Or how we designed, implemented and measured the impact we can have, on open policy, climate change and youth participation



It is the last day of the lab and time for Climate Talks. I am sitting at private sector tables of decision-makers. Groups of young people (14-30) are moving from table to table, reaching out to shake hands and sitting down to negotiate, lobby and advocate. The Climate and Meat Industry group approaches us, formed ad hoc, based on a shared interest in reducing cruelty to animals and negative impacts of the meat industry on climate and environment. For the last three days they have researched, used open data, learned about fact checking, consulted with two tailor-made think thanks, and worked on reexamining and ironing out their policy solutions, as well as had a half day training with some of the best lobbyists in Europe. 

They explain their solutions of implementing a well designed quality meat certificate system based on the square meters of life space for each animal, and therefore slowly moving the industry in Croatia, towards more human conditions, sustainable farming and breeding more poultry and less red meat. Around the table  sceptic eyebrows of fellow-decision makers, slowly relax, and trickle down into smiles and nods. I can tell the table is impressed, and even more importantly, interested. They have questions about costs and timelines and comparative cases worldwide as I am trying to signal to our still-nervous youth participants that questions about costs means that your first lobby meeting has gone exceptionally well. As we are finishing the Climate Talks, excited decision-makers linger, talk to each other, the youth and, thanks to some impromptu training in networking, provided by the UK Ambassador, business cards and contacts are exchanged. 

In designing the Open Climate Lab we centered our theory of change around four main impact goals (you can read about our policy lab design here) which we evaluated and redesigned after receiving applications from youth (read application extracts). Now it was time for evaluating and measuring the impact we had:



Did we empower and support youth engaged in climate solutions? 

(outcomes measured through participation and impact through increase in confidence and motivation)

  • 33 applications and 22 youth participants 
  • youth confidence gain was evaluated between 90 and 95%, and motivation increase  around 85%
  • 2 out of 5 teams have self-organised continued work on solutions after the workshop
  • During the session with the psychologists, when asked about what reduces anxiety around climate change and feeling powerless youth participants named open climate policy lab – mutual support and being heard by “adults” as examples of what helps them 

Did we provide skills and knowledge needed in participants’ work?

(outcomes measured through content provided and impact through increase in self-evaluation of skills, and applicability)

Content provided: Open Data research (By Code for Croatia), Fact-checking (by Demagog), Policy Lab Workshop (By Policy Lab UK, Impact House and Marko Kovačić), Lobbying Workshop (By Euronavigator and The Good Lobby), Think Thank for Youth (Information Commissioner, Office for Cooperation with NGOs, Hauska & Partner, City of Zagreb, Ministry of Environmental protection and Energy, Institute for Political Ecology, Terra Hub, Dunja Mazzocco Drvar)  Climate Anxiety and Support Workshop (Zagreb Psychology Association), Lobbying with decision-makers (Academy for Political Development and Impact House), Digital policy lab (Impact House, Sam Butler, youth participants)

Skills were evaluated as raised between 50 and 90% and 42 to 76% of youth participants have a clear plan on how they will use what they have learned in their current work/activities

Did we successfully test policy lab and boost open government?

We had 3 requests within 2 weeks post-event for replicating the policy lab

2 participants have conducted further interviews and have written in their communities about the policy lab

Policy lab expert Snajan Sabherwal gives an interview about the concept

At the beginning of the policy lab none of the participants perceived policy solutions as a way to resolve the problems they chose to tackle, by the end of policy lab we had 5 teams with 9 detailed policy solutions ranging from legislation, investment, campaign, sanction and other ways in decision-makers can act

Did we succeed in ensuring youth voices are heard and considered?

Youth participants consulted with 8 experts in the field (organised as their think thanks during the process) and lobbied 4  groups of 13 decision-makers: civil society  (NGO,media and university) public administration (national and city administration, public agency) private sector (association of enterprises, corporation, social enterprise)  and political parties (right and left wing politcal party representatives) 

Lobbying exercise was singled out most often as useful for youth participants

A student radio show interviewed organisers about the policy lab post-event

A participants gave an interview about Open Climate for a radio station in Vukovar

Participants and organisers are working on a digital policy lab based on open climate experience and solutions

Lessons learned:

“Youth are apolitical” is a myth – we teach youth in our education system to replicate ideas of others rather than create ideas themselves, we talk down to youth in our societies, we use tools and create content in policy in a way that is so outdated for this generation. If that context is changed, with appropriate tools and expertise and design, we find out how passionate, motivated and full of ideas youth are in policymaking.

Climate policy in RoC is very fragmented to the individual fields of energy, waste etc, which further decreases its impact and political importance. There is a lot of work to be done in coordination and tackling the problem of climate change. This is why we continue to work on the digital policy lab and supporting youth to create change in the field.

We need to cooperate and learn from best examples and practice in designing policy. We are significantly lagging behind in how we create policy, open it up and innovate it. Learning from the UK experts as well as having materials available on the Policy Lab webpage has made the participants, experts and organizers benefit significantly. 

There is a certain patriarchal, old-school patronising authority and approach to listening to youth voices, however on an individual level with so many partners and decision-makers coming in, and providing time and knowledge to create new spaces of discussion there is a lot of room for  intergenerational dialogue. The benefits go both ways as one of the experts told us during the debrief with organisers “This is the first time , after interacting with this group of youth, in 10-15 years I thought Croatia might have a future after all. Other experts commented on how impressed they were with mature and innovative solutions they have heard. We also organised fuckup-nights with experts as part of the event to tackle the existing authority discourse. 

Self-care and support are crucial, especially in the field of young activists fighting for the climate The workshop with the psychologist was considered one of the most useful tools and many participants felt better after discussing the many concerns they have about the future, how they feel and what they can do when they feel anxious, afraid or sad.

Our impact was not just positive but also negative. We have made a mistake of designing the policy lab according to our work process, and have found out it would have been easier for youth participants to have done solutions first and then research. From the evaluation of impact we have taken notice of the struggle participants have had with not having the classic lectures or more structure and are considering being less ambitious in providing new learning experiences and taking participants out of their comfort zone. Our negative impact stemmed not just from our biases but also from lack of funds as well as  we knew three days is a short period and have seen how often participants asked for more time.

Last but not least, the open climate policy lab is fully transparent including the publication of all costs.