Achieving these goals will require a profound change of attitude, to protect the natural compassion and engagement that young people often lose as they mature.
“As they get older, [children] start to believe less and less in their own ability to make a difference,” says Richard. “To an extent, that’s because we assume children somehow need to earn the right to be smart, clever and to be activists. What we must do is flip the narrative so that we allow children to be excellent from a very young age.”
Cara Augustenborg, environmental scientist, agrees. “Children are born compassionate; it’s already instilled in them. It’s there naturally. As they go through the school system, they become less connected with each other and have a more negative outlook on each other and on the world around them. We need to step up. We need to start valuing the unmeasured curriculum.”
If projects like DIG can help young people bridge the values-perception gap that is holding them back, it could signal good news not only for the future of our society and planet, but also for the long-term wellbeing of our children.
As Dr Emma Seppala, Lecturer at Yale School of Management, stated, “Research shows that when you’re engaged in altruistic, compassionate acts, you don’t get a quick burst of dopamine that then disappears. It actually leads to fulfilment over a longer period of time.”