A groundbreaking new report from Our Bright Future – a £33 million youth empowerment partnership led by The Wildlife Trusts and funded by The National Lottery Community Fund – highlights the overwhelmingly positive effects of nature on young people and their communities.
The report reveals that learning about nature conservation and environmental issues has a profound effect on young people’s health and wellbeing.
Spending time in nature
Our Bright Future worked with over 128,000 young people across 31 different projects running from 2016 to 2021, helping them develop skills and experience to become the environmental leaders of the future.
As the seven-year project draws to a close, today’s publication reveals that young people were consistently more confident, skilled, happier and better able to find work after participating in the programme and spending time in nature.
95% of participants felt their confidence had improved, 86% said taking part improved their mental health and 81% felt confident they could make a positive difference to the environment.
‘The project gave me a chance to start a career in a sector that I had always been passionate about. Having spent 19 of 24 months unemployed since leaving college, jumping from job to job, this is something that I never thought would have happened.
‘The project opened my eyes massively to the environment around me and what I could do/help others do that would make it a better place for wildlife and people.’
JAMES STUBBS (26)
Project participant, who became involved in the One Planet Pioneers project in Middlesbrough when he was 19
The mental health challenge
The report comes on the heels of mounting evidence that young people in the UK are struggling with their mental health.
Research carried out earlier this year by Place2Be and the National Association of Headteachers revealed that mental health problems among pupils had increased between September 2021 and February 2022, including low self-esteem (86%), depression (76%) and constant feelings of anger (68%).
The Our Bright Future report outlines significant outcomes for young people who participated in the project, including improved mental health and wellbeing; increased self-esteem and self-confidence; new skills, knowledge and qualifications and increased employability and aspirations for work and learning.
‘This report proves just how important it is to give young people practical experience to learn about nature, climate, and wider environmental issues. Our natural world is the bedrock of our society, but it is under serious pressure. We need to foster a new generation of green leaders to find solutions to the biggest environmental challenges of our time.
‘The success of Our Bright Future shows what can be achieved when people and organisations work together.’
Chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts
Empowered to act for nature
The report reveals that Our Bright Future has enabled almost 9,000 young people to gain qualifications, over 1,600 to enter apprenticeships and more than 200 young entrepreneurs to start a business or social enterprise.
The project also had an impact on career ambitions, with 40% of alumni surveyed stating that participation in Our Bright Future influenced them to pursue an environmental career.
Overall, almost two-thirds (65%) of participants surveyed said that taking part in Our Bright Future had considerably increased their appreciation of the natural world, with 63% saying that their belief that they can make a difference to their local environment had similarly increased.