Pedagogy of concrete utopias: Fostering youth agency and climate activism in formal education
The project researches pedagogical approaches for responding to youth's anguish about climate change and for supporting the development of youth's active citizenship and activism for sustainable futures.

This research project aims to design and research pedagogical approaches for responding to youth's anguish about climate change and for supporting the development of youth's active citizenship and activism for sustainable futures. The project also examines the development of youth agency and its preconditions. The project is implemented in collaboration with teachers, civil society organizations, and young climate activists.

The project poses four objectives:

  1. Examine the pedagogical potential of the concept of concrete utopia to support diverse youth in envisioning alternative futures and enacting them in the present.
  2. Develop a pedagogical model for fostering youth agency and climate activism based on the concept of concrete utopias. Examine the feasibility and achievability of the model in formal education settings.
  3. Generate empirical research knowledge about students’ learning and agency development through their engagement in envisioning and building concrete utopias.
  4. Advance empirically-grounded understanding of the ethical and political dimensions of learning, agency, and pedagogy.

To address these objectives, the project builds on the methodology of social design experiments as well as ethnographic and video-based research methods.

In this project the youth are at the center. The project develops pedagogy that supports youth who have new solutions and ideas for ecologically sustainable ways of organizing life and activity. Education can no longer emphasize enculturation into existing culture that has shown itself to be unsustainable. There is a need for new ways of living, thinking, and consuming. The project examines a novel pedagogical concept of concrete utopia that helps to advance understanding of the practical relationship between climate change, on the one hand, and human communities and culture, on the other hand. The project creates a new kind of dialogue between youth, teachers, policy and decision makers, NGOs, and other social actors. Thus, the project creates new ways in which actors from different disciplines and layers of society can collaborate. The project also creates new pedagogical tools to support youth’s active citizenship and agency.

Researcher: Antti Rajala, Post-doctoral researcher

Funding: The Academy of Finland, 2020-2023