Democracy Meets Arts: Critical Change Labs for Building Democratic Cultures through Creative and Narrative Practices 

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

Specifically, the Critical ChangeLab project develops a model of democratic pedagogy using creative and narrative practices to foster youth’s active democratic citizenship at a time when polarisation and dwindling trust in democracy are spreading across Europe. The Critical ChangeLab Model for Democratic Pedagogy fosters learners' transformative agency and strengthens democratic processes in education through collaborations across formal and non-formal education and local actors around global/local challenges relevant for youth. The Model promotes creative and narrative practices to explore the historical roots of local and EU-wide challenges, understanding the value-systems and worldviews underlying distinct types of relations (human-human, human-nature, human-technology). At the Critical ChangeLabs, young people are introduced to approaches such as theatre of the oppressed, transmedia storytelling, as well as speculative and critical design to rethink European democracy and envision democracy futures that are justice-oriented. 

Throughout the project's lifespan, the Critical ChangeLab project examines the current state of democracy within education institutions developing instruments such as the Democracy Health Questionnaire and Index, identifying youth’s perspectives on everyday democracy. As part of the project, a scalable and tailorable model of democratic pedagogy in formal and non-formal learning environments is designed. Critical ChangeLab Model is co-created and implemented with youth and stakeholders and evaluated to provide recommendations for policy and practice. Strategies to sustain the model and its outcomes over time are also produced. 

The Critical ChangeLab project uses mixed model research design combining quantitative and in-depth qualitative research on democracy and youth with participatory action research cycles to generate a robust evidence base to support democratic curriculum development using participatory, creative, and critical approaches. 

Further information about Critical ChangeLab 

Interact research unit at University of Oulu coordinates the project and leads the WP on mapping and design. University of Oulu research team includes researchers from the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering and the Faculty of Education and Psychology.   

Critical ChangeLab research team at University of Oulu: 

Assoc. Prof. Marianne Kinnula, project PI 

Academy Postdoc. researcher Eva Durall Gazulla, co-PI 

Postdoc. researcher Heidi Hartikainen, project manager 

Doctoral researcher Yusra Niaz , member of the research team 

Prof. Anu Kajamaa, member of the research team 

Doctoral researcher Tuija Cornér, member of the research team 

Research assistant Erja Taskinen, member of the research team