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On Saturday, April 24, the Berggruen Institute’s Future of Democracy program hosted a deliberative assembly of 18 young people from all corners of Southern California. The diverse group, selected for their passion about fighting climate change, debated and developed specific recommendations for the design, structure, and implementation of proposed climate jobs programs.
“This was a valuable and necessary exercise in deliberation and consensus building, and I hope policymakers listen to what we’ve recommended,” said Kylie Francisco, a Los Angeles student and an assembly participant. “We all came from different backgrounds, but through a creative methodology, we were really able to understand each other and determine policy priorities for protecting communities from the effects of climate change.”
The roundtable was the inaugural event of the Institute’s Youth Environment Service (YES) campaign, an effort to center youth voices in the conception and leadership of programs in which young people will be employed to fight climate change through adaptation, mitigation, and crisis preparation. This campaign is inspired by the fact that young people – especially young people of color – will be most affected by climate change, and should therefore be empowered to lead the fight against it.
As a part of their recommendations, roundtable participants emphasized that climate jobs programs must specifically target environmental racism and structural inequalities. Furthermore, participants specified that climate jobs programs must pay living wages and be actively led by local communities, rather than a top-down leadership hierarchy. These recommendations will be packaged into formal proposals that the Berggruen Institute will promote and share among climate jobs program leads and policymakers at the local, state, and federal administration level. The Berggruen Institute hopes that this process can be repeated across the nation, foregrounding youth perspectives among policymakers and encouraging bottom-up governance of climate jobs programs.
“Today’s youth are disproportionately engaged in the climate crisis, vulnerable to its hazards, and knowledgeable about local conditions and resources,” said Dawn Nakagawa, Executive Vice President of the Berggruen Institute. “It is crucial that their voices take the lead in shaping efforts to limit damage from climate change in their communities.”
This deliberative assembly used the “creative assembly” methodology of Sense LA, a Berggruen Institute program dedicated to fostering new methods of civic deliberation and community governance in Los Angeles. Based on technology design strategies developed in the MIT Media Lab by Berggruen Fellow Gabriel Kahan and Professor Alexander Slocum, the creative assemblies use a variety of techniques to break down preconceived political concepts and facilitate open-ended discussion and divergent thinking, helping participants build unexpected common ground and develop more creative solutions to civic problems.
Future YES events will include other deliberative assemblies and town hall meetings with young people and elected officials to promote and inform the creation of climate-fighting jobs programs. The next YES event will be a deliberative polling event at Stanford University featuring the methodology of Professor James Fishkin on May 1 and 2, 2021. The Institute plans to be active in pushing for these proposals among policymakers at COP 26, the September 2021 UN gathering of global leaders to plan the continued fight against climate change.
“From the COVID economy to the looming climate crisis, young people globally face greater threats than any generation alive today,” said Nakagawa. “Elevating youth voices is one way to make sure the rising generations are engaged and employed in confronting the challenges of 2021 – and the 21st century.”
The idea for YES originated in the Institute’s 2019 report on democracy reform, “Renewing Democracy in the Digital Age,” as a strategy for reducing polarization by building social cohesion and shared purpose among young people. The report was developed by a broad range of democratic practitioners and reform theorists, including Francis Fukuyama, Mario Monti, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
About the Berggruen Institute:
The Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop foundational ideas and shape political, economic, and social institutions for the 21st century. Providing critical analysis using an outwardly expansive and purposeful network, we bring together some of the best minds and most authoritative voices from across cultural and political boundaries to explore fundamental questions of our time. Our objective is enduring impact on the progress and direction of societies around the world. To date, projects inaugurated at the Berggruen Institute have helped develop a youth jobs plan for Europe, fostered a more open and constructive dialogue between Chinese leadership and the West, strengthened the ballot initiative process in California, and launched Noema, a new publication that brings thought leaders from around the world together to share ideas. In addition, the Berggruen Prize, a $1 million award, is conferred annually by an independent jury to a thinker whose ideas are shaping human self-understanding to advance humankind.
About the Future of Democracy Program:
The world has transformed since democracies emerged; powerful non-state actors, unregulated digital networks, and increasingly hostile dialogue are testing the limits of representative institutions built for a simpler time. The rise of authoritarianism is a symptom of the breakdown of the institutional trust on which democracy has long relied. The Future of Democracy program brings together leading thinkers from across disciplines to reimagine democracy for the 21st century. Together, we will work to rebuild and solidify transparency, responsiveness, deliberation, and the rule of law to our governing institutions and the public square.