Unleashing the potential of young people to create a better world
The ways we have been living have led to major threats to our natural world and the younger generation will experience the most serious consequences of these actions. These rapid changes are taking a toll on young people’s mental well-being. Research shows that one of the best antidotes to anxiety about social and environmental issues is action.
New research commissioned by the Persil Dirt Is Good Project explored young people’ s values and how they perceive the values of others. The study found that almost all the young people surveyed said that caring for nature and other people is important to them but they don’t think others share their compassionate values. Fears about not fitting in and being labelled with unhelpful stereotypes prevent them from expressing their true values to their peers.
- 86% of young people surveyed prioritised compassionate values over self-interest values.
- 96% said caring for other people was ‘quite’ or ‘very important’ to them.
- 89% said caring for the natural world was ‘quite’ or ‘very important’ to them.
Despite the hardships experienced by young people over the last year, being compassionate is still very important for them, 66% of those surveyed reported that since the onset of COVID-19, they felt they cared even more about other people.
Only 14% of young people surveyed prioritised self-interest values over compassionate values. BUT by age 16-18, almost half (48%) of them thought that other young people would prioritise self-interest values. The misperception that most others don’t care when they actually do is known as the values-perception gap. This study is the first to show that it exists in children and young people. It found that young people are affected by the values-perception gap in the following ways:
- They have lower emotional well-being
- They feel more worried about the future
- They are less likely to act on the issues they care about
This limits them from reaching their potential as changemakers and responsible citizens.
The Persil Dirt Is Good Project focuses on helping young people to believe that taking action on social and environmental issues is not the niche but the norm.
The Project has commissioned a white paper, Generation Action: How to unleash the potential of children and young people to take positive action and create a better world for all. The Paper uncovers the widespread misperception that humans are inherently self-interested, and highlights how addressing this misperception could be key in efforts to promote and sustain youth action on social and environmental issues, and consequently the well-being of young people.
In addition to the white paper, Global Action Plan have developed a research paper containing a full overview of our research with young people, including the methodology and statistical analysis. It also contains a broader discussion on the potential societal factors that we hypothesise are contributing to the values-perception gap in young people and how we are working to tackle them.