London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Sustainability, Citizenship, and Transformation

Author(s) Banks, J. W. R.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2013  
Editor P. Cunningham (ed.) Identities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, crisis and challenges  
Age group -  
This paper discusses the attitudes of three groups of teenagers/young people in Northern Ireland (age range 12 to 26; n = 33) exploring their views on social, economic, and environmental sustainability in relation to local and global citizenship. The theoretical framework is constructed in a review of the literature surrounding these issues including: sustainability, sustainable citizenships, interdependence, and education. This research had two aims: Firstly, using Action Research (AR) explore whether participants’ awareness of their interdependence on the global non-human and human environment is raised as participants become more aware of their individual, cultural, regional, national, and global identities, rights, responsibilities, and duties (socially, economically and environmentally). Secondly, determine whether raising interdependence awareness in such a way can help teenagers and young people envision and act towards a sustainable future. AR and the accompanying qualitative methodologies are discussed. As a process AR involves a spiral of self-reflective cycles including: planning, acting and observing, reflecting, and re-planning. This was carried out during a six session self-assembled ‘Sustainable Citizenship Programme’ consisting of: Attitudes: Local and Global, Citizens: Local, Global, and Sustainable, Consumerism and Consumption, Energy and Waste, Everyday Sustainability, and Future Transformation. The process of AR creates additional goals, it is not research for research’s sake; it is research for action and transformation as shown in the second aim. The reflective nature of AR was assisted by the teenagers/young people participating in the research itself. Their awareness and ability to envision sustainable futures were assessed through an analysis of recordings, visual work, and reflective writing by participants in addition to two applications of a survey completed prior to and following the programme’s completion. The data was thematically coded and indicated that whilst awareness did increase, thus achieving the first aim (and that greater group cohesion appeared to be conducive to both aims), more needs to be done in citizenship education to connect the concepts of citizenship and sustainability in the minds of teenagers/young people. Whilst raising awareness is a requisite for sustainability, unaccompanied by other promotive conditions it does not appear to be sufficient in assisting teenagers and young people to envision and act towards a sustainable future. Therefore the second aim was not determined within the scope of this study and further research is required. Keywords: sustainability; citizenship; young people; action research

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