which energy sources and fuel they use, and would encourage firms to act in a more environmentally friendly way. “We would like to see a wider variety of possible energy and fuel alternatives explored and researched, and a more public exchange of knowledge between the scientists, researchers and the industry – could this happen?”
There is an issue around the public’s awareness of resource scarcity. An example is the shortage of helium, which will have a profound impact on healthcare. “What can be done to ensure that our helium resources, and others like it, aren’t depleted as soon as they are forecast to be?”
The young people were concerned about maintaining their lifestyles in a sustainable way. “How can we enjoy the same attractive lifestyle that we have today, but make that life more sustainable?”
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The case study observes that it was too early at the time of writing to evaluate the long-term policy impacts, but notes the following outcomes.
- A ‘state of planet declaration’ was produced, pulling together the key messages which emerged from the conference. This declaration included a statement from ‘young people representing the voice of youth’, which was developed by around 400 students who attended the conference. The views by the Youth Voice project were consistent with this statement and their contribution was acknowledged by the youth statement. This declaration was to be presented to the 2012 UN conference on Sustainable Development – Rio +20
- The young people’s involvement in the conference has featured in a number of newsletters and websites. 
Impacts on Youth Voice project members
- Improved networking, communication and presentation skills
- Greater knowledge and understanding of environmental issues
- Stimulating interest in environmental change
- Improved project management skills
Impacts on delegates and stakeholders
- A number of delegates were moved by the speech and saw the presence of the Youth Voice project as an important reminder that the consequences of decisions being made would be inherited by the next generation.
- Delegates felt that it was important for young people to be involved in the debate about climate change . In light of this, there was concern that the panel was gimmicky and tokenistic, and some suggested the need to provide more context to the conference audience about the Youth Voice and feeding the presentation into the conclusions presented at Rio+20. 
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The case study and extended case study suggested the following lessons from the project.
Successful operation of a project involving young people in this way requires clarity of purpose overall and of the specific purpose of the different activities in which members are involved. During the workshop, the purpose of some activities and how these related to the overall aims of the workshop were unclear to some project members. At the end of the workshop, a couple of young people were still unsure of what role they would play at the conference.
Secondly, during a project where members will have to work remotely for the majority of the project, it is important to structure face to face activities so there is sufficient time for brainstorming ideas and planning. Some of the young people felt the sessions held in the workshop were rushed and some felt there was not enough time for discussions. “Running out of time” was rated as the worst thing about the workshop by a third of the Youth Voice members. 
Some of the young people also thought it would have been helpful to have additional face-to-face interaction or conversations after the workshop to prepare the speech. This would have ensured the momentum of work was maintained and that all members of the group participated consistently.
Conference delegates, stakeholders and members of the Youth Voice project suggested a number of opportunities for increasing the impact of the Youth Voice project speech including a more central position of the Youth Voice project stand, a more active or increased role in the conference and provision of more context of the Youth Voice project and how it was meant to feed into the Rio+20 conference. Co-ordination with the other youth element of the conference, responsible for preparing the youth statement in the ‘state of planet declaration’, could have been a way to ensure the views of the Youth Voice project directly fed into the conference conclusions.
Some delegates felt that the Youth Voice presentation needed to be the start of a bigger piece of work, which continued to engage the public and young people, and could begin to build a consensus about environmental and sustainability issues and solutions .
 Sciencewise (2012) “Case Study: Planet Under Pressure “Youth Voice””
 Sciencewise (2012) “Case Study: Planet Under Pressure “Youth Voice”” [Online] Available at: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20170110132527/http://www.sciencewise-erc.org.uk/cms/planet-under-pressure-conference-youth-voice/
 OPM (2012) “Expanded Case Study: Planet Under Pressure “Youth Voice””