Connecting Students and Local Stakeholdersfor a Healthier Environment
📍 Colegio Fuhem Montserrat (Madrid, Spain)
🗓️ 31 May – 1 June 2023
Based on a pre-event survey with selected high school students from Colegio Fuhem Montserrat in Madrid, Spain, we identified the key issues that students found important, both individually and collectively: environmental protection and social justice. We designed an event for the students to discuss these issues and to connect with local stakeholders through fun and inclusive games that allow for joint decision-making. In doing so, students learn about relevant policy actors and processes, while drafting policy recommendations for stakeholders to consider.
30 Students between the age of 16 and 17 from Colegio Fuhem Montserrat in Madrid (Spain) and 8 stakeholders of which two are political advisors, two scholars on ecology and environment, two representatives of an NGO working on gender equality, and two teachers/professors.
The Level Up pilot project in Madrid took place in the facilities of the Colegio Fuhem Montserrat. The school provided us with a large classroom, several tables and chairs, a whiteboard, pens and paper.
The pilot project in Madrid took place over two days. On the first day (31st of May) all participants met in the facilities of the school to participate in the Level Up toolkit that lasted for 6 hours. On the second day (1st of June), the Level-Up team met only with the students for a two hours session to have a deeper reflection about their experience on the Level-Up toolkit.
Topic & Outcome
The participants were asked to create policy proposals on the question: How can we make Madrid more environmentally friendly and socially just? Overall, the participants produced 12 policy proposals that aimed at finding a solution to either a more environmentally friendly or a socially just Madrid.
Preparation Phase (Before Project)
Community: From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to implement at least one pilot project that focused on the voices of the younger generation. We, the Level-Up team members, all come from different language backgrounds and use English as our common language. Therefore we aimed for finding a group of young people that have an advanced level in English. One of our team members had connections with a teacher from the Colegio Fuhem Montserrat and was able to establish a contact for our Level-Up game toolkit. In close cooperation with the teacher we were able find a class of 30 bilingual (Spanish and English) students that were able to participate.
Stakeholders: The stakeholders were chosen in accordance with the most pressing local issues the students identified in a pre-project survey (for more information in the survey see below). To identify stakeholders, it is advisable to work with people who are interested in collaborative projects and have the ability to communicate and listen. In Madrid we are looking for people who are not only experts in the areas required by the surveys, but also know how to manage diverse groups and have previous experience working with young people. We called each of the stakenholders to tell them about the project and to make sure that their questions were answered. We then emailed them details of the project, the results of the surveys and what we hoped they could contribute to the group.
Conduct Survey to define (Local) Problem Spaces
To Download the Pre-event survey for topic Determination
After we established a first contact with the Colegio Fuhem Montserrat, we found the community participants for our Madrid project but we did not know anything about what local topics the students thought to be most pressing in Madrid. The next step therefore was to conduct a survey that determined these problem spaces. For that, we prepared a handout of 5 questions which we send to the students two months prior to the ‘game day’ (see survey under ‘Additional Information’). From the survey we concluded that the most pressing issues the student identified in Madrid evolved around the topics of environment (specifically air pollution) and social inequality. Based on this knowledge we reached out to local stakeholders (in Madrid) who are professionals in these topic areas and invited them to participate in our pilot module.
Familiarisation with Safe(r) to Brave Space Guidelines
To Download the Safe(r) to Brave Space Guidelines
Before the event, we as facilitators familiarise ourselves with the Safe(r) to Brave spaces guidelines and with literature on moderating events and inclusivity.
- We printed and laminated our game cards
- Laptop (to display schedule of the day/timer)
- Pens/Papers (for presentation)
- name tags
- speaker (for background music during the games)
- print consent forms (needs to be signed before or on the day of the project by all participants)
Level 1-3: Connection, Deliberation, Creation (on project day)
Level 1: Connection
Level 1 consisted of three games:
- Silo 1. Re(connection): Immersive and artistic introduction to the topic of democracy and the critical state of democracy in the world (10 minutes).
- Silo 2. Communication: Listener and Talker (10 minutes). Our participants were native Spanish speakers but the project was conducted in English. This exercise fostered a first connection between the participants and encouraged them to talk for 2 minutes straight in a foreign language about an informal topic.
- Silo 3. Diversity and Inclusion: Privilege for Sale (30 minutes). The purpose of this activity is to acknowledge and investigate privilege. This provides participants an opportunity to empathetically connected and reflect on the experience of having or not having privilege. This informs participants so that they can identify privileges that they take for granted and encounter in everyday life. This aids participants in exploring diverse perspectives and experiences.
Level 2: Deliberation
To Download An overview of the policy proposals and the results of the preferendum
Level 2 consisted of a guided debate that led the participants through the elaboration of a policy proposal responding to the question ‘How can we make Madrid more environmentally friendly and socially just?’. The students were put into small groups with one stakeholder and each member was assigned a role (Treasurer, Diversity guide, Time-Keeper and Recorder, Poster Presenter, and Sustainability and Health Leader). The groups first familiarised themselves with the rules of the game at Level 0 and then went on to Level 1 which guided them through the choice of a topic to focus on. Level 2 encouraged them to think about the budget needed for their project, Level 3 was about diversity and on Level 4 they engaged with questions on sustainability and health. After a break, the groups went on to Level 5 which allowed them to prepare their poster presentation. This was followed by a poster session during which the poster presenter answered questions other students could have on their team’s project. The students then voted on their favourite proposal through a preferendum.
Level 3: Creation
This consists of a print and/or digital creative product (e.g. poster, art, video recording) summarising participants’ key takeaways from the event.
Students were instructed to take paper and art supplies into the courtyard and find a plant that represents the spirit of the Level Up event. They then studied the plant and made an art piece collectively based on this activity. The end result is a series of collaborative art pieces that will constitute the first output to be added to our living digital archive connecting past and future projects.
After the Project: Participant Feedback
After the project, we conducted a feedback assessment with the students by using the online tool ‘Google Forms’ (see Feedback Form Sample, below). The following slides show the feedback from the participants. The numbers of the answers correspond with attitudes, going from completely disagree or a low score (0) to completely agree or a high score (10).
- Group and numbers: having small groups over larger groups during the Level 1 – Connection and Level 2 – Deliberation creates a more engaging discussion environment by allowing everyone to express opinion in a safe space. The students appreciated this, but some expressed the wish to have debate in the big group after the presentations.
- Time: time was an issue, it felt like we needed to rush through each level, with some participants expressing that they wanted more time for debate. Based on the literature on gamification, we however believe that the Level 2 – deliberation should be restricted in time to allow for some competitiveness but not too strict as to allow the free-flow of ideas. Make sure to set the expectations for how long an activity should take when you give the instructions.
- Preparation: we lacked the time to welcome the stakeholders we invited and felt that they were unsure about the expectations for the event. They thus require a longer and more intense briefing period to prepare for the event.
- Connection: some students regretted that they did not properly connect and exchange with the invited stakeholders. They also felt that they wanted to learn more about policy making. That is why, for the Level 1 – Connection we added another silo called ‘Knowledge sharing’ to allow the community members to get to know the professional and political background of the other guests.
- Bold ideas: some stakeholders told the students that they were expecting them to be more creative for the design of their proposal which contradicted our instructions for Level 2 – Deliberation to design practical and realistic proposals. We believe this led the students to not ‘dream big’ and we now encourage participants, in our instructions, to allow their ideas to flow freely and then to refine them and ask experts (at the different stations, see Toolkit) about the feasibility of their proposal.
- Group cohesion: cohesion was sometimes a problem. We saw that, especially with younger people, it is important to explain what is expected of them step-by-step and by making use of examples.
- Burden: our contact at the school, Sofia, took on a high level of work to ensure that the event could happen. We strongly recommend being aware of how much work is put on individuals for the organisation of an event.
- Preferendum: the preferendum instructions were unclear to the majority of participants. We made sure that for the next pilot, in Brussels, to clarify the ranking system and the value of preferendum voting.
- Dissemination: at the end of the event, we felt like the proposals designed by the students were not fairly used, they could have been disseminated and shared with a larger audience (e.g. students at the school, the neighbourhood, the city of Madrid etc.). That is why we added an entire section for Level 3 – Creation on dissemination to ensure that the projects are viewed and shared.
- Creativity: The participants enjoyed the Level 3 – Creation and the activities we proposed. They particularly enjoyed the session with an external guest, Sata, on resilience where they had to find a plant on their school ground and think about a message they wanted to give to future participants of the Level Up project.
- Game recommendation: The diversity game ‘Privilege for Sale’ worked very well and we recommend it as an activity for the diversity/inclusion silo during Level 1 – Connection.