Research page
Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy


Timeline: 2024-26

Keywords: Youth participation; Just transition; Climate action; Cities; Participatory democracy; Democratic innovations; France; Italy; Spain; Switzerland

Funding: Private Foundation

At a time of growing societal polarisation, the evolving landscape of participation in local democracy and youth climate activism warrants attention: it is crucial to better comprehend the nuances of this interaction in order to inform policy strategies that can harness the agency of youth to drive forward more participatory spaces.

The overarching goal of this project is to unravel and understand the twofold dynamics of tensions and engagement between climate activists and democratic institutions.

Ethnographic case studies, interviews, discourse analysis, and policy analysis are used to explore the interplay between grassroots mobilisations and formal political processes.

The project builds on four case studies that allow for an in-depth analysis of the mechanisms tying local practices with national and global claims and concerns. They are developed in France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland and examine: 1) the workings of “just transition” policy making and rhetorical framework in Geneva; 2) the nexus between environmental issues and partisan politics, including extreme left and right politics in Barcelona; 3) the opportunities for engagement and disengagement between grassroot movements and local politics that emerge from civil disobedience practices in Paris; and 4) the role of place-based resistance for environmental movements in Rome and Bologna.

The project expects to provide new insights on:

  • the mechanisms tying local practices of activism and politics with national and global claims and concerns at a time of increased polarisation;
  • the implications of the agendas of “just transition” to connect young activists and local political institutions;
  • the interplay between, on the one hand, activism and local forms of experimentation in environmental policy, and civil disobedience and local politics on the other; and
  • how points of synergies and contrasts between movements and institutions exist in sites of resistance.

Significant outreach strategies including an edited book as well as a podcast will enable scholars and stakeholders working on other European localities to engage in this urgent question, providing pan-European yet localised answers and accelerating the discussion.