Or why we should focus LESS on the future and more on the FUTURE GENERATIONS

Welcome to the Open Climate Policy Lab

(read about the first reactions – youth quotes from our applications)

Introduction  – A coffee with a fellow policy junkie 

A year ago I was sitting in a cafe with a friend, and a fellow policy junky and political scientist, Marko Kovačić. Knowing fully well how doctors feel when every coffee they ever have, ends in them pretending to care about our particular health problems or hypochondriac and assuming the same for all experts, I carefully approached the subject of youth participation while Marko sipped his coffee. Luckily, Marko is the kind of expert that gets excited discussing my particular kind of youth participation hypochondria and his ears pricked up or so I let myself believe, when I told him: “Listen, we have to make policy and politics cool again for kids and I think I know one way of doing it”. I have just come from yet another conference with yet another session asking why is youth not participating (in politics). I turned to Marko and pitched: “I think that the answers are not wrong, the question is wrong. The question is not why the youth is not participating or what we imply they are doing wrong or not enough of, the question is why are we, the old people, creating policy that in content and in tools fails for a large and possibly most important group in our society? We are giving them typewriters and asking them why they are not creating apps with it.“ I continued, while Marko finished his coffee, looked up and nodded. “Ok, I think that makes sense. Let me know how I can help.” he said. Fast forward a year and a half, a lot of fundraising, saving funds within the company for an impact project, talking to partners, with Croatia backsliding in open government and usual partners such as UNDP and OGP leaving or losing interest in the area, we had our work cut out for us. Luckily, we ended up working with the British Embassy in Zagreb and consequently with the UK Policy Lab, and we are now a week from our Open Climate youth policy lab with the ultimate goal to provide knowledge, tools and access to social capital for youth trying to change climate policy in Croatia. As well as a digital tool that youth can use to deliberate and engage decision makers after the event and for other topics as well thanks to Sam Butler and his team for digital dissemination and deliberation. Marko, as I am sure you already suspected, is of course volunteering as one of the policy solutions facilitators, and most likely avoiding me during the event in case I have any new projects in mind. 

How is this different from other events?

We are so glad you asked! As experts in the field of social impact hacking, we focused on three areas that we plan to impact and will be measuring how well we did that. 

We are putting youth first

We always focus on critically examining the impact we create and not just the effect. We therefore take special care, when working with groups that are in higher risk of being vulnerable or socially excluded to always have that in mind. The same was true for Open Climate. Some of the things we put in place: 

  • We don’t have any key speakers, we have key listeners – we will have specifically designed think thanks of experts that will be at the disposal for the youth during their work. 
  • We have passed a general ban on presentations or speeches, we don’t want to speak at youth we want to listen and support. 
  • We have engaged youth experts, facilitators and coordinators to ensure the content is created by youth as well, and to ensure youth role models
  • We ensured the digital dimension to include those that couldn’t come but also the technologies that youth will create to use themselves
  • We have experts and workshops in fact checking, digital storytelling to ensure we address issues that are important for this generation
  • We created special sessions and changed the agenda and methodologies according to applications we received
  • We attempted (and somewhat failed) to include an equal number of young men because we feel that we have to examine if women leading in climate and environmentalism has roots in sexism and teaching women, and not men, to be nurturing
  • We had quota of at least 30% of participants not coming from the capital
  • We included Fuckup nights and speaking about failure in the program to question authority but also to have a conversation about dealing with failure in this very visible world of ours
  • We added an extra session on how to take care of yourself while taking care of the environment, led by a psychologist and tailor made for activism at such young age and such a life threatening topic
  • We threw out role playing exercises for lobbying and advocacy and ensured the youth participants will have access to decision-makers sitting in the room and available and open to hear their solutions
  • We are ensuring not just sharing our social capital but also teaching how to build social capital by turning the Uk Ambassador’s reception into a networking game with networking missions assigned to each team. Luckily we have a great UK Ambassador in Croatia that will host the reception by waiting to be networked by the youth:)

We are changing the trends in the solutions game

Too often, when speaking about social impact we are dealing with corporations in forms of CSR, startups, social enterprises, campaigns and NGOs. Too often, we forget that policy and politics, the regulatory framework – in fact impacts all of that and that policy is the master social impactor. Because of the anti-establishment sentiments and general lack of trust in institutions and governments, focus on policy has all but disappeared. Instead we are focusing all our attention, funds and expertise in countless challenges, innovation sprints, impact investments. Which should all exist and flourish of course. But in the meantime policy and politics are left in the shadows. And policy should never ever live in shadows as it has a very bad historical tendency of impacting us in a disastrous way if we leave it there. The more we are disappointed with politics and policy and the less we engage in it, the more we give it power to negatively impact us. This is why we wanted to shine the light back on policy – in this case climate policy. We decided to open it up, see if youth is still interested in it if we approach it in the right way (they are!) thus knowing it is not them but us to blame, or rather – to step up and take the responsibility. 

We are insisting on open policy

Open policy is not a good idea, it is a necessity. Not just because co-creation and inclusion simply makes for better policy, but because it makes it transparent and on top of that because, as political scientists, we know that the more conflicts you resolve in the earlier stage of policy making the better policy you will have and the easier politics path is ahead of you. Receiving inputs (criticism) at a very late stage or even, in Croatia often, after the policy is formed, creates political conflicts that by then have so much political capital tied in them, that they are not constructive. Political and policy conflicts can be very constructive in an early stage and if foreseen, and supported in a strategic way. This is the reason we focused on open policy in the case of climate in Croatia. We used the methodology of a somewhat redesigned policy lab. We added, with the help of Code for Croatia, Information Commissioner, Office for Ngos and the We are outriders a day for policy research, to ensure our policy solutions are data-based. We added open data, factcheck and digital storytelling before the policy solutions day as well as a lobbying and advocacy day with the assistance of The Good Lobby and the Euronavigator after it. During the policy day we co-created with Snajan Sabherwal from the UK Policy lab a workshop starting with Climatopia designing and grouping youth according to what their visions for the climate are. We will then continue building a (policy) roadmap with each team, to their desired Climatopia. Along the way we will stop for a quick exercise in behavioral bias and values check, ensuring that we pick up every stepping stone we laid down and examine underneath it to ensure we are critical and aware as to what decisions and what turns in policy we take. We want the policy to be open both in participation and stakeholders as well as in content. We will deliberate with those outside the room digitally  and will have a tailor-made climate think tank in the room at the disposal of the youth participants to keep checking and rechecking their ideas and solutions. We have Terra Hub, Institute for Political Ecology, Sustainable Life and other experts. With the help of the Academy for Political Development in Croatia, we will organise climate talks – 4 tables of decision makers divided by sector to – administration, civil society, corporations and political parties; ready to be lobbied and advocated, ready to be pitched by youth participants on the solutions they have built. This will be the first open policy lab implemented in Croatia and we are very excited to see and measure the results.