Co-designing Scotland’s young people’s forest

March 21, 2022 by No Comments | Category Children & young people, Guest blog, Participation in action

To celebrate International Day of Forests, we invited Young Scot and YouthLink Scotland to tell us more about the landmark Young People’s Forest project and how they have been progressing this work with young people.

Young Scot is the national youth information and citizenship charity. YouthLink Scotland is the national youth work agency.

The Young People’s Forest

Scotland’s Young People’s Forest is an innovative project – it will be the first forest in Scotland co-designed and governed by young people. A panel of 13 young people were recruited in April last year and are supported by Young Scot and YouthLink Scotland through the co-design process. The project is possible thanks to the support of Corra Foundation, NatureScot, Pears Foundation, Accenture, Scottish Enterprise and Wood PLC.

The co-design approach

Young Scot’s approach to system change with young people aims to empower them to discover insights and shape ideas for improvement. By sharing power with organisations and developing engaging and ethical design models, the young people are supported through a four stage co-design process:

  • Explore – frame the vision, probe problems and question the big picture
  • Create – seek opportunities to prototype and play with ideas to take a deeper dive into the issues
  • Disrupt – test ideas in the real world and question the future to learn if they have value
  • Act – share learning stories and pitch bold ideas to challenge decision makers and influence real system change

Co-design is focused on bringing people together with experts in the field to identify problems and develop solutions together, valuing the knowledge that both groups bring to the table.

Throughout the process, the panel has had guidance from an Expert Advisory Group of leading experts in forestry, land, and environmental engagement. It has representation from Forestry and Land Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful, John Muir, The Tree Council, RSPB, Institute of Chartered Foresters, Scottish Land Commission, NatureScot, Forestry Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, Wood PLC, Corra Foundation, Pears Foundation, Accenture, Scottish Enterprise and Woodland Trust.

The project so far

The project has come a long way since it began in April 2021. The panel started by identifying their gaps in knowledge around forestry, mapping out some initial ideas, and writing their mission statement. This gave them the structure and direction to create five objectives to focus on going forward.

The young people then had two sessions with the Expert Advisory Group. The first was with Scottish Land Commission, where the panel heard about different ownership models, and had the chance to evaluate and assess case studies of forestry and land examples across Scotland.

Person lifting turf in a field to inspect

Copyright Young Scot 2022, used with permission.

Next, the panel visited Nethercroy Forest where they heard from Scottish Forestry about multipurpose forestry and forestry management. This gave the panel an opportunity to visualise different uses of land which they might want to consider in the development of their own forest. They also got the opportunity to explore Nethercroy consultation documents, which helped guide their thinking for their own consultation.

A consultation was designed by the panel in October to hear from young people across Scotland about what a Young People’s Forest means to them. It was one of the first chances to share the project with young people across Scotland and it was pivotal in cementing ideas and creating new avenues to explore. 150 responses to the survey were collected, with key findings emphasising the importance of accessibility, mental health, and location.

In the buzz of COP26, the panel met in Glasgow to create their prototypes. The survey, objectives and wider research supported the panel to get all their ideas onto paper, and these were later drawn up by an illustrator. That same weekend, members of the panel spoke at the NYT Climate Hub, COP26 Blue Zone, and visited the COP26 Green Zone.

Group of young climate protestors holding placards

Copyright Young Scot 2022, used with permission.

Next steps for the young people’s forest

The panel has identified six potential sites for Scotland’s Young People’s Forest, and the next steps are exploring how they could meet the needs identified in the prototypes. The panel spent weeks researching and assessing before our big residential at Broomlee Outdoor Education Centre on the weekend of March 12th. All partners were invited to hear from the young people about the sites, give feedback on the prototypes, and support their decision-making. It was a huge success, and a critical moment in the project.

Young people seated in groups discussing and planning

Copyright Young Scot 2022, used with permission.

You can hear why the panel are so passionate about a Young People’s Forest here, and find the panels objectives and goals here. Find out more about our residential here.

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