Logo Climate Adaptation Groningen

We as youth are the change makers of the future

Could you please introduce yourself? Who are you, what do you do and what is your role at Climate Adaptation Groningen and via which organisation?

Gabriela: My name is Gabriela Milyanova and I work in the field of climate adaptation for the Hanze University in Groningen. My background is in art and design, creating awareness on the impact that creativity has to tackle big societal issues such as climate change.

I am one of the coordinators of the Innovation Lab on Climate Adaptation - a learning community that connects students, researchers and practitioners around the topic.

At Climate Adaptation Groningen, I am the project leader of the Youth for Climate Adaptation Conference (YfCA). Where I am responsible for delivering and executing the program of the YfCA conference on the 22nd of January. My focus has been the program outline and content, mainly all the motivational speakers and workshops.

Joey: My name is Joey Koning, I’m a colleague (THE colleague) of Gabriela, in both the Youth for Climate Adaptation and at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. We basically have the same job in both organisations. My background lies more in science and in the field of spatial planning specifically. Together with Gabriela, I coordinate the Innovation Lab on Climate Adaptation at the Hanze, where we help students develop research and art projects on climate adaptation for their graduation projects or internships. Within the Climate Week, I’ve mainly been involved in arranging everything around the Youth for Climate Adaptation Conference, but I’ve also played a part in collecting best practices on climate adaptation for the Manifestation.

What was the main reason for taking on the program-leadership in the Youth for Climate Adaptation Conference? What drove you in there?

Gabriela: My drive for taking action and new challenges. I have a tendency to jump in the deep waters and learn on the go. It was definitely a big responsibility to take but one with no doubt worth taking. I have learned so much not only about the topic and leadership but also about myself. This project has tremendously inspired me to keep taking action and advocate for climate change adaptation. Moreover, it has been such an inspiring journey to meet all the youth over the globe and give their stories a stage.

Joey: Gabriela’s the program leader of the Youth for Climate Adaptation Conference. I picked up a role at the YfCA for the same reason I took on a role at the Hanze University: because working with young people and empowering them to make a change is very inspiring and motivating. I’ve worked on organising events in the past and it’s always very fun: together with a team, you work on making this one special day happen. There’s lots of energy being channelled up into this one moment, and then it all comes together and you get to experience it. With this event, everything seems to be ten times as big, so I’m curious how the event will turn out.

Why is climate adaptation so important for youth?

Gabriela: I believe we as youth are the change makers of the future. We are the ones to face the strongest effects of climate change so far and it is crucial for us to be involved in the actions and future agenda on climate adaptation.

Joey: Exactly what Gabi said. Essentially, we’re the generation that will grow up in a world of climate change and so we’ll have to deal with the consequences. And however unfair it may seem, it turns out that we’ll have to fight for our inheritance and for a liveable and desirable future. One of the many lessons of this year is that we can only do that through great ideas and collaborations. With this event, we’re seeing and showing how well we’re connected globally, now more than ever before, and that good ideas spread and stick. That makes me hopeful for the future!

Climate adaptation outside the workplace

To what extent do you feel connected to climate adaptation outside your work?

Gabriela: In my personal life, I am working on taking as many actions as possible to reduce my footprint. I feel most connected to spreading awareness on the issue even when I am not working. I think that one of my biggest achievements is that even when I am back in my own country I am opening up discussions on the topic of climate change adaptation with friends and family. I can already notice the changes in small things for example my parents started a more eco-friendly lifestyle, recycling, reusing and implementing adaptation measures to our home. This is how much climate adaptation has become part of my life.

Joey: Climate change has played a role in my life for some time now. I grew up on the countryside, so I took being in nature for granted most of my life. When I first moved to the city, I was quite overwhelmed by the sounds, the crowdedness and pollution, but also the lack of nature and the heat in the summer. You can experience the effects of climate change so strongly in a city! Among other reasons, this has inspired me to pick up a few habits over the years to fight climate change, such as annually compensating my CO2 footprint by planting trees, becoming a vegetarian and picking up trash from the streets regularly. That last one has become much easier with my daily walks during the pandemic. Climate adaptation is a bit harder to accomplish myself, living in a rental apartment block, but I do what I can in terms of spreading awareness and pointing out the problems and solutions.

Teamwork makes the dream work

What exactly does your mutual cooperation look like and what activities do you perform?

Gabriela: Together with Joey Koning we are a team, we work together daily both at the innovation lab and at the organization of the Youth for Climate Adaptation. We have reached a beautiful symbiosis where we are complimentary to each other and use our unique strengths. Together we have met and spoke with each of the speakers and workshop holders compiling a strong program to raise the voices of youth on climate adaptation all over the world. Incorporating the input from our YfCA team on the concept and structure of the program.

Joey: Oh boy, there’s so much to talk about here. Gabriela and I basically do everything together. We sit down most of the mornings to discuss what needs to happen that day, what deserves priority etc. We’ve experienced working together for a while now, so we know how to communicate very well. We know what the other is good at or struggles with, so we help each other out where possible.

Our tasks range from very detailed work to arranging the more overarching tasks. So on a morning we could be working on the bigger lines of the YfCA program, the youth movement, the communications to the outside world and the collaborations with the other events in the Climate Adaptation Week. Then in the afternoon we could be working on approaching speakers and workshopholders, figuring out broadcasting details, writing out a script, etc.

We were both not too experienced in this, so the learning curve is quite steep this year. Bring in aspects of program management, recruitment and engagement of a youth team and collaborations with external partners and you start to get a picture of the chaos that his job brings. It’s quite diverse which makes it fun, but also a tremendous challenge. We constantly feel like we’re forgetting things haha!

The Youth for Climate Adaptation conference...

What do you think is the greatest achievement or what are you most proud of looking at Youth for Climate Adaptation (Conference) so far?

Gabriela: I am very proud of how far we have come. For everything in fact, the small and the big steps, they all lead to where we are today. I am extremely proud of our team and of all the work that has been put into the Youth for Climate Adaptation Conference. Together we have created not only an inspiring event but started a movement!

Joey: We have been able to set up a very packed program with a ton of inspiring youth and organisations. I’m quite proud of the diversity of this all, there’s something for everyone in there! Some of these speakers or workshopholders have done incredible work and it’s been very inspiring to meet up with them and hear their stories. What I’m most proud of however, isn’t of the content of the Conference, but of the road that has lead there. It’s been a year of enormous changes, and with all the uncertainty and risks, we’ve had to turn the event around several times. First from a physical to a hybrid event, then later to a fully online one. I think we’ve shown that we can adapt as well and am very proud that we’ve made the event even better by doing so.

Which event of the Youth for Climate Adaptation Conference are you most looking forward to and why?

Gabriela: I am mostly looking forward to seeing it all come together. It will fill my heart with joy to hear all our speakers, give them stage to express their inspiring stories and participate in the interesting workshops given from all over the world.

Joey: Apart from the program and all the different elements in it, I’m really looking forward to the online festival environment. To facilitate the online broadcasting, the tech team is working on a virtual city where participants can move around in a tiny version of Groningen. In there, you can interact with the environment and freely explore all the things that we’ve been setting up for you. We get to see glimpses of how this will look like every now and then, and it’s turning out awesome! It’s a product of this new era of virtual events, and I can’t wait to experience it!