Isobel Shaw is a marketing student and sustainability enthusiast at the University of Kent, currently interning with Orchard Community Energy to develop its digital marketing strategy. She considers how community energy societies can engage more effectively with young people.
Community energy is often seen as an area of interest mainly for those at, or approaching, retirement age, but are societies missing an opportunity to engage a whole other demographic? Young people are increasingly interested in environmental and social issues, a growing concern reflected in their changing consumer behaviour. Despite this move, there is still a struggle to engage young people in community energy. Below are five ways in which community energy societies can more effectively build awareness in young people, connect with them, and ultimately engage more people in the energy system.
Education is our most powerful tool when it comes to building awareness of the climate crisis in younger generations. If we can provide an understanding, and nurture a passion, before people reach an age where they start thinking about investing, we can make sure engagement exponentially grows over the next crucial decade. Working with local schools, colleges, youth clubs, and universities is the first step to creating awareness. Partnering with other organisations or companies that connect with your audience, such as ethical brands or local social media influencers, can help reach your audience, and give your message more impact. Start by looking into local zero-waste shops or independent ethical clothing stores, which are likely to resonate with a younger audience.
Make it personal
Generation Z value individual expression. Their consumption is a reflection of their identity, whether it’s purchasing from ethical fashion brands, buying luxury items, or positioning themselves within a certain subculture. Encouraging young people to volunteer with, and ultimately invest in, community energy requires a huge focus on values. If you don’t make clear your organisation’s ethos, mission, tone of voice, and character, you miss out on connecting with those who identify with what you stand for.
Stories resonate with people, and help build a genuine connection between consumers and causes. Showcase meaningful stories of how community energy, and your organisation, has made an impact on your local community, the wider environment, and investors. This storytelling is crucial to creating that all-important personal connection, and is an effective way of showing how community energy works, what benefits it brings, and how people can help.
What matters most
Young people prioritise issues they face on a daily basis; housing, employment, mental health, and economic precarity routinely beat environmental concerns due to the immediate challenges they present. While young people are increasingly concerned about the climate crisis, this isn’t translating into action. It is vital that organisations make clear the link between the environment and other issues which young people face. The impact of climate change on rising economic inequality and rapidly developing and shrinking industries is exacerbating challenges already being faced. Make that connection clear, and more young people will want to take action.
We The Power
Young people are facing a host of challenges, which can be overwhelming and disconcerting. Feeling powerless in the face of such issues, and feeling a lack of agency or control, is holding back many young people from acting on their beliefs and values. Handing over the power to make concrete change in their community, through direct involvement as investors or volunteers, is crucial to creating a more engaged generation, by making sure their voice is heard, and showing them that their involvement has a direct impact on the issues they care about.
Find out more about Kent-based Orchard Community Energy here.
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