BTO Youth Engagement Strategy

Launching the new BTO Youth Engagement Strategy

Katie, Youth Advisory Panel

Katie Monk

BTO Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) member

Katie has always had a passion for the outdoors.  She works to help break the stigma and barriers surrounding nature-based actions, encouraging more young people to appreciate and protect the natural world around them.

The urgency of global challenges makes it crucial to engage young people in conservation efforts, and the BTO Youth Engagement Strategy provides a comprehensive approach to doing so.

The BTO Youth Engagement Strategy’s primary objective is to connect with its younger supporters, acknowledge the barriers they encounter, and consider their views on how to encourage more young people to engage with BTO. 

Alongside this, it aims to give young nature enthusiasts and people who may not already be engaged with nature a voice and an opportunity to learn. 

The Strategy targets inspiring the next generation of birdwatchers and promoting the well-being of young people by creating accessible, youth-led opportunities to engage with nature and science. 

Implementing this Strategy and executing the projects outlined within it will establish partnerships with organisations that share our vision. BTO, young people and the natural environment stand to gain mutual benefits by working together.

Looking back

Over the course of 2020, the first BTO Youth Engagement Strategy was created by 10 Youth Advisory Panel members. This Strategy was developed as a support to guide BTO Youth’s work for the period of 2021–22. Its purpose was to help us concentrate on key areas of youth engagement, while also outlining our foundational values and target demographics.

Our vision for BTO Youth was established, and we identified our priorities: constructing a youth network, interacting with schools and universities, and generating content and resources to engage with 11–25 year-olds. The COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges, but initiatives like Birding 101, Nature Natters, and the Equipment Donation Scheme helped develop skills and build the confidence of young nature enthusiasts. Over 50 volunteers have now represented BTO Youth as a member of the Youth Advisory Panel or as Youth Representatives.

What is the new Strategy?

The BTO Youth Engagement Strategy 2023–28 is a wide, inclusive approach to connecting young people with nature and birdwatching. This Strategy is to be implemented from 2023 until 2028 by the Youth Advisory Panel, with the support of the Youth Representatives and staff across BTO.

BTO Youth values: Inclusive & accessible, Youth-led, Helping people grow, Collaborative & transparent, Innovative & dynamic and Celebrating people’s connection to nature.

BTO Youth works under six core values formed and defined by the Youth Advisory Panel for this Strategy: Inclusive & accessible, Youth-led, Helping people grow, Collaborative & transparent, Innovative & dynamic and Celebrating people’s connection to nature. Within each value, up to four core principles are outlined to ensure the development of future and existing BTO Youth programs focuses on and achieves these principles and the overarching value.

The implementation of the free youth membership, under the value of Inclusive & accessible, aims to foster a sense of community among young members, providing targeted support that caters to their unique needs and interests and aids in breaking down the financial barrier to some young people. There will also be a strong focus on mental health and mindfulness with explicit links both internally within the volunteer group and externally in the events we run, further emphasised in Celebrating people’s connection to nature.

Equipment Donation Scheme recipients
Equipment Donation Scheme recipients. 

Whilst these new initiatives will be central to the future agenda, continuing projects are just as important.

The Equipment Donation Scheme has benefitted over 2,300 people since 2021 through the donations of second-hand birdwatching equipment.

The Youth-led Youth Representative scheme, one of the core objectives of the 2021–22 Strategy, with the support of the Youth Advisory Panel, creates a community of young people across the UK engaging them with various topics through both local and online events. To Help people grow, a diverse range of events and activities pull an even stronger focus of the Strategy towards removing the barriers young people may face when becoming involved with nature conservation.

BTO Youth in Nature Summit.
Youth in Nature Summit 2022. Alicia Hayden (YAP) 

Being Innovative and dynamic involves offering online resources and training for young people, as well as providing a platform for MPhil students to undertake research which benefits both them and BTO as an organisation.

This value also accounts for amplifying youth voices, which was principally seen at the BTO Youth in Nature Summit. Looking to the future, the 2022 Summit has provided the opportunity to co-create the next Summit in partnership with other organisations, allowing us the opportunity to inspire other organisations to incorporate more young people. 

Partnerships, like at the Youth in Nature Summit, can deliver conservation success stories. Outlined under Collaborative & transparent, these partnerships can allow BTO to engage diverse audiences and have shared input with a wider variety of perspectives and ideas. Whilst working with local communities, schools and other organisations, BTO can help to raise the importance of conservation and inspire other young people to get involved. 

How did we create the new Strategy?

It has been an incredible opportunity over this past year to contribute to writing BTO’s Youth Engagement Strategy 2023–28.

Although the process of developing the Strategy was time-consuming, it was extremely rewarding to build a vision of an inclusive, diverse and engaged community of young people united by their love for nature. Writing the Strategy from our youth perspective allowed us to demonstrate to others how young people can make a difference, and by working in the conservation sector and being engaged with nature they can ensure their voices are represented throughout organisations and at the heart of decision–making processes.

It was challenging, as it required us to understand and reflect on all the barriers that young people might face and translate every one into an actionable vision and projects. Working against a tight deadline during exam season added to the stress to perfect this Strategy, and navigating conflicting opinions to decide certain visions and values made it difficult to finally choose parts.

However, overall, it was a fulfilling experience knowing our work will make a significant impact in engaging more young people with nature. The process of writing the Strategy was both challenging and rewarding, and I am proud to have been part of the effort to engage young people with nature and birdwatching, and I am proud to be a part of BTO Youth.

Looking forward

Our vision is of a diverse, vibrant community of young birders supported by BTO, with accessible, youth-led opportunities inspiring young people to engage with nature and science.

As outlined in our Strategy, BTO Youth envisions a future where a thriving and engaged community of young people with a passion for nature comes together in an inclusive and diverse environment.

Our goal is to ensure that young people have a voice in the conservation sector, and their ideas and opinions are represented in the decision-making processes of organisations. Our hope is to provide meaningful opportunities for young people to engage with the sector, and for their voices to be heard at every level.

This Strategy will shape these projects which enable us to achieve, or work towards, our vision over the next five years. We recognize the importance of diversity in the community and strive to make it a welcoming space for everyone.

By working together and empowering the next generation, we can ensure that nature is protected and conserved for generations to come.

Youth Engagement at BTO

Read the full Youth Engagement Strategy to learn more about how we’re working to create a diverse, inclusive and thriving youth community at BTO.

BTO Youth Engagement Strategy 2023–28

Did you know?

BTO Youth runs regular events for young people, in-person and online. It also has its very own BTO Youth Blog and regularly publishes updates on BTO youth engagement work.

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