Developing innovative, transdisciplinary, youth-led approaches to democracy and global citizenship education in Europe.

The past two decades have been an era of democratic backsliding and declining global freedoms. At the same time, we’ve seen the rise of youth climate movements worldwide—collective action by young people concerned about their future. In Ireland, most young people now consider participating in forms of street politics equally or more effective than voting (Eurobarometer Youth Survey, 2021).

Democracy requires continuous co-creation to thrive, including meaningful youth participation. How do we develop learning spaces that support democracy and participation and allow young people to collaborate and engage in dialogue and critical reflection? What are the core competencies and critical literacies required for active citizenship, and how do we develop these skills?

Critical ChangeLab is an EU project that seeks to foster youth agency to transform the systems in which they learn, live, and work and develop creative imaginaries about democracy and the future.


  • Open up spaces for young people to develop shared imaginaries about democracy.
  • Foster transformative agency and encourage youth ownership of everyday democracy.
  • Develop skills and competencies for participation in democratic systems and cultures.
  • Create a scalable model of democratic pedagogy.
  • Strengthen democratic processes in formal and informal education.
  • Generate recommendations for policy and practice.

Critical ChangeLabs

The Critical ChangeLab project adapts the innovative Change Laboratory methodology (Engeström, Virkkunen et al., 1996). It combines democracy education, STEAM, and creative arts approaches for transformative, expansive learning.

Critical ChangeLabs can take place in formal or non-formal learning environments, from secondary school classrooms to youth groups, museums and beyond. They involve collaboration with local actors—educators, civic society organisations, artists, scientists, and everyone in between—around global and local challenges relevant to young people.

Critical ChangeLabs target 11-18-year-olds and use active pedagogies, including transmedia storytelling, role-play, drama and theatre, and creative technologies such as VR and AR.

Critical ChangeLabs will be designed, implemented, and evaluated in nineteen EU countries over the next three years. Through participatory action research (PAR) and participatory evaluation, we aim to create a scalable and tailorable model that anyone can implement and use beyond the project's funded lifespan. Accompanying training tools and policy recommendations will be provided.

Democracy Health Index

We are also carrying out research with teachers and young people to analyse (i) the democratic health of educational institutions and (ii) youth perspectives on everyday democracy. We will survey 200 formal and non-formal institutions in Ireland, and the project will collect and compare data on 2,000 of these institutions across Europe.

This includes the creation of a democracy health questionnaire and the development of the democracy health index for assessing everyday democracy in different learning environments across Europe.

Research Team 

Trinity is part of a consortium of research and practice partners from the University of Oulu (project coordinator), the University of Barcelona, Waag Futurelab, Ars Electronica, Kersnikova, LATRA, Tactical Tech, European Alternatives, and the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb.

The Trinity research team is Dr Mairéad Hurley (PI) and Dr Caitlin White from the School of Education, and Dr Elspeth Payne from the Trinity Long Room Hub.

CriticalChange Lab Team


Critical ChangeLab seeks to partner with schools and civic organisations from across Ireland. We especially want to hear from individuals and that haven’t worked with us before. 

Our current collaborators include The Digital Hub, Beta Festival, Hologen, NYCI, and Ubuntu.

For more information or to get involved in the Critical ChangeLab project in Ireland, please contact

Related Resources

Research Funding 

The Critical ChangeLab project is funded by the European Union Horizon Europe Programme under grant agreement 101094217. You can find more information  here.

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