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25 November 2019 

It’s been uplifting and inspiring to see young people across the world come together to demand a more sustainable future. Millions of them have taken to the streets on #FridaysfortheFuture to demand a drive towards sustainable change and to safeguard the planet for generations to come. 

It is wonderful that they are demanding change, but a lack of knowledge of the basic concepts of the science of sustainability and climate change can only hold them back. Imagine the possibilities if these young people were empowered with the knowledge, skills and action-related strategies to become the sustainable, compassionate leaders of tomorrow. With the wellbeing of the planet at the heart of all their actions throughout their lives, we could be sure of a safe and happy future.

That’s why Routes to Resilience has created the Sygnature Award, a programme designed to develop the literacies, skills, mindset and competencies in young adults. Our goal is to help young people drive forward their personal and professional contributions to leadership in sustainability practice and their citizenship in action. The programme, developed in collaboration with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership in South Africa (CISL-SA), is based on a ‘head, heart, hand’ model of personal development, supporting the growth of skills in cognition (thinking skills – ‘head’), emotional connectedness (empathy skills – ‘heart’) and action (motivation and behaviour competencies – ‘hand’).  It is designed to inform, inspire and ignite young people: to awaken their consciousness, nurture their confidence and encourage intentional citizenship action.

The Sygnature Award is made up of three components – Sygnature Skills, Sygnature Experience, and Sygnature Action – which are designed to build upon one another, but can equally exist as standalone experiences.

–      The Sygnature Skills programme focuses on deepening understanding and knowledge of the concepts and principles of sustainability, systems thinking and complexity theory, developing core skills including critical thinking, complex problem solving, creativity, communication and collaboration. These interrelated skills are developed in workshops, interactive seminar discussions and outdoor learning journeys and immersion experiences.  Recognising that, for planet and people to flourish, we must ensure an equitable relationship between the two, the programme has, at its core, the guiding principle of ‘dynamic sustainability’. Learners leave the course with a deep understanding of social and environmental sustainability, as well as valuable transferable skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the 21st century workplace.

–      The Sygnature Experience takes participants on a deep learning journey, creating empathy through a renewal of the connection with nature, and building an understanding of concepts through real-world knowledge and place-based learning. Using nature, culture and history to explore interconnectedness, feedback loops, circularity and biomimicry, our journeys provide a powerful demonstration of principles in action. By experiencing real-life examples of systems thinking and complexity theory, learners appreciate their role in the world and familiarise themselves with the interconnectivity of the natural environment, and social and economic systems. 

–      Sygnature Action builds on the skills development of participants. They will be mentored through a structured programme, strategically using tools such as scenario planning and backcasting, in order to put principles and ideas into practice and achieve a specified goal within their communities. The programme gives participants the opportunity to identify their passion and purpose, and use it to make a difference in the real world. Through reflective activities, learners will develop skills and a portfolio of evidence that they can use to develop their careers.

The Sygnature Award meets the requirements of the service and skills component of the Silver Duke of Edinburgh award in the UK and the Silver President’s Award in South Africa.  

Climate change has impacts far beyond the weather, endangering our planet and affecting all who live on it.  It is all too often the efforts of the middle classes that are heard the most loudly: Greta Thunberg herself acknowledged that she has been ‘lucky’ to have access to the knowledge and platform to drive change that she does. At Routes to Resilience we believe it is crucially important that all young people, no matter what their circumstances, are given the opportunity to learn how to become sustainable leaders; not just because sustainability and social issues are inextricably linked, but also because talent and motivation are found across all of society. We’ve partnered with schools and organisations such as Go for Gold, SAILI and Afrika Tikkun who are helping young people from under-resourced communities to access education and skills that increases employability.

If we do not tap into the talent and motivation of all young people, the planet and all of society are missing out. So let’s empower them and unleash their potential. 

Will you help us #GiveAFuture to young people, to Earth and to us all?

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