15,000 active and energy-literate young people: our vision for working with the DofE

Author: Alexandra Steeland 26/11/2014

As an educational charity, the National Energy Foundation is always looking for ways to further knowledge and understanding of energy in buildings. This is true across all groups of people – even among those who, at the moment, are highly unlikely to be paying bills and taking responsibility for organising their own energy needs.

Energy Envoys for the future

Amongst those who fit this description, few must be as crucial to the future of our energy use as young people. The energy decision-makers of the future – currently in classrooms across the country – will, as a group, present a formidable force on the nature and use of our energy supply and demand over the period of their consumptive life. Engaging with them is a major opportunity and challenge.

We already have experience in the education sector. Previously, the Foundation had funding to take a Big Green Energy Machine across our region, pulling up in schools and presenting generation and efficiency options to students. This hands-on approach was incredibly popular, bringing real-life applications to pupils’ creative attention.

We’ve always started projects in this area with an optimism about this generation’s potential to be the energy solvers of the future. Why?

Repeated studies have suggested that millennials and post-millennials are amongst the most civic-minded and upbeat generations, when compared with all those of the 20th century. There’s a positivity associated with this generation – the ability to view their immediate tools as capable of resolving the problems which they and others face.

Far from the negativity often portrayed, more in-depth understanding demonstrates a confidence and competence which drills action – from the very local, where young people have supported the keeping open of local health facilities using social media campaigns to drive the message to their peers, right up towards the global, where they have been instrumental in driving action at international negotiations on climate.

But, in tune with the challenges of our current energy situation, there's a need for innovative approaches to break through and capture imagination. These generations are also the most ‘advertised to’ in history and have no shortage of things vying for their attention. We need to ensure that young people, despite not necessarily being bill payers themselves, know that they are more powerful than they think when it comes to energy in their homes, schools and all the buildings around them.

Working with The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, we're planning to support thousands of young people to become ‘Energy Envoys’. This is a scheme which will see award participants – which numbered 300,000 in 2013-14 – be given real, hands-on education about improving the use of energy in buildings. It’s all about empowerment, giving some of our most able and involved junior citizens the platform which they require to make the changes they know need to be made.

All DofE participants must undertake a volunteering activity as part of their award – this can extend anywhere from three to 18 months, depending on their level (Bronze, Silver or Gold) and their previous awards experience. We know that interested participants will have a variety of levels of experience and skills, as well as levels of enthusiasm. Therefore, we’re allowing their projects to be entirely directed by them (with a little support from us).

Our Energy Envoys project will consist of:
 

  • A short educational programme, which will provide participants with an understanding of how energy use can be improved at a building level.
  • Project ideas, which will illustrate how participants can engage with their local communities – this will extend directly from our work with local communities around the UK.
  • Support and advice during the process of running projects, which will see participants given expert guidance from our team of energy specialists.
  • Awards on completion of the best projects; thereby encouraging competition and innovation.

Our project is just getting started but, moving quickly, we’re aiming to be ready for the next academic year in September 2015.

With support from external parties, we hope to be able to ensure that this generation’s promise, on this one crucial issue, is fully realised.