Scaling up the UNEP/UNESCO YouthXchange Initiative


Lead organization: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


Download: Click YouthXchange Training Kit on Responsible Consumption for the publication in English. Additional languages and adaptations, as well as thematic and regional YouthXchange publications, please click here.

Summary: Using a combination of printed guidebooks, media and educational outreach, the YouthXchange Initiative engages young people on issues of sustainable consumption and lifestyles. In particular, the project highlights how sustainable consumption directly relates to quality of life, efficient use of resources (both human and natural), waste reduction, ethical issues, fair trade, and general equality issues.

Objective: The objectives of this Initiative are:

  • To raise awareness of sustainable lifestyles with educators, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and youth networks
  • To empower youth to take action on sustainable lifestyles
  • The project also aims for implementation of measures that are tailored to meet cultural and local needs

The story: The project has three broad phases, all implemented through regional partnerships with the private sector, institutional agencies and government:

  1. Translation, adaptation and dissemination of the YouthXchange flagship publication: The YouthXchange Training Kit on Responsible Consumption. During this process, workshops are held to gather research and guidebook materials in consultation with a range of stakeholders. This YouthXchange guidebook covers the impacts of consumption, especially in social and ecological contexts, using illustrative case studies and accessible language
  2. Media outreach: This phase varies considerably across the regions. YouthXchange in the Philippines, for example, focused on participation in national TV shows and interviews in national newspapers that reached over a million people. In Bolivia and Peru, youth workshops were preceded by communications campaigns with posters and radio shows available on school and university campuses
  3. Training and capacity-building workshops to train and engage youth leaders, NGOs and educators in the guidebook's concepts. These workshops are aimed at launching a 'train-the-trainer' movement in each region

Outcomes: The overall YouthXchange Initiative has been implemented in Latin America and the Caribbean, West Asia (e.g. the United Arab Emirates), Asia and the Pacific (e.g. the Philippines) and Europe. In Latin America, over 2000 youth leaders were engaged through the workshops and in the Philippines a bicycle tour reached up to 20,000 people in rural communities. The project has also been adapted and implemented in northern African territories, including Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt.

The project provides a number of lessons for those looking to engage people on sustainable lifestyles:

  • Form partnerships: Partnerships with influential networks and organizations in each region were found to broaden the reach of each YouthXchange project. YXC representatives in the Philippines, the Young Artists Fellowship for the Environment (YAFE), partnered with USAID Sustainable Energy Development Programme, the Reading Association of the Philippines, government agencies and universities.
  • Foster social innovation: YouthXchange uses and connects local NGOs in 22 countries, this has nurtured a youth movement across regions. Facilitating connection is vital to create a movement that is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Know your audience: YouthXchange identified its audience at an early stage. The project engages young people through activities, channels and messages that are fun, personal and positive. They do this by looking at their audienceÕs aspirations and values and tailoring their messages so that sustainability becomes desirable to young people.
  • Use creative and fun methods to engage: The project in the Philippines used a range of different creative and fun methods to engage young people. They launched media campaigns using celebrities, ran bicycle tours, held art exhibitions and theatre performances. The bicycle tour, for example, allowed the project to reach out to over 20,000 people in rural communities. Other mainstream methods of communication may have left them untouched.

Ms. Khairoon Abbas: