How Transition Initiatives Engage with Young People: Detailed Survey Results

by Evan Frisch
This document provides numerical results of responses to the questions in the survey conducted between March 26 and April 11, 2012.  Nearly all of the 114 official Transition initiatives in the U.S. at the start of March 2012 were contacted and invited to participate in the survey, and 38 Transition initiative organizers fully completed the survey.  The survey was also publicized by Transition US through its March 2012 e-newsletter and website.

Youth SurveyJust over half of those surveyed (53%) stated that they had observed teens learning by attending an event, such as a presentation, reskilling workshop, or documentary screening, directed by their Transition initiative.   Almost one third (32%) have seen teens learning by attending similar events organized by partners of their Transition initiative.

Almost one third of those surveyed (32%) have observed teens participating in hand-on volunteer activities, such as gardening or cleaning up a park, organized by the Transition initiative.  Nearly three out of ten respondents (29%) stated that teens participated in hands-on volunteer activities organized by partners of the Transition initiative.

Only about one out of eight respondents (13%) stated that teens participated in a youth group that was directed by the Transition initiative, while almost one in five (18%) noted that teens participated in a youth group that was directed by a partner organization of the Transition initiative.

Just 13% stated that teens organized or led Transition-related activities within their initiative, while only three percent reported that teens led Transition-related activities through a partner organization.

Few described other ways that teens participated in activities associated with their Transition initiative.  These and other results from open-ended questions are discussed in a separate document on the implications for Transition organizers.

Responses indicated that teens are not a regular presence at activities and meetings of Transition initiatives.  Only one respondent (3%) said that teens almost always attended and two others (5%) said that teens usually attended.  Another roughly one out of five (21%) stated that teens occasionally attended.  The majority (55%) said that teens rarely attended, while about one in eight (13%) said that teens never attended.

When asked to identify the age range most represented in their Transition initiative, respondents most frequently identified people in their 50s (32%), with people in their 60s (29%) and people in their 40s (26%) the next most common selections.  These same age ranges also predominated as the second most represented groups in the Transition initiatives.  Teens and pre-teens were little mentioned until the bottom positions in the ranking, 6th, 7th, or 8th out of the 8 age ranges.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) agreed that the participation of young people, including teens, is essential if Transition is to fulfill its purpose.  Another nearly one in three (37%) stated that it is very important, for a total of 84% that regard it as essential or very important.  Just over one in ten (11%) found it not very important.

More than six in ten respondents (61%) strongly agreed that Transition initiatives have a responsibility to cultivate opportunities for young people, including teens, to become leaders in building local resilience.  Another one in three (34%) mostly agreed with the statement.

Strong majorities (ranging between roughly three out of four and five out of six) agreed that teens becoming more involved in Transition efforts would lead to the following contributions:
•    new energy (84%)
•    new visions for the future of the community (79%)
•    new approaches to addressing current issues (76%)
•    social media skills (82%)
•    hands-on volunteering (82%)

Almost four out of five (79%) of Transition organizers who participated in the survey believe that few teens are aware of Transition.  While a minority (18%) were unsure, no respondents stated that they disagreed with the statement that few teens are aware of Transition.

Not many respondents (13%) believed that teens generally lack concern about long-term environmental or social problems, while nearly half (47%) stated that they disagreed.  More than one third (37%) indicated that they were uncertain.

Almost half of respondents (45%) agreed with the statement that teens are too busy with school and other activities to participate in Transition, while almost one third (32%) disagreed and more than one in five (21%) were uncertain.

Only a small proportion of respondents (16%) believed that teens join activities that will help them get into college and do not see Transition as such an activity, while about one third (34%) disagreed.  Nearly half (47%) were unsure.

There was no clear consensus among Transition organizers about whether most teens are interested in new technologies, not traditional skills, such as growing and preserving food.  Just over one third (34%) agreed with this statement about the preferences of teens, while the same proportion (34%) disagreed and a slightly smaller proportion (29%) were uncertain.

Almost one in three respondents (29%) agreed with the statement that most teens who had heard of Transition did not view it as something for young people, but half (50%) were uncertain and almost one fifth (18%) disagreed.

Half of organizers (50%) agreed that schools in their community do not cooperate much with Transition efforts, while nearly one quarter (24%) disagreed.

About two in five respondents (39%) believe that parents do not encourage their teens to participate in Transition activities, while fewer than one in ten (8%) disagreed.  Almost half (47%) were uncertain.

A large majority of organizers (84%) agreed that their Transition initiative has not yet made encouraging teen participation a priority, while less then one tenth of respondents (8%) disagreed.

An even greater proportion (92%) affirmed that their Transition initiative does not yet have a coherent strategy to encourage teen participation.  Not a single respondent expressed disagreement with the statement, while a small proportion (5%) expressed uncertainty.

Half of organizers (50%) volunteered additional barriers to teen participation in their community's Transition initiative.  A selection of these barriers are outlined separately.

Only about one in five Transition organizers (21%) said that their initiative currently has some outreach efforts to encourage teen participation, while more than three out of four (76%) stated that they do not.

Few respondents indicated that their Transition initiative has made a substantial effort so far to engage with teens.  Only five percent stated that their initiative had made a major effort, and another five percent characterized it as a moderate effort.  Roughly one third (34%) stated that their Transition initiative had made a minor effort, and another third (34%) reported that their initiative had made no effort so far.  Another 18 percent stated that it was too early to say.

None of the organizers who were surveyed reported that their Transition initiative's efforts to engage with teens were very effective, while less than one in ten (8%) stated that they were fairly effective.  Nearly half (47%) stated that their initiative's efforts in this area were either not very effective (32%) or not effective at all (16%).  More than two in five (42%) found it too early to tell.

Seven out of ten respondents (71%) expressed significant interest in opportunities to connect with other Transition organizers to share ways to engage teens in the Transition movement, with 24% stating they would definitely participate and 47% stating they would probably participate.  Nearly one quarter (24%) stated that they would probably not participate.

Asked about their preferred means of interacting with other Transition organizers on this topic, an online forum or other website was selected by about four in ten people (42%), periodic phone or web conferences was chosen by about one third (32%), and an email list was the choice of about two out of ten respondents (21%).

A large majority of Transition organizers (84%) reported a willingness to partner with hypothetical teenage social entrepreneurs seeking to build local resilience.  Nearly three out of five (58%) stated that their Transition initiative would be strongly motivated to explore such a partnership, and another one out of five (26%) stated that their initiative would be somewhat motivated.

A higher level analysis with recommendations and examples is also available, and can be found in this related story:
What Caine's Arcade Can Teach Us: The Potential of Collaboration with Young People to Advance Transition.

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