‘Walk the Global Walk’ is a three-year international project which focuses on mobilising young people in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Carmarthenshire County Council is working in partnership with Dolen Cymru Lesotho, supporting 15 schools with a focus on climate action. Pupil ambassadors raise awareness of climate change, lead actions in their communities and then come together to share and celebrate their work with decision makers in the annual Global Walk.
Young people are concerned about climate change, with many pupils throughout the world taking part in the ‘Global Climate Strikes’ inspired by Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg. However, despite strong concerns, not all young people want to be involved in action of this nature, and as an local authority we have a duty to ensure our pupils attend school. There is also a feeling that the climate emergency is not receiving enough attention in school, while teachers report heavy workloads and lack of expertise and support to teach about this issue. This can lead to young people feeling isolated and powerless to effect change, in turn leading to feelings of negativity. They need support to take ownership, have agency, and develop empathy.
As part of their work to address climate change and achieve the Wellbeing of Future Generations Goals, local authorities need to engage and collaborate with their school communities to help them realise that they have a vital role to play. Schools do not always know who they can approach for support on climate action and budget cuts may mean that relevant local authority departments now lack capacity for school outreach work.
Carmarthenshire County Council’s Department of Education is a partner in Walk the Global Walk, an initiative funded over 3 years by the European Commission, which supports young people to take action for the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is led by Oxfam Italia and Tuscany Region and connects local government, school communities and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisation) from 11 European nations, promoting collaboration to address three of the SDGs, namely SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG 13: Climate Action and SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
In 2019/20, all 12 of the Carmarthenshire’s secondary schools plus two primary schools had signed-up, with the focus on SDG 13.
The Council, together with Dolen Cymru Lesotho (the other Welsh partner in the project), have been supporting pupils to learn about climate change and take action in their schools and communities by providing:
- A bilingual resource pack highlighting local and global climate change issues and suggested actions
- Training for teachers
- A dedicated online platform and social media
- Leadership training and resource pack for ‘Global Goalkeepers’ (pupil ambassadors for the project)
- Networking events bringing together Global Goalkeepers and their teachers, councillors, relevant council officers, NGOs and volunteers
- A model UN Climate Change conference and Q&A session with councillors
- School visits and small grants to help support SDG community actions
- Support to link with Wales’ twin country, Lesotho, through the Connecting Classrooms Programme and carry out climate action projects with schools in a country already at the sharp end of climate change
- Participation in a climate action digital media campaign competition
- Participation for five Global Goalkeepers and one teacher from the winning school in the International Walk the Global Walk Summer School to meet Global Goalkeepers and local authority representatives from the other nations involved and work on a joint manifesto for climate action
- Participation in the ‘Global Walk’, a high-profile climate action event to showcase and celebrate achievements
The project began with the participation of just 6 local schools and a focus on SDG 11. Over 1,000 pupils were taught using the project resource pack which was well received by teachers. Global Goalkeepers involved over 1,000 people in their community actions which included a sponsored bike ride to promote sustainable transport and a campaign to reduce single use plastic.
Over 250 pupils attended the Global Walk, in the National Botanic Garden on 7 June 2019, with the active participation of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, a large group of visiting teachers from Lesotho as well as other stakeholders. 100% of pupils surveyed said they enjoyed taking part in the walk and 93% stated their commitment to taking further action for the SDGs in future.
In 2019/20 we more than doubled the number of schools participating to 15 including all but one of our secondary schools as well as 2 primaries. 7 of these now have links with Lesotho through the Connecting Classrooms programme.
Over 2,000 pupils have been taught using the Climate Action Resource Pack, which was well received by all teachers.
Over 100 people participated in our networking and action planning event in January 2020. The Local Authority’s Net Zero Carbon plan was explained by Councillor Vaughan Owen while council officers from Transport, Waste Minimisation, and Biodiversity were on hand to suggest practical ideas for taking action in school communities.
Feedback on the event was exceedingly positive with 100% of participants declaring they were highly or very satisfied, 92% of Global Goalkeepers felt highly or very inspired to take action as individuals and 95% to take action in their schools and communities.
An online Walk the Global Walk Summer School event was held on 24th June 2020, which included presentations, and a Q&A session with Council staff and Councillors.
This work culminated in the creation of the Carmarthenshire Climate Action manifesto with its 8 recommendations. This landmark document, which has been endorsed by the local authority, was written by a representative group of Global Goalkeepers, supported by local authority officers and NGOs, all of whom were present at this event. The work carried out in 2019/20 paved the way for successful events and initiatives that followed during 2021, despite the lockdowns resulting from the global pandemic, including a model UN debate on climate action.
I enjoyed the passionate environment and being able to work with students like me
- It takes time to establish who the key people are to carry this initiative forward.
- Schools are very busy places. We have learnt to work with them closely, make explicit the links with other priorities they may have, agree on the timeline early on, and allow them plenty of time to complete activities.
- The views of young people are relevant and challenging and we have a duty to provide suitable avenues of communication for them.
- The learning goes both ways. Both young people and local authority officers and Councillors took a lot from the project and we hope that we can continue the relationships that have been forged and all of the good work started by the Walk the Global Walk project.