Living Labs: A Pathway to Democratic Education

Authors: Ebru Eren & Benjamin Mallon

In our fast-changing world, fostering democratic values and civic engagement among young people is more critical than ever. As societies face complex challenges like climate change, poverty, human rights violations, cybersecurity threats, educational disparities, growing population and pollution, migration and refugee crisis, political instability and conflict, pandemics, artificial intelligence, loss of biodiversity and more, it’s vital to equip individuals, especially young people, with the tools to participate actively in democracy. One promising method is Living Labs. But what are they, and how can they promote democratic education? Let’s explore this concept and its potential role in Ireland. 

Understanding Living Labs

Living Labs are dynamic platforms for collaborative problem-solving and innovation. They provide real-world settings where diverse stakeholders work together to develop, test, and enhance solutions for complex challenges. These environments act as live laboratories, enabling practical application of ideas, fostering mutual learning, and allowing continuous improvement. 

In the context of education, Living Labs offer a unique opportunity to reimagine the learning experience and cultivate democratic values among learners. By bringing together experts, practitioners, and young individuals, these labs facilitate dialogue, collaboration, and innovation. Participants can engage in hands-on activities, brainstorming, explore new pedagogical approaches, and reflect on their roles as active citizens in a democratic society.

The Irish Context: A Plan for Living Labs

Dublin City University is the Irish partner in a Europe-wide Horizon funded project, ‘DEMOCRAT – Education for Responsible Democratic Citizenship’ which explores the integration of ‘Education for Democracy’ into education systems across the EU. As part of the project an Irish ‘Living Lab’, has been set up in DCU. The project, running from 2023 to 2026, will conduct six Living Labs workshops focusing on different aspects of education for democracy. These workshops provide a platform for experts to identify challenges, develop solutions, and conduct research to create an education for democracy framework. Irish Living Labs involves diverse stakeholders, including teachers, teacher educators, researchers, policymakers and young people. This inclusive approach fosters collaboration and co-creation, promoting a sense of ownership and collective responsibility.

The core of the Living Labs initiative is the co-creation of an education for democracy framework, covering concepts like democracy, political participation, sustainable development, and responsible citizenship. Through multidisciplinary collaboration, stakeholders will develop a robust framework guiding curriculum design and teaching practices. Moreover, the Living Labs will serve as a research platform to understand participant experiences and the impact of democratic education initiatives. This research will inform effective strategies for promoting democratic values and civic engagement among young people. In addition to research, the Living Labs will implement local pilot projects, allowing learners to engage in hands-on activities promoting democratic values and active citizenship. These projects will adapt the curriculum to local contexts and incorporate innovative teaching methods.

In conclusion, Living Labs offer a promising approach to democratic education, providing a platform for collaboration and innovation.  Through inclusive participation and research, these labs have the potential to shape the future of democratic education, empowering young people to be active and engaged citizens in their communities and beyond. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *