Frequently Asked Questions

What is COP23?

COP23 is the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is the main annual meeting of all nations under the UNFCCC to build and strengthen intergovernmental climate policy. COP23 will be from November 6-17, 2017, in Bonn, Germany. 

What is SustainUS?

At SustainUS, we believe that young people should have a voice in the policy decisions that will shape our future. We are a youth-led organization and have worked for years to build youth delegations to advocate for justice and sustainability in United Nations meetings on sustainable development, climate change, eradicating poverty, biodiversity loss, and women’s rights. We see attending these conferences as opportunities in holding our government accountable on an international stage, building and strengthening the youth climate movement, and supporting the work of frontline communities already facing the effects of climate change. 

What does the delegation do? 

We work to advance climate justice both at the UN and domestically. We work from within and without, lobbying and putting direct pressure on the US government with direct actions and stories that shift the narrative on international climate politics. We work directly with youth and civil society climate leaders from all over the world, from policy groups like CAN-International to frontline groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance. We develop our own voices, working with international media from Democracy Now to the Guardian to AP.

In Germany, we will live in community, embodying the change we believe is needed to undertake strategic actions, direct advocacy, and alternative storytelling on a world stage. 

What does the commitment look like?

The delegation will begin work in mid-June, and spend the months before COP23 building relationships and preparing our advocacy platform. You can expect ~3 hours a week of work during this time, plus at least 1 weekend-long team retreat. We will travel to Bonn, Germany in early November, and attend COP23 from November 6-17, 2016. After COP23 the majority of the team will remain engaged with SustainUS and UNFCCC advocacy in their own personalized way. We will also play a role in shaping the program moving forward and choosing next year’s delegates, as well as shaping the direction of the SustainUS organization as a whole, joining onto the various new and exciting projects we’re brewing up for 2017.

Who are you looking for?

We are looking for a team of action-oriented climate justice organizers, advocates and storytellers, aged 18-27. We are looking for risk-takers. For young people who are not afraid to challenge themselves. This isn’t based on your resume, but on your willingness to jump to the next level in the work you do. The primary skills we look for are those ready to work on a community-oriented team – a team that collectively holds skills in nonviolent direct action and mobilization, media work, policy, and climate justice organizing.

How do I apply?

The Creative Challenge registration closed on April 5, 2017. If you missed this deadline but would still like to apply, contact Dineen ( and Karina ( to explore this possibility.

Step two: Now the real fun begins. Round One, a personal storytelling challenge, is the core requirement for the Challenge. Submitting one piece for Round One is all you need to do to be considered active in this challenge and be eligible to join the delegation. However, the more submissions you submit, the more we get to know you and the better chance you have at becoming apart of our team.

Step three: When your piece is complete & published, submit here!

Step four: Move on to Round Two – your chance to amplify arguments, demands or analyses of the movements for climate justice.

Step five: When your piece is complete & published, submit here!

Is there any cost to participate?

We strive to ensure finance will never be a barrier for your participation in a SustainUS delegation.It’s very important to us that this opportunity is accessible to all, regardless of financial situation. Our goal in leading this delegation is for everyone’s expenses to be completely covered and to also have remaining funds to give each delegate a small stipend paying them for their work, a goal SustainUS met last year for the COP22 delegation.  As a team, we will seek grant funding and will support you to fundraise individually through crowd-funding or seeking support from your university or employer. Costs include housing, travel, and food.

What are the eligibility requirements?

SustainUS is a US youth organization. To join our work, you must have some relationship to the United States, whether it’s where you’re originally from or where you attend school/work or have been living for at least 6 months. You do not have to hold US Citizenship to be eligible. Additionally, you must be between 18-27 years of age on Nov 1st, 2017.

What is the Creative Challenge?

The application process for our youth delegation to the UN Climate Negotiations is a creative storytelling challenge to generate creative media. We will work with you to tell your own story about why you engage in the movements for climate justice, as well as to amplify narratives that support a just transition from a fossil fuel energy system. We are using this process because we see it as a way to directly call forth the skills we want on our team, while also facilitating a flood of youth-generated media and stories into the climate movement!

What is the timeline for the challenge?

From April 4 to June 1, the Creative Challenge window is open. The first round, a personal storytelling challenge, is mandatory, after which we invite you to begin the second round. During the challenge we provide resources to jog your brain and support you to deepen your storytelling skills. You’ll send us things you create during that time. Our final delegation will be selected by mid-June from those actively participating in the Challenge.

What counts in the Creative Challenge?

Surprise us! We’re open to your creativity. We are encouraging people to publish their writing (think opinion editorials!) and engage in action media (think photography, videography, podcasts, art, song-writing, press-releases, and creative social media!) We want to show how we value the many different approaches, mediums, and skills involved with activism.

Can I submit something I’ve already published? Can I submit something I’m working on for class/work/my campaign?

We would like for your creative challenge entries to be published during the window April 4 – June 1. As long as your work fits under the prompts and is published during this window, we would love to see it. Exceptions may be possible – email Dineen ( & Karina ( to explore this possibility.

We are hoping that this challenge pushes you to take your media-making to the next level – so if you have to write something similar for class – then adapt it for a regional newspaper. If you’re already performing a poem – then record it and upload the video to a blog. Make this challenge your chance to amplify your work beyond your regular comfort zone. Take it as an opportunity to expand your work.

I participated in the Challenge last year, do I have to do submit new material?

SustainUS launched this process last year for the COP22 application and found it very successful, so we’re doing it again! Given this, we’re aware that many people who participated last year are participating again this year. Even though the prompts remain the same, as stated above, this application is about your willingness to take on a challenge. This may mean pushing yourself to write something new or answer the prompts deeper or in a different medium this time. So yes, we would prefer you submit new material if you participated last year.

What are the minimum requirements?

You only need to publish one work (responding to the Round One prompt) to be considered active in the process. You should send it to us using this submission form. Of course, we encourage you to go as deep as time allows, and the more you challenge yourself in this process, the better chance you’ll have to join our team to COP23 in Germany.

What if I’m not particularly creative?

You don’t need to identify as a strong writer or deeply creative to excel in this challenge. Whether your most public writing has only been in the form of Facebook posts, or if you’re a grad school policy wonk, or a seasoned movement builder — everyone has the ability to join our team through showing a willingness to challenge yourself. We’re building a team where different skills and experiences complement one another, which means we value a variety of approaches to this process.

What will I gain from the challenge?

Everyone who goes through this process will deepen their personal storytelling skills, as well as skills working with the media. Check out our resources page for last year’s webinars, a variety of storytelling resources, and examples of previous delegate’s work. Karina and Dineen will host new webinars throughout the process as well. Everyone will have a chance to deepen their skills and learn about international climate justice struggles, while participating in a fun and exciting challenge with other youth climate activists around the country – a wonderful opportunity to meet new people!

Can I work on a submission with someone else who is also applying and submit a co-created piece?

Yes, as long as this is for Round Two (the “what” question) and everyone working on the co-created piece must submit their own individual Round One piece, since that prompt is more personal and individualized. Also, please specify in the submission form what parts of the co-created piece you worked on yourself so we know how to evaluate you. People who work together on a submission are not apart of any sort of ‘package deal’ – you will still be evaluated individually.

What if I pitch something to a media outlet and they agree to publish it but not until after the Creative Challenge window has closed / after the final deadline?

That’s fine! As long as you send us some public form of the piece (a Facebook post, Medium blog post, etc.) in the meantime, as well as a screenshot of the email from the media outlet accepting your piece.

How do I submit something I have published/created?

Use this form to submit your work. You can submit as many times as you wish. Just make sure to use your same name every time so we can collect them all!

Can you give me some examples of opinion editorials and creative media?

Yes! We’re really proud of the work of our delegates over the years. Check out our resources page for some golden examples — from international news to self-created content and campus publications.