Gen Z Climate Conversation

How to activate Gen Z behavior toward climate action?

Climate emergency becomes a wicked problem due to inequality, established systems that refuse to change and rethink the status quo, wars, and many other human-caused factors. It is a complex system of individual, as well as corporate and national, decisions and behaviors. These patterns became established deeply over time and transformation is not happening as it should be compared to the urgency. The impact of actions is hard to measure, and the recovery of the damage is very slow and mostly invisible due to the scale.

Let’s talk about climate in 2022: the climate crisis that was once predicted to be a future thing is here and is happening. Europe has not been left behind and is currently experiencing the highest temperatures of time. The rains have reduced significantly as a scenario experienced in the Netherlands.

So what does this got to do with humans? There have been conversations about climate mitigation, and governments making promises about the reduction of co2 emissions during COP26 and most likely the coming #COP27. But is signing petitions and making promises enough?

Research challenge

As DSS Team our challenge is to research ways of calling our target group to action to tackle the climate emergency.

● What are the triggers for activation in our target group?
● What are themes appealing to the intended target group?
● What kind of behaviors do we want to encourage/discourage in the target group?

Who is our target group?

With this project, our priority is to understand 18–25-year-old students (referred to as Gen Z later) living in the Netherlands who have the potential to generate the most significant impact on the climate emergency with their actions.

The measurable impact on an individual level is known to be low. However, the individuals we can reach through our project can act as ambassadors, starting grassroots movements, which then can reach wider audiences. 

In 20 weeks, our team (Liliya Z, Lisa C, Mhambi N, Patience M) will try to develop a prototype in
collaboration with NWA Communications Team (Nina C. Dennis H) and HvA Visual
Methodologies Collective (Reint J. R., Sabine N, Andy D, Carlo de G.) which could be initiated,
developed and/or created later.


A conversation starter

The  prototype design goals we follow are:

(1) scalable > self/home/neighborhood/city/nation/globe
(2) inclusive and adaptable > to different audiences and themes (e.g., food, travel)
(3) interactive and transformative
(4) innovative and measurable

No shame / no canceling / no doomsday

Sprint 1:

  • Categories of pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs)
  • The public sphere (activism, environmental citizenship, policy support)
  • Private sphere (purchase of goods & services ( e.g. household items), the use and maintenance)
  • Clustering the PEBs into emerging themes
  • Triggers of behavior change and the associated framework and theories
  • List of green and non-green organizations in The Netherlands and categorization of engagement with all citizens or youth
  • Investigating the visibility on social media platforms (Instagram)
  • Volunteering came up as a major engaging tool with the organizations

Sprint 2:

  • Produced a project map showing the persona, problem, and stakeholders/users including the possible ways of reaching our target audience
  • Meetings with users and email feedback from organizations involved in youth engagement in the Netherlands
  • Identified the triggers and barriers to pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs)
  • Conducted issue mapping using the medial toolkit as one of the tools used in social media research
  • Identified the currently trending hashtags/campaigns in relation to climate change in the Netherlands
  • Analyzed policies like the National Climate Agreement and Wageningen climate solutions research in efforts to rank emergencies
  • Analyzed the emerging themes and came to an understanding that they all lead to waste

Our Team:

Patience Musila: Environmental Engineer/ Data Analyst
Liliya Zakirova: Social Media Analyst / Education and Environment projects
Lisa Chyniakova: Social Media and Marketing Expert
Mhambi Nyathi: Water Resources Engineer
Asu Aksu: Transformation Designer