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Times they are' a changin

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Times they are a' changin';

A new wave of youth activism promises a broader approach to social change

Learning Task 1: 
Presentation of a Relevant Reading/Project


by Liz Bolzon & Louisa Chow

J. Fairholm & L. Geggie

Click the question mark below for your first question!

Youth and Sustainability?

Article Summary/Overview 

Link to article




  • Activists in "sustainability movement" see common issues in poverty, environmental destruction and deteriorating communities to be: unequal power relations among people and between people an the natural world

  • Youth groups have become key players in new sustainability movements that links social justice and ecological responsibility, local initiatives and global partnerships

  • Youths played a crucial role in the growth of the sustainability movement in 1992 conferences (Youth '92 & Earth Summit)


  Times are a' Changin'

The following 11 steps are crucial for change:

Learn from personal mentors.

Encourage an open and creative adult activist community that recognizes the importance of nurturing youth involvement.

Build local-­regional  & global networks and consciousness.

Be cautious of building youth organizations and coalitions in isolation from our natural allies.

Article suggests that changes in power structures and partnerships with locally and globally are required for successful changes.



Conceptual Framework


Build capacity for independent action and participation at all levels of decision making.

Avoid both "adultism" and "youthism".

Build an analysis that reflects a broad-­based perspective.

Be the change you seek in the world!

(Geggie & Fairholm, 1998)

Support youth experience, knowledge, initiative and contacts.

Use information technologies and face-­to-­face meetings to build group-­to-­group partnerships.

Actively develop internal structures that work towards diversity and equity.


Intended Audience:


Adults, specifically those in political/global organizations 


  • Youth inspiring other youths, but activists cannot only be youths for maximum effects (adults are needed at least as allies/mentors)

  • If youths don't work with adults they will undermine the whole picture of sustainability

Assumptions about young people that underlie the work: 


Missing information

       We would like to know more...

The authors discuss how it is "common among [youth organizations] to use the systems approach in their analysis of social and ecological issues" (Geggie & Fairholm, 1998, p.5).


  • What does a systems approach look like in the structure of a youth advocacy group?
  • Is there intervention from adult partners and mentors in every case, or but a few?
  • Is every use of this approach similar in structure or does it differ in each individual case?
  • Provides context, examples and criticism for youth acting in advocacy groups
  • Provides insight into a relevant and growing movement that we, today, have witnessed come to be
  • Provides examples of alternative groups and initiatives formed by youth for the purpose of advocating for the sustainability movement

Insights on the Article


  • The article is written during the early phases of this initiative (late 90's) when youth were becomming activists and driving social change with the sustainability movement leading to a lack in perspective from the authors into the longetivity of these actions


  • The article is dated, written in 1998, the information is therefore behind in our times, for example when the authors state that the concept of sustainability was "rapidly popularized through novel mechnaisms such as the internet" (Geggie & Fairholm, 1998, p.1)
  • Identifying and fixing the parameters of youth definied in age. According to Geggie & Fairholm, "this has led to a fragmentation into 'younger youth' and 'older youth'. Moreover there is a tendency to fall into 'we' (youth versus 'them' (adult) categories. Such a dichotomy is somehwat false as, unlike race or sex, age is a fluid identity. The boundaries of definition are continually blurred" (1998, p.5)


Insights offered by Authors


Strengths of LifeCycles as a youth advocacy initiative:


  • LifeCycles hopes to "inspire" youth activism for seeing food as a link among pressing social, environmental, economic, and health issues.

  • Lifecycles has an array of focuses that are not limited to the sole grassroot production of food, it aims to create an "awareness of, and a desire to remedy, the structural power inequities that govern social relations and society's relationship to nature" (Geggie & Fairholm, 1998, p.2) 

  • Lifecycles enables people to access land for themselves by eliminating roadblocks

Challenges to youth advocacy groups:

  • Youth advocacy organizations must acknowledge the "potential transitory nature" (Geggie & Fairholm, 1998, p.5) of youth, wherefor they grow and develop outside or past the realm of helping with the advocacy movement. "The challenge to youth organizations is to provide a breadth of activity and decision making ... for individuals to engage in a long-term commitment. Youth initiatives need to establish ways to maintain institution knowledge and memory" (Geggie & Fairhom, 1998, p.5)

  • Youth working in advocacy should consider what their ability and willingness is to participate in order to determine effective strategies for implementing change. Generally regarded as a form of "hands-on activities, protests, alternative education, education forums, and event organizing rather than advocacy or litigation" (Geggie & Fairhom, 1998, p. 5)

  • "Youth for youth organizing has been a key step in the evolution of youth participation" however, "if youth truly believe in the value of diversity, they will have to move beyond youth forms of activism and youth for youth spaces to embrace an activism that recognizes youth's role within a web of relatioships" (Geggie & Fairholm, 1998, p.5)

  • Finally, the authors mention as a challenge for youth advocacy groups that they must learn "how to move their vision from the margins into the mainstream. Popularizing the sustainability movement and transforming social attitudes will require that youth actors find strategies for building legitimacy within popular culture" (Geggie & Fairholm, 1998, p.5)

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What approach?

Systems Approach

    "A line of thought in the management field which stresses the interactive nature and interdependence of external and internal factors in an organization. A systems approach is commonly used to evaluate market elements which affect the profitability of a business"  (businessdictionary, 2016)

Contributions to our understanding of that approach


  • It is a common approach used by youth advocacy groups to challenge the various factors in the sustainability movement (Geggie & Fairholm, 1998, p.2)
  • Allows for an all-encompassing viewpoint of the intricasies linked to the sustainability movement (Geggie & Fairholm, 1998, p.2)
  • "individual, social and ecosystem health are inextricably linked. The systems-approach, advocated by the sustainability movement, acknolwedges all of these relationships when considering the bst way to meet our needs" (Geggie & Fairholm, 1998, p.2)


LifeCycles, as outlined by the authors Geggie & Fairholm (1998), uses a systems approach achieved through the maintenance and development of partnerships and mentoring as well as by addressing power structures.

To learn more about LifeCycles, click the icon above

There were a few projects that were similiar to the LifeCycles Projects that were youth-led and used agriculture as a medium to promote social change. 

Sociedad 21

Partnership with San Jose Youth Centre


  • Empowering Children from ages 7-16 by developing a food self-sufficiency project; marginalized children are then able to produce food for themselves, and also build self-esteem and creativity 

  • Partnership approach in reducing poverty and advancing social justice through farming and reintegration into neighbourhood and the larger society (also allow them to build skills and reduce risk of unemployment) 

Other Related/Similar Projects

by The Gardeners by the Bay


  • A vertical garden, driven by youth to promote innovative forms of urban agriculture

  • 15 street youths and 4 coordinators; every team had a volunteer adult mentor and community advisors 

  • Provided street kids with hands on training and sense of community belonging (had to be drug free during commitment of 6 months) 

  • Empowered street youth through gardening where youth can build skills required for employment

Living Wall Garden Project

Feel free to join the discussion on D2L!


Fairholm, J. & Geggie, L. (1998). Times they are a’changin’: a new wave of youth activisim promises a broader approach to social change. Alternatives Journal, 24(3), 10-17.