Citizen Inquiry

Charlotte is making sure that young voices are heard

Youth worker and academic, Dr Charlotte Dean devotes her professional life to working with young people to develop environmental education projects which really are aimed at saving the world! She is at the forefront of embedding the methodology of Citizen Inquiry (Citizen Science + Inquiry-Based Learning) at the University of Hull. Working with a range of public and community stakeholders, she explores the barriers and challenges faced by those who want to get involved and tackle issues that affect their lives. Can young people lead the debate about the environment and offer solutions? Charlotte thinks they can.

Charlotte uses participatory research and arts based research methods to co-create solutions to some of the major challenges of our time.

Together with Professor Kevin Burden and PhD student Tania Fu, Charlotte is leading an Erasmus-funded Young Citizens for Change project, working with partners from Spain, Norway, Germany and the UK.  For this project, four trans-national groups of young people and their teachers/youth workers are developing environmental activism in young people through facilitating creative Citizen Inquiry projects. You can see some of the project's activities and events here.

The project aims to develop the environmental agency of hard-to-reach young people through creative youth-led citizen inquiry activities that encourage dialogue at a local level but also help to influence policymakers more widely.

Digital Citizen Project

Charlotte has also been working on a British Council funded Digital Citizen project that works with young people to tackle the biggest environmental problem facing their communities.   Ten universities across Thailand created their own digital Citizen Inquiry with themes including flooding, landslides, plastics waste and tourism pollution; you can find the project's outputs and resources here. The project aimed to support policy makers in Thailand and the CLMV countries to identify and implement strategies that will enable young people to better understand and apply the principles of the circular economy around issues of environmental concern such as plastics waste through using Citizen Inquiry methodology. This film was created by the teachers, educators and young people who took part in the project and explains more.

For the Evolving a Circular Plastics Economy project, Charlotte has been exploring issues around single use plastic with young people. The aim was to make new products, educational resources and campaigns to educate and involve adults and young people alike. Plastic Citizen combines a Citizen Inquiry approach with everyday technology such as mobile phones, opening up the work to young researchers.

Young people designed the research methodology including an open source survey, using the NQuire platform.  Much of this work is done online with resources and activities which are supplied to schools. Social media sites such as Twitter have also played a part.  Young people made various digital products during the project and also a film about plastic waste.

+R+R+RAP Plastic Citizen Project video

Environmental education is not the only focus of Charlotte’s work. Other projects include working with the University of Hull’s Social Justice Research Group, local arts company My Pockets and the East Riding of Yorkshire Children in Care Council to co-create, along with young people in care, an animated film and accompanying teaching resource pack which explores the educational experience of young people in care. 

The Just Like Our Lives film gives these young people a voice and helps educate teachers about some of the issues faced in education by young people in care.  The film has had over 2650 views, and was shortlisted for the World Health Organisation Health for All, Scout, Making a Positive Difference and Lift Off international Film Festivals. 

The Rewilding Reading project was funded by the Ferens Education Trust and facilitated a series of Rewilding Reading events in which the University of Hull, Hull Libraries, the Schools Information Service, Child Dynamix, Probe Ltd and Hull City Council Youth Development Service invited young people living in disadvantaged areas of Hull to engage with bushcraft and storytelling events which took place in urban wild spaces close to them. The events aimed to inspire young people to engage with wild literature through participation in wild bushcraft activities and immersion in wild storytelling. Watch the film, made by Flygirl Films, to find out more!

Rewilding Reading
We have put trust in these young people and they have risen to that challenge and they have really taken ownership. I always think that’s awe-inspiring, when you give people the power to be able to do something
Charlotte Dean

Dr. Charlotte Dean

Lecturer in Education/Postdoctoral Research Assistant

What drives you in your work with young people?

I just really love working with young people, they have the most amazing ideas, especially around dealing with climate change and the environment and I am really passionate about doing everything I can to support those ideas to become actions that will change the world!

Tell us more about your work with young people overseas

As part of the Plastic Citizen project we visited the Jugendklimarat (Youth Climate Council) in Bremerhaven who are a group of really inspirational young people working to tackle the causes of climate change. We are now working on funding applications for working with young people to explore the best ways establish similar groups in Spain, Norway and the UK.

What impact can you see from your research?

I think that the creative participatory research methods that I use in my work has a real impact, particularly citizen inquiry, which is all about letting the 'citizens' i.e. young people, communities etc. decide the best way to tackle the research areas in question. I also like to explore how digital technology can be used creatively in research and have been involved in some fantastic projects where young people have created films, music, websites, ebooks and digital apps which really give a voice to their research findings.

Community Impact

  • The Citizen Inquiry approach puts young people and communities at the heart of our research
  • The Plastic Citizen project facilitates environmental agency in young people
  • Raising aspirations and skills
  • Supporting public engagement and knowledge exchange