This month we officially launch Youth for the Ocean (Y4O) – an initiative to collaboratively accelerate youth engagement and develop youth leaders for a healthy ocean. We’re excited to partner with you!
Y4O will complement and enhance related efforts at The Ocean Project to advance ocean conservation in partnership with zoos, aquariums, museums (ZAMs), youth, and many others worldwide. For 20 years, The Ocean Project has supported ZAMs and our other partner organizations in a variety of ways through innovative and effective visitor and public engagement programs and campaigns that result in conservation impact. Since 2002, we have served as the global collaborative coordinator of World Oceans Day, on June 8 with continued year-round involvement, to help our network of partners do even more to increase awareness about the importance of protecting and conserving our shared ocean and help activate people from all sectors.
We’re looking to work with like-minded partner organizations to create a global network of youth-focused ocean groups to unify, amplify, and strengthen efforts taking place around the world. As in all we do, we look to make strategic connections, enhance existing efforts, and push forward aggressively to protect and restore our ocean.
To grow this new initiative and help us collaborate as closely as possible with you and our network of hundreds of partner organizations, The Ocean Project is pleased to announce a new addition to our team: Rachael Coccia. As Director of Youth Initiatives, Rachael will help our partners create connections that engage young people for ocean conservation in a variety of interrelated ways. Click here to learn more about Rachael!
Why Major Emphasis on Youth?
Youth engagement and leadership development has been one of The Ocean Project’s top priorities for the last decade. This is not only because youth make up nearly one-half of the world’s population, but also because our comprehensive public opinion research, conducted for many years with IMPACTS, has consistently shown youth as a critical audience to focus on in order to bring about long-term positive changes connected to climate, ocean conservation, and other related environmental issues.
As a result, and thanks to multiple grants from NOAA over the years, we supported our partner ZAMs to focus on engaging youth (and minorities) for action through a grants+ program, which included financial support plus strategic communications coaching. We also shared those results widely including lessons learned through our growing network to help the entire community become more effective for conservation engagement.
Empowering Youth for the Ocean
The Ocean Project has been collaborating to create platforms for young people to speak for our ocean, inspire a global audience of young and old alike, and ensure decision-makers fully recognize the importance of involving youth throughout the process of creating a more sustainable society.
As part of this initiative, we will be providing information, tools, and resources to support efforts that empower youth. This will include a platform for coordination of advocacy and strategically targeted action opportunities to improve national and international policy. We will also connect youth worldwide, highlight and amplify the most exciting and effective efforts with youth in action, and share lessons learned to help youth become even more effective advocates for protection and conservation of our world’s shared ocean.
As we continue to grow this initiative, we’ll be looking to work closely with partner organizations to inspire, activate, and empower young people; connect existing youth efforts, develop young leaders, and grow new engagement on important issues.
World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council
In 2016, we created the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council (YAC) to expand the reach and impact of World Oceans Day – not only to unite the world for our ocean on June 8, but also engage in advancing ocean conservation year-round. YAC members are instrumental in helping shape the development of World Oceans Day – providing new and unique perspectives, ideas, and recommendations for action. We provide opportunities for them to speak directly with world leaders. For example, last year YAC representatives spoke at the UN General Assembly in NYC, the Our Ocean Conference in Malta, and other key conferences. For 2018, we doubled the size of the Youth Advisory Council to 20 outstanding young leaders from 17 diverse countries. In the process of selecting the 10 new members, we received interest from over 800 young people from dozens of countries, many of whom we will also be working with based on geography and issue.
Sea Youth Rise Up
In 2016, The Ocean Project teamed up with Big Blue & You and Youth Ocean Conservation Summit to launch Sea Youth Rise Up. This is an annual collaborative campaign around World Oceans Day to get young people – including those affiliated with aquariums, zoos, and museums – more involved in advocating for policy improvements, as well as the arts and media, for ocean conservation. Among other outcomes, the 2016 delegation’s meeting at the White House was critically important in securing the designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument and the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, at the time the world’s largest Marine Protected Area. The 2017 delegation played an instrumental role during World Oceans Day week in NYC. There, Sea Youth Rise Up received the World Ocean Festival’s Turn the Tides Award, presented by the President of the United Nations General Assembly, recognizing our work to elevate the role of youth leadership in ocean conservation. Youth from numerous ZAMs, and from several different countries, were involved in both delegations. We’re gearing up now for Sea Youth Rise Up 2018! Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.
Teaming up with Aquarium and Zoo Youth Programs
Working closely with ZAM youth programs, we are looking to provide engaging opportunities to keep young people actively learning and involved in helping protect and conserve our blue planet, starting from an early age and continuing throughout their entire lives.
Over the last several years, we’ve found that young people want to connect with their peers, nationally and internationally, to help create action and positive change at a scale commensurate with the size of the issues facing our ocean. In addition to annual advocacy opportunities with Sea Youth Rise Up, we’re looking to create more youth engagement and leadership development opportunities specifically with our ZAM partners throughout the year.
Our new Director for Youth Initiatives, Rachael Coccia, is already starting to connect with youth and teen program coordinators to find out how best we can help. This includes helping youth already involved at ZAMs connect with others around the world and learn about specific opportunities for involvement. More coming soon on this front!
The Ocean Project has been a strong proponent of engaging children in age and developmentally appropriate ways. Each year, World Oceans Day provides a unique opportunity for ZAMs and other organizations to engage their visitors and the public, and we’ve made sure to include many opportunities for parents and their children. For instance, we’ve partnered for the last several years with the Octonauts to bring fun ways to engage young children in learning about the ocean. For 2018, we’re adding Splash & Bubbles as an additional key partner to help better engage this demographic. For World Oceans Day 2017, nearly 50% of the 1000+ events featured youth activities and for 2018 looking to boost those numbers even higher!
Partnering with Unite for Literacy to Build Ocean Literacy
To help instill a stronger sense of the importance of the ocean and the interconnectedness of life with young children and their families, we developed a partnership with Unite for Literacy in 2017 to develop and curate a series of children’s books related to the ocean. To start, we published World Oceans Day as a free online resource; the book is narrated by YAC members and others in multiple languages. Printed copies of the books have been distributed worldwide. This book, and numerous others developed by our partners, are now available as part of an online Global Ocean and Aquatic Library for beginner readers and their families. All books are available to print and distribute widely in communities around the world. For 2018, we will launch an “Ocean Heroes” series and consider other ways to engage children and their families in learning more about the ocean and how each of us is connected to it, no matter where we live.
How You Can Get More Involved with Youth for the Ocean
We’re excited to launch this major new initiative to engage more young people worldwide in creating a better future! As always, we are looking to collaborate with our partners and add value to your activities as much as possible. If you are interested in any specific aspects of this initiative, we would like to work with you! If you have suggestions on how to better connect youth around the world, it would be great to hear your thoughts. Please contact: Rachael Coccia, Director of Youth Initiatives, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to our Supporters
The Ocean Project would like to thank our Supporters who have made possible the launch of the Youth for the Ocean initiative! Our work is funded in part by The Curtis & Edith Munson Foundation, The Henry Foundation, The Ocean Foundation, and the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation has supported our work with youth. Procter & Gamble is a key sponsor and founding partner of Youth for the Ocean and is a company with a long-standing history of sustainability innovations. We also would like to thank our aquarium and zoo partners that support us. Our Supporters are also listed as sponsors of World Oceans Day.