Best Practices and Critical Criteria to Support Successful Youth-Based Environmental Engagement Programmes: An evaluation of the YEEP framework
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ABSTRACT “Our communities will only reach their potential as vibrant and healthy places when youth are welcomed as full participating members.” (Warner, Langlois, & Dumond, 2010) Environmental degradation and inadequate positive and constructive environmental education has led youth to feel disconnected from environmental sustainability initiatives in their communities. Young people, though typically not seen as active citizens within the community, are becoming exceedingly conscious and supportive of environmental initiatives. Youth engagement is increasingly recognized as a way to guide young people in attaining meaningful and active involvement and achieving action competence. It is in this light that the literature from the fields of environmental education and youth engagement are collectively examined to address these pressing environmental and societal concerns. This explanation will help to uncover how best to design youth-based environmental engagement programs which promote a culture of sustainability and action competence. As acknowledged by Riemer, Lynes and Hickman (2013), limited analysis has been done in support of creating a comprehensive understanding of ‘best practices’ in non-formal environmental programmes where youth have decision-making power despite extensive research conducted on what environmental education and youth-engagement mean and why both theories are important. In bringing together these two bodies of literature, this specific study explores these best practices by examining the theoretical Youth-Based Environmental Engagement (YEEP) framework, developed by Riemer et al. (2013). The YEEP framework, while grounded in sound academic research, has yet to be rigorously compared to real programme development processes. Through development of a pilot program at the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) and case studies of programming at the Sierra Youth Coalition (SYC) and Reduce the Juice (RTJ) organizations the goal is to look at how the YEEP model can be refined to better represent a framework for developing resilient and quality programmes. To guide developers, practitioners, and researchers in designing and evaluating successful youth-based environmental engagement programmes, the results of this research propose a step-by-step nine-phase process as well as a Guideline for Best Practices that is presented for comparison to quality design components. Recommendations to researchers and practitioners are made to guide future research priorities and further examine the strengths of the modified YEEP framework and address the limitations of the thesis. Recommendations to the EAC are made to provide direction on their final evaluation of the YAC: ATACC pilot programme.