Ever wanted to organise an LCOY yourself? And don’t know where to start? Or are you just curious at a look behind the scenes of LCOY Austria 2018 and 19? For us an LCOY is a place of inclusiveness, inspiration and connection. And we want to share this inspiration with others and help grow the LCOY movement, because we don’t have much time left to tackle the climate crisis and – we as youth can do so, so much. It is not about idelogies, prestige, or even solely about international climate politics and diplomacy. The LCOY Austria has been a connecting link between stakeholders and organisations, crafting a network across Austria by inviting countless organisations, institutions including government and individuals that would normally not work with each other to contribute to the program. It has aimed at creating a space of learning, connection and action for participants and making the most possible impact to move Austria to a future we can live in (more in About LCOY Austria). The motto: Connecting youth for climate action.
These are some informal guidelines we discovered to be useful and learnings from LCOY Austria 2018 as well as the start of 2019.
This toolkit includes everything from project management tools to climate crisis specific links. We will update it as we go along and restructure it.
You can write us with all questions at email@example.com. We will get back to you as soon as we can.
A Local Conference of Youth is an event organised on a national – or regional – level bringing together youth to tackle the climate crisis. The youth constituency at the United Nations Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) needs to approve an LCOY (meaning that the organising team can use the name of LCOY XY). However, there are no exact guidelines on what an LCOY should be or do, so it’s up to the organising team! LCOYs take place some weeks before the international climate conference COP and the global Conference of Youth (COY), welcoming youth from all over the world. Here again the exact date, duration etc is up to the organisers. An LCOY can set a focus on political lobbying, with e.g. an output targeting the national government, empowerment of youth to take actions in their lives or another aim, or it can combine different aims. This was and is the case for the LCOY Austria. Youth as defined by YOUNGO reaches fro 15 to 35; the LCOY Austria sets the age limits to 15-30.
The youth constituency YOUNGO has set 10 loose principles that help you understand what an LCOY is all above. They are: capacity building and empowerment, inclusivity, preparation for United Nations processes, by youth for youth, spirit of cooperation, transparency, sustainability, community-building, global action and creativity.
To get your LCOY approved by YOUNGO you will also need to avoid fossil fuel funding and keep an eye on some more things.
Check out more here: https://conference-of-youth.org/en/lcoys/
This is for sure not going to be an exhausting list. Still, a few crucial things:
Whoever is involved at that point, whether it’s you, you and your friends or a whole organisation, call an informal meeting and ask yourselves the question: why are we here? Write down the purpose of an LCOY. Even best: to start, discuss the following points in this order:
- (if a group is assembled together for the first time:) What is our motivation to be here?
- Why do we need an LCOY in our country? What is the elephant in the room, what are the problems. What gap can the LCOY close. Be as concrete as possible 🙂 What can an LCOY achieve and what is our goal? Follow-up: was is our target group? (think of participants, international community, influence on national government, school students, local associations etc)
- What is/are the goal(s) of the LCOY? These can goals can be set towards the participants or let’s say internal: Is the LCOY about learning? networking? project development? And then there’s the goal towards the public: is there a law to lobby for or influence? a way to bring together political parties to raise their ambition? a list of demands towards the government? or wait, maybe a list of ideas for projects to be implemented by district associations around the capital? a social media campaign? or..? Or maybe your LCOY decides to focus on the internal output of giving youth changemaker skills.
- an extra question: how should the LCOY be viewed by the public/society? Think about it with the 2 above points.
- Which methods or core topics does the LCOY need to focus on or cover to fulfill its goals? Your country might be facing a specific challange connected to climate change: it could be climate adaptation, energy supply in rural areas or something totally different. Also, you might notice that there is a topic that finally needs to be talked about – relating to the problems you identified before. Thinking about the above points discussed you will realie the right format for your LCOY – a conference can be set up in really different ways. It can consist solely of workshops, focus more on panels, or open spaces and project development sessions. Once a frame is set, your content team will be able to request speakers, detail-plan formats etc. Find below how we did it!
- What is the situation around the LCOY being born? This means: what groups are already active on the topic or with the target group in my country. Environmental organisations? Youth groups? Civil society movements? Research institutions? If relevant: government offices? Map them on a poster. The discussion could also go into detail and see how they could ally with the LCOY or provide input. This can also be the room for words of caution and realize what the LCOY should NOT be about.
- What do we need to get going? Just brainstorm. Depending on your situation the first thing might be to have a phone call with another LCOY organiser if you have specific questions or feel lost, talk about it to people to get together a team, pitch the idea at that one youth gathering to get people on board and/or get valuable inputs to concretize the idea.
Don’t forget that to call your conference Local Conference of Youth you will need to get it approved by YOUNGO. For this there are application tranches. Hint: the application is a formality, so don’t be afraid of not passing it, if your commitment is genuine.
Some things you will need to do:
- Find a team (that can still change and from experience definitely will) and ask people how they see the role in the team. Define team roles. As an example, the working groups of LCOY Austria are: content/program, finance & sponsoring, logistics, communication and media (this includes website, social media, contact to strategic partners, press), international communication (with other LCOYs, this can be a role in the previous group), care, coordination team (currently with 3 people that seems a good number; is responsible for overview of the team’s work and checking that the team is functioning). Decide on a coordinator, or several ones.
- Based on your discussion of goals and the like discuss together and write down some lines on your strategy. As LCOY Austria we defined our mission, vision, goals and values together. Most of it you can find on the page About LCOY Austria. You want to make sure that all the team is on the same page from the start, purpose questions have been discussed and everyone has the same idea of where you’re going and what the LCOY wants to achieve. Our consensual strategy was also the basis for our external communication and website, and we will use it to measure our success after the LCOY and formulate learnings.
- Decide on how to take decisions (this sounds like a dull and heavy topic but all the organisation process will be based on decisions) and establish a communication channel. We recommend Slack for the latter – while we have an additional Whatsapp group to refer to urgent matters and informal things – and will be happy to provide you with our methods on both! Just write us.
- We also found that it helps to define the responsibility or task areas of every role and write them down, so that it is transparent later on and the same work isn’t done in parallel.
- Set milestones. When should the LCOY take place? A concrete date will help you in communicating the LCOY and requesting speakers. Otherwise set an approximate date. Is there any important event you need to pitch your LCOY at or date til which to send an important request? Don’t worry, the concreter the easier the work later. To make it easier for you: create a checklist, order the items to main milestones or best a timeline as well as you can. This timeline can always be adapted later, since we all learn from our mistakes, just remember the decisionmaking rules you set up before.
- Think of a venue. Because without a venue – no conference 😉 You don’t need to set it at the start, unless you have it all set up already. Still, you will need to be clear what criteria your venue has to meet for a successful LCOY so that the logistics team can proced with requests. Main questions: How many people is the LCOY for? Are there any requirements the venue needs to fulfill? In our case it’s a big room for 350 people with movable chairs & Co, a certain number of seminar rooms, easily accessible by public transport, welcoming to all sorts of people from different backgrounds etc. Last year, the LCOY Austria didn’t have a set venue for the opening few weeks before the LCOY and it was a huge hassle we are avoiding now.
- Draft a participation policy. Whom do you want to participate? From your milestones you might already have the set start and end of registrations. Now it’s about the details. Should it be registration on first-come-first-served basis? How much is the registration fee? While last year the LCOY Austria was running on the first-come-first-served principle, this year we decided to complement this system by a quota system for different groups of participants (students, school students and others) to ensure variety. Also, we encourage people to sign up early through raising the fee in the last days before the conference as well as introducing a motivation based system in the last more than two weeks. These core questions we decided as whole team, delegating details to a working group.
- Set up promotion and info channels. Whether you manage to build up a website, Facebook profile, Instagram or decide to simply put some info about your LCOY on either the international LCOY website or the channels of an association in your country: make sure that the LCOY reaches people and provides relevant info. You want to make an impact and show what powerful event you’re setting up 🙂 You will fill and update those channels as you go along, step by step.
- Stark working, discussing, experimenting 🙂
- Skillshare. Always. By now, you will probably have defined (approximate) team roles. The person who spends their life on Instagram might have signed up for the social media role or marketing team. Etc etc etc. Still, don’t forget how much potential there is in just what you have and know. In LCOY Austria, since most team members had limited resources, most of our skillsharing took place over documents on the Drive. You know how to organise a panel discussion or are an expert on personal development? Share it. We hope to be able to skillshare more and maybe you can let us know how you did it 🙂 Also an idea: if you have a mix of experienced and new team members you could implement a buddy system, with the two people together either being in the same working group or make itr overarching. The LCOY is the perfect change to learn something new and develop yourself so much.
- Remember: you are a team and you can have fun together. Remember to take a break during meetings. Consider doing a check-in and check-out at the beginning and end of meetings to just talk off protocol how you feel, in what your state you’re there, what you expect from the meeting (beginning), what you take with you (end). That’s how we do it. Do an energizer or play a game. Anything that will make you move and laugh. Organize a teambuilding week-end! Have fun. Or implement the habit of meeting up regularly for drink together, sports or other hobbies.
- Again, just get in touch with the international LCOY community. You can write a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond to you or will forward it to someone compentent on it.
All along, don’t forget about logistical stuff. Do you need an insurance? What food are participants going to eat? Best vegan, or vegetarian. Do you need any materials including mics & co? Who can help you, lend you, repair, gift?
This is somthing we’re still working on and we’re planning a bigger coordination on European level before the LCOYs and COY 2020 in Europe. Our aim is of course to communicate & exchange more as well as work on common projects as a movement. Your input is very much appreciated.
We tried and we failed and we succeeded. All of it. Here some things that from our experience or in our opionion are NOT a good idea. Feel free to let us know what you think about it at email@example.com 🙂
- To focus everything on the UN-level. This will differ on your country, but at least for countries in the industrialised world the need for change is at home and UN-climate politics has now moved to implementation level, giving states the responsibility to take action. Advice: think of what you can do in your own country.
- To have big ideas but not put them into practice. Advice: when discussing, think of how to put an idea into practice right away. Who is responsible. What do you need for it. Til when do things need to happen. Don’t be afraid to start small!
- To forget (to do) your research. Advice: do your research on organisations and topics. Stay up to date on climate politics, expecially in your country. If you feel like it, designate a person to take up the role of having in mind and sharing actualities around the climate crisis.
- To expect too much from a “conference”. Especially your first one. An LCOY won’t save the world, and might not even move politics in your country by an inch. As long as you set actionable goals, reflect on your progress in the group and keep an overview over priorities you will be doing your best 🙂 And you will learn a lot, promised!
- To expect too little from a “conference”. For us, the LCOY Austria has always been more than a conference with some panels, workshops and coffee breaks with drinks, snacks and small talk. It has been about creating spaces to get to know each other as well as sharing best practices and strategising. To achieve this, you can try to include different formats in the conference program (see below). And, you can think of how to extend the project beyond the duration of the conference. Do you want to run a campaign in advance and collect the voices of youth on the climate crisis? Do a pre-event? Organise a meet-up after the conference so that participants and team can come together again, update themselves and allow for projects to emerge?
The short answer is: we store all our documents on Google Drive without exception. The docs are stored by working group and we create sub-folders e.g. folders “social media”, “website”, “press” inside “media”. We communicate over the platform Slack and similar as in drive, we organise it in channels like content, communication, social media, finance etc. This is important to keep an overview. We have a Slack channel called “updates”, with each working group adding the update on their work at least every 2 weeks. Thus we want to ensure transparency and everyone being up to date on the big issues of the whole project. We have a Whatsapp group for urgent issues (referring to Slack or when about to meet up for a meeting to find each other e.g.) and informal, off-topic things. We use Zoom or Slack for calls. If you’ve never used Slack: it’s easy & intuitive (& has a free plan) and you’ll need such platform to stay organised 🙂
We have general meetings, open to all and in which all teamleads should be present (or representatives of every working group) and meet more regularly in the working groups, while facing the challenge of being separated geographically over the summer months.
Being part of the youth-led NGO CliMates Austria we have different mail boxes – one for every person as well as per main working group that is media, logistics, sponsoring, program and simply LCOY-. We are organised based loosely on holocracy where a person takes up one or more roles, defined before, and the organisational structure consists of various layers of circles. A main characteristic is that working groups have a strong autonomy and responsibility to decide themselves on issues that fall into their thematic responsibility. Also, the work is problem-oriented so often once a new problem comes up we figure out a way of solving it, instead of setting up plans for all eventualities before. Still, it’s useful to think forward and write down the risks you might be incurring.
We got a lot of help from the LCOY Netherlands, that year also taking place for the first time and having started organising sooner than us. We – at that time 2 young women – started out in the middle of June (for a conference in mid Nov) and we felt overwhelmend. So what ensued were lots of calls and messages with the main organiser of the LCOY NL. And especially, we got access to their drive and this helped us a lot to figure out how to organise ourselves, recognise relevant tasks and things to be taken into account, and we found out what kind ideas they already had for their program. Advice: just write us or ask an LCOY organiser if he can forward you a specific info, template etc. or give you access to one of their channels.
And then we just experimented, made phonecalls, dreamed and filled in excel sheets. All of it.
- usual workshops, as interactive as possible
- project pitch: this works towards the end of the conference. In an informal setting with people sitting in half-circles or on the floor everyone who has a project idea can picth it and thus look out for new team members or simply input and inspiration
- panels, best if in fishbowl style. We also wrote a document on how to organise a panel. A good hint is to first think of what the goal of a panel should be – brainstorming in the team or working group. What impact can it make? Then deduce lead questions from it and only afterwards think of whom to invite and sent out invitations.
- worldcafe/living books: participants can get to know youth-environmental organisations (one per table) and chat with them. After around 20 minutes participants can change to a different table for a different story.
- A lot from art of hosting practices. If you’re not familiar: just google “art of hosting handbook”. This meand working with circles for exchange & discussion. Also setting up an open space in which participants can offer their own skills or points of discussion and the rest of the participants can check out the sessions and change to a new one whenever they like. A pro-action café.
- A session based on the questions of participants. Decision-makers and speakers are invited for one of the parallel sessions, each with a different thematic question. Under the guidance of a moderator the participants can get all their questions answered before moving to a different session after about 25 min.
We try to document all the main learnings from each workshop by assigning people to write down notes and are also looking for creative approaches.
Things that come to our mind from our experience:
We appreciate your input and learnings! 🙂
- Keep an overview. Consider setting up excel sheets per working group for an overview over all the people and institutions contacted. In the content team, we set up an excel sheet with several sub-sheets including ideas for program contributors, workshop requests, workshop plan by time slots, panels, worldcafe. The core thing is to know who in the team is responsible for the contact. We also set up a sheet for an overview over the availability of team members over summer and beyond.
- Start early. Especially in finding a venue, requesting sponsorships and writing to the main speakers. Don’t expect to be able to stick to your timeplan, since unexpected things always come up. But exactly for this reason we advise to set up an ambitious timeline (see above), with the right priorities.
- Communicate clearly. Especially when communicating online we found it helps to stick to the communication channels you decided on, write consisely and think things through before, address requests directly to fitting team members and write til which date a task would be due. However, we also realised that to improve the dynamics in the team it can work to not stress too much by adapting your wording (avoiding words like “deadline” and instead “..due by date XY”) and of course staying appreciative and respectful. In general meetings we started doing a round mentioning what we already have achieved, to start out with positive energy. An alternative would be to e.g. set up a Slack channel to share positive feedback.
- again, don’t underestimate the value of informal exchange between LCOY organisers on all sorts of topics including content and formats of the program, outputs, art space, breakroom
The LCOY will be held, as last year, in mainly German. Single workshops will be in English. The reason for this is that we want all participants to feel comfortable and speak up, and we clearly mainly accept participants from Austria (more in the FAQs). However, we still take care to communicate bilingually or in English through website and social media being part of an international movement. And – in the organising team we communicate in English.
It will depend very much on your country and target group, which language to choose. You can always consider a mix, but will have to decide on a main language for opening and plenary sessions.