Members from our Youth Board Connor, Felix, Jessica and Isobel, are representing their team of dynamic thinkers by taking part in a Global Youth Summit hosted by the IUCN, this Spring. They will present at the virtual event and share their expertise on how to effectively immerse young people into the governance of conservation organisations.
As Chester Zoo’s first ever Youth Board, this is a unique opportunity to inspire and educate other organisations to think differently, on a global platform. We speak to Connor Davies, the External Reach Co-Lead on our Youth Board, to find out more about him, and what he, Felix, Jess and Isobel hopes to achieve at the IUCN summit…
Can you introduce yourself and your role on the Youth Board?
My name is Connor Davies, and I have the role of External Reach Co-lead as part of the Chester Zoo Youth Board – alongside Jessica, the other Co-Lead. I’m responsible for reaching out to other organisations, particularly those who are working in conservation and are youth-led, and seeing how we can share advice, work together or learn from each other.
Why did you want to join the Chester Zoo Youth Board?
I’ve been visiting Chester Zoo since I was old enough to remember and some of my strong, formative memories have been from trips to the zoo. It’s been a really great thing to watch the zoo grow and develop into the modern conservation organisation it is now and to be able to grow up alongside this development meant there was always something different and new to see every time we visited. So, when the zoo started recruiting for the Youth Board I applied because the opportunity to play a part in the development of the zoo and to have an impact on a personal level, within this zoo that has provided me with such inspiration and joy throughout my entire life was just an incredible opportunity. I still get quite emotional when I think about the relationship I’ve had with the zoo and now the fact that I can consider myself part of the Chester Zoo team and have a role in shaping the legacy of the zoo in the coming years.
Can you give us an overview of what the IUCN World Conservation Conference is, and what are your plans while you’re there (virtually)?
Back when the Youth Board first started, I was selected to attend the IUCN World Conservation Congress – and specifically the Global Youth Summit they were hosting as part of that Congress, which is the first of its kind. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Congress has been postponed until later in the year, but we’re still able to have a presence at the Global Youth Summit which is happening entirely virtually in April. And while we’re there, we are running a couple of sessions about young governance and how we can integrate the voices of young people into conservation organisations, like we’re doing at Chester Zoo with our Youth Board.
Our sessions will be titled Models of Youth Engagement in Conservation Governance: Making Young Voices Heard, and will feature 6 speakers from different organisations that are led by young people or listen to the views of young people as part of their decision-making. These include organisations from around the world in the UK, The Philippines, Madagascar, Australia and South America; some of which are partnered with Chester Zoo working on conservation projects for species in the wild.
We’ll be talking about why it’s important to listen to young people, how both young people and organisations can benefit from young people being included in decision-making and how we can get other organisations to adopt young governance. By the end of it, hopefully we’ll have helped people to realise the value that young voices can have in organisations, but we’re also hoping to gather enough information to start developing a collaborative toolkit to help other organisations implement young governance.
What are you hoping to achieve from attending the event (what’s the outcome?) and who are you looking to engage and collaborate with?
At the Summit, we’re hoping to collect information about young governance from different organisations and young people that come to our sessions – about how they have implemented young governance successfully, what challenges they have faced and what they learnt from them – and to formulate that into a really good guide for other organisations to use as a starting point. We’re really looking forward to engaging with young people who are interested in having their voice heard within conservation organisations, but we’re also looking to engage with organisations that might be looking to set up youth governance and who want to engage young people in what is quite a new and exciting way.
In your opinion why is it important to have a Youth Board and how does this help Chester Zoo in its mission of preventing extinction?
I think this is a really important opportunity to influence other organisations to listen to young people because young governance can be an incredibly powerful and valuable tool in capturing the views and ideas of a diverse group, and on that historically hasn’t been included in these kinds of conversations. Young people are the future of conservation and are the people that will inherit the climate and biodiversity crisis that we are witnessing and who will be responsible for combating this in the coming decades, so it is crucial to get them involved and motivated to have an impact. Young governance allows the young people involved to have an impact on the decisions that are made and literally impact conservation themselves, but it also means that they are able to communicate with and engage other young people more effectively with the work conservation organisations are doing and helping to influence conservation on a wider scale too.
How can other young people join you and get involved with the work you’re doing – beyond the IUCN World Conservation Conference?
I’d really encourage any young people who are interested in having their voices heard in conservation to attend our sessions at the IUCN Global Youth Summit, on 6 and 8 April 2021, 4-6PM (BST). Beyond the Global Youth Summit, the Youth Board will be involved with several events hosted by Chester Zoo over the next year and are hoping to host a youth-focussed event at the Zoo in Autumn 2021 – so look out for details of that coming later this year. Other opportunities to get to know the Youth Board and what we do and to have your voices heard will always be advertised on our social media @ActforWildlife.