How Young People are Addressing the Diversity Deficit | eePRO @ NAAEE

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How Young People are Addressing the Diversity Deficit

Have you heard about Greening Forward? It’s REMARKABLE! of the largest youth-led environmental action non-profit organizations that works to Establish, Engage and Empower a youth-driven global movement of people to create social and environmental change.

Are you 5-25 years old? Greening Forward can provide you with leadership training, resources and network-building opportunities via mentorships, grants and an annual International Young Environmentalists Youth Summit (this year scheduled for New York, May 13-14, 2016). This year’s summit sessions and workshops will address topics including how to create diverse and inclusive projects, using media to share environmental campaigns and how to engage elected officials.

Are you older than 25-years old? Greening Forward can inspire you to better leverage youth engagement and empower your organization by embracing youth leadership in decision-making and program design.

Charles Orgbon III was 12-years old when he founded Greening Forward. He’s now a junior attending the University of Georgia and is studying Environmental Economics and Management…all the while still serving as Greening Forward’s CEO.

…Because he really doesn’t have enough to do, Charles is on-hand this week to host our eePro discussion board and answer any questions you might have about his organization, their programs, his perspective on the Oscars, favorite movies, yada yada…

…So shout out any questions, comments, worldly observations you might have between now and next Monday, March 14, to tap into Charles’ brain and expertise! (He’ll be logging in once a day to see what questions and comments may be tossed his way.)

Hi Charles! Thanks for hosting this discussion thread this week! First kick-off question for ya, buddy…What’s one success story (or web link) that you’d like to share demonstrating Greening Forward’s success in empowering young folks to diversify the environmental movement?

Where do I begin? There are so many stories! Today's young people are more multicultural than ever before in history, so when we work to bring young people in substantive, meaningful ways into our organizations, we should also be inherently addressing both age and cultural diversity. When I get to speak to young people, work with them, and mentor them, it is the stories of life-awakening awareness that ignite me the most. This one group from the Alamo Navajo Reservation really took a message about "choice" to heart, and they started the first student organization on their Reservation...called the "CHOICE" club, or Community Helping Others Inspire Change Everywhere. Tiara, the leader, told me that she used to want to be a doctor, but now she wants to be an environmentalists so that her people have clean air to breathe and won't need to go to the doctor. That is powerful! Read more:

Charles, I'm so inspired by your story and when reading your response to Darryl and your Huffington Post contribution about your visit to the Navajo reservation! I love that your organization puts diverse youth in the lead and also invites 25-year and older people to be involved. Have you and your peers and colleagues started thinking about the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020 which also falls around the time of the 5-year deadline for countries to report on their progress as a result of the COP21 agreement? What is your vision for the role of youth leadership and education at the intersection of society/environment/economy in the next 5 years? Thank you for your leadership and best of luck at University of Georgia! (my nephew Ian is also at the University of Georgia and I'll let him know about your great work) Abby


(1) Well, my advice is that actually young people do not start their own campaigns at first, but actually see how other organizations (youth and adult) are addressing a problem, first. If a unique niche can be built, and these young people can "begin with the end in mind," then there are resources available at on how to start a campaign

(2) Here is a warning to all: Bringing in people who are different and expecting them to think, act, and be like everyone else is oppressive and confines the diversity those people bring. Therein lies the difference between diversity and inclusivity. While diversity may change the staff photo, diversity without inclusion can only create harm. An interest in diversity may be able to attract different people (i.e. young people), but a culture of inclusivity is what keeps them there, and allows them to have an equal opportunity to becoming even the CEO one day. If all people of color only or interns remain in entry-level position, not much shows that the given organization truly embraced inclusivity.

I have seen mentorship programs be an effective way to bring in and retain diverse audiences. The role of a mentor is to not only to pass down information, but to also raise up new ideas – nurture, strengthen, and apply these novel notions. Turning these dreams into reality is something that we – today’s youth – and our mentor can do together.

@Abby: It’s a diversity issue. It’s a democracy issue, because to make democracy work, we need to embrace every reason to be inclusive. It’s a bottom-line issue, too, because an corporation or institution that doesn't have a youth strategy in today's age, doesn't have a strategy at all. Young people are uniquely qualified to say what works for young people. Over the next five years and beyond, Abby, if we hope to ever solve complex issues like deforestation, climate change, and mass extinction, we must make room for all stakeholders at the decision-making table, especially young people. I want to see young people on school and institutional boards with equal power, serving as journalists covering stories that youth care about, serving as philanthropists, etc. I want to see the creation of the Presidential Youth Council (

I seriously like your analogy for diversity vs inclusion. And this brings up another question... how would you go about inclusion of a diverse group. How do you retain talent from different walks of life?

@Amesha - Practically, the mentorship program I spoke of can be an answer. Theoretically, I believe there are three types of organizations: (1) Diversity & Leadership (Youth come and they go); (2) Access & Literacy (Youth have a place, but no voice); and (3) Learning & Effectiveness (Youth are valued as assets). In an organization characterized by Learning & Effectiveness, there is a key strategy that show how diversity adds value, diversity is seen as a tool for learning and innovation, and there are accountability mechanisms.

Charles...mind if I call you the Yoda of Youth Empowerment? (considering your young age...can you drink legally yet?...and your rich depth of insight and wisdom) :) In your efforts inspiring and nurturing young leaders, what are some tips (helpful skill sets, mind set, etc) that you share with them that will result in their success working with older folks? Does Greening Forward offer on-going support to their efforts? And what's your advice to older adults who wish to change the culture of their organizations and embrace young decision-makers as part of their institutions?

Excellent Charles. I really find it inspiring to see folks, particularly young people, connecting across borders and boundaries forming connections and finding commonalities. Hope does spring eternally and the efforts you are involved in inspire hope for the future in me.

One of my part-time gigs is working as a field reporter for American Indian Airwaves/Coyote Radio. I cover environmental stories for the program. We are part of the Pacifica Radio network and broadcast out of LA and on the Internet. The efforts you are involved in might make a good story. What do you think?

@Darryl - Your words always seem to keep me cheesing. I am glad that we were able to make this opportunity come to life, because it seems that engagement on eePro has been great. We're already the most active thread in the group from what I can tell. I believe that there are three keys to young people performing well as changemakers: (1) they need a spark, which many young people have, and it can be academic, civic, artistic, or athletic, (2) they need an outlet or opportunity, and (3) they need three mentors. And if they don't have a mentor, then I tell them that they can count me as their first. Let's go back to the story of Tierra and the Alamo Navajo Reservation. That was a relationship that developed over time. It started as a speaking event, and then became much more involved, which led to that blog post. Youth hear far more "nos" than they hear "yeses," and while no's can be important and keep us safe, sometimes, we must be willing to embrace a group that we know is going to act differently, respond differently, and think differently that ourselves.

Charles - You are a Gem, buddy! Thank you for your generosity in serving as a resource person extraordinaire and our discussion host this week! Your thoughtful and eloquent approach to inclusion and equity for young people is profound! I hear through the grapevine you may be looking to replace yourself as CEO because you're getting too old?'re 20 years old now so welcome to the old folks club:). Thanks for all that you do in creating positive, inspirational and action-oriented social and environmental change for us all!....I look forward to catching up with you at the next NAAEE annual conference in Madison!