Innovative research project aims to strengthen European democracy among youth

In response to the perceived challenges facing European democracy, a groundbreaking research project has been launched, aiming to empower youth, educators, policymakers, and marginalized communities to actively participate in and reshape democratic processes. The project, Critical ChangeLab, is set to make a profound impact on European democracy by revolutionizing democracy education and civic engagement.
The Critical Change Lab project is carried out by 10 partner institutions from EU and embraces a transdisciplinary approach combining expertise from Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, as well as Science and Technology.

Over recent decades, Europe has grappled with a growing perception of a democracy crisis marked by the rise of identity politics and the disassociation between liberalism and democracy. Researchers have warned of the erosion of democracy and the shrinking civic space, impacting various member states to varying degrees.

Simultaneously, the Eurobarometer Youth Survey of 2021 revealed that young people in several European countries are increasingly turning to forms of street politics as effective means of civic engagement. This shift highlights the urgency of addressing the disconnect between youth and democratic processes.

“Our project focuses on rethinking democracy education by fostering "everyday democracy." The initiative aims to cultivate the skills of democracy, collaboration, reflection, and dialogue as an integral part of young people's education, emphasizing that democracy must be nurtured in everyday life. We´re fostering everyday democracy. Our key themes are democracy education, civic pedagogy, critical literacy, critical approaches to technology design and use”, says Academy postdoctoral researcher Eva Durall Gazulla from University of Oulu INTERACT research unit about the project and its research topic.

By building on the concepts of direct action democracy, transformative agency, grassroots participation, and citizen engagement, the project maps the current state of democracy education in Europe. It creates and implements Democratic Pedagogy in learning environments, evaluates its effectiveness, and identifies strategies for sustaining its use.

“The Critical ChangeLab is poised to revolutionize democracy education and civic engagement in Europe. By fostering everyday democracy and empowering young people, educators, and policymakers, this research project aims to create a more resilient European democracy, paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future”, says Associate Professor Marianne Kinnula from the University of Oulu as a conclusion.

The Critical Change Lab research project seeks to achieve several ambitious goals, including:

  1. Empowering young people to envision alternative futures for European democracy and take action to build them.
  2. Creating a flexible Model for Democratic Pedagogy that draws on creative and critical practices to support youth-led civic interventions.
  3. Collaborating with stakeholders, including youth, educators, civil society organizations, industry, and citizens, in three research cycles to develop and implement the model.
  4. Contributing to European democracy education through teacher education and professional development actions.
  5. Generating evidence for democratic curriculum development.

The impact of this research project is far-reaching, benefiting various stakeholders, including:

  • Youth: Empowering young people to actively engage in democracy and civic processes.
  • Educators and Education Institutions: Enhancing the capacity of educational institutions to foster democracy education and assess democratic practices.
  • Policy and Decision Makers: Informing evidence-based policies and strategies for youth engagement.
  • Technology Providers: Contributing to the development of technology that supports democracy education.
  • Researchers: Expanding knowledge in the field of democracy education.
  • Members of EC Funded Projects: Enhancing the impact of related projects.

The research project aims to achieve several significant outcomes, including:

  • Improved assessment and monitoring of democracy in learning environments.
  • Evidence-based prioritization and curricula redesign in formal and informal learning environments across Europe.
  • Implementation of the model in 30+ European countries.
  • Integration of the model into teacher education in 20+ European countries.
  • The creation of a vibrant community of practice around the model, with 4000 members.
  • A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) taken by 5000 students.

The project is carried out by 10 partner institutions from EU and embraces a transdisciplinary approach combining expertise from Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, as well as Science and Technology.

Project Partners are

  • University of Oulu / Finland (coordinator)
  • The Provost, Fellows, Foundation Scholars & The Other Members Of Board, Of The College Of The Holy & Undivided Trinity Of Queen Elizabeth Near Dublin / Ireland
  • Universitat de Barcelona / Spain
  • Stichting Waag Society / Netherlands
  • Ars Electronica Linz Gmbh & Co Kg / Austria
  • Zavod Za Kulturo, Umetnost In Izobrazevanje Kersnikova /Eslovenia
  • Latra Innovation Lab / Greece
  • Stichting The Tactical Technology Collective (Ttc) / Netherlands
  • Alternatives Europeennes Association / France
  • Institut Za Drustvena Istrazivanja U Zagrebu / Croatia
Last updated: 22.11.2023