Critical ChangeLab kicks-off

The Critical ChangeLab project embarks on an exciting three year journey to build a resilient European democracy by reinvigorating the relationship between youth and democracy.

Critical ChangeLab (Democracy Meets Arts: Critical Change Labs for Building Democratic Cultures through Creative and Narrative Practices) is a Horizon Europe research and innovation project addressing democratic erosion trends by strengthening youth participation in society. 

Representatives from the University of Oulu (FI), Trinity College Dublin (IE), the University of Barcelona (ES), Waag Futurelab (NL), Ars Electronica (AT), Kersnikova Institute (SI), LATRA (GR), Tactical Tech (DE), European Alternatives (FR) and the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb (HR) met together online to kick-off a project centered around the principles of direct action democracy, transformative agency, grassroots participation, and meaningful citizen engagement.

The Critical ChangeLab Model

The project coordinators Eva Durall Gazulla (ES/FI) and Marianne Kinnula (FI) from the INTERACT Research Group at the University of Oulu led the meeting. Together they outlined the path forward to achieving Critical ChangeLab’s overall goal of strengthening democracy in Europe by creating and implementing a flexible model of democratic pedagogy.

The Critical ChangeLab Model for Democratic Pedagogy will use a bottom-up approach that empowers young people to ‘own’ everyday democracy and engage in direct action towards justice-oriented transformations. The Model will be created within the project following a participatory process with youth, educators, and other stakeholders, using Participatory Action Research (PAR) and participatory evaluation. ​

Introducing the Change Laboratory Approach

Anu Kajamaa, Professor of Education​ at the University of Oulu introduced the consortium to the Change Laboratory approach developed together with Yrjö Engeström (FI), Jaakko Virkkunen (FI) and Annalisa Sannino (FI). The Change Laboratory will inform the development of the Critical ChangeLab Model for Democratic Pedagogy.

The Change Laboratory is based on the principles of collaborative research and intervention. The methodology emphasizes the active involvement of various stakeholders, including researchers, educators, and professionals in related fields.

The basic structure and setup of the Change Laboratory involve creating a space where practitioners can engage in reflective and collaborative work. The approach draws inspiration from earlier laboratory-based approaches, such as Kurt Lewin’s ‘laboratory approach’ to ‘training groups’ in the 1940s and 1950s, and Peter Senge’s ‘learning laboratories’ in the 1990s. However, the Change Laboratory distinguishes itself by its key principles and focuses on addressing contradictions and transforming work practices.

Ready for Change

The partners wrapped up this first meeting after two days inspired by the Change Laboratory and ready to begin a transformative journey towards critical change. Embracing collaborative research, arts-based methodologies, and mixed methods approaches, the Critical ChangeLab consortium is motivated to kick-off the project and work together towards developing a new model for democratic pedagogy.

Further Reading on the Change Laboratory Approach:

Engeström, Y., Virkkunen, J., Helle, M., Pihlaja, J. & Poikela, R. (1996). The Change laboratory as a tool for transforming work. Lifelong Learning in Europe 1(2), 10–17. ​

Kajamaa, A. & Hyrkkö, S. (2022). Change Laboratory method for facilitating transformative agency and collective professional learning – case from a Finnish elementary school. In Michael Goller, Eva Kyndt, Susanna Paloniemi, and Crina Damşa (Eds.) Methods for Researching Professional Learning and Development: Challenges, Applications and Empirical Illustrations. Springer, (pp. 535-556).​

Kerosuo, H., Kajamaa, A. & Engeström, Y. (2010). Promoting innovation and learning through Change Laboratory: An example from Finnish Health care. Central European Journal of Public Policy 4(1), 110-131. Special Issue on Knowledge Governance. ​

Virkkunen, J. and Newnham, D. S. (2013). The Change Laboratory – A Tool for Collaborative Development of Work and Education. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.​

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