New Possibilities: Young People and Democratic Renewal

Exploring the significance of young people's participation in climate change movements for democracy.

Our Vision

The mass mobilisation of school students for action on climate change suggests that many young Australians want a more participatory and inclusive form of democracy. The New Possibilities project examines the way student leadership, organisation and participation occurs across online and offline spaces, shaping Australia’s political and democratic culture, during a time of global, social and political change.

Our Project Plan

In this project, we will work with young people to document and analyse how they participate in politics and to create a unique digital media library and novel resource for democratic renewal.

Over three years (2022-2025) we will map student climate action around Australia, conduct surveys, social media and legacy media analysis, and in-depth interviews. From this, we will generate case studies, longitudinal and rich insights into what moves young people to become politically active and how they are conceptualising and making politics in a time of climate crisis.

Project History

This project builds on a pilot project conducted in 2019, as part of a 19-country study about who is taking part in climate protests de Moor et al. eds, 2019). Since then, we have been developing a conceptual framework, research and analytical methods in response to the development of the student climate movement. We are inspired by their leadership in calling for urgent and meaningful responses to the climate crisis and we believe these have broader implications for the health of our democracies around the world.

Read more about the pilot project here.

What Impact will this research have?

The New Possibilities project will enhance knowledge of student politics and their relation to climate change, social and democratic change. It will provide an understanding of how young people understand and respond to complex social, economic, and environmental challenges. The project will also explore how different settings, practices and political commitments move young people to action and the specific role of gender. The project’s findings will be channelled to support democratic participation, teaching and policy-making and enhance young people’s sense of political efficacy, and informed and engaged citizenship. This will support the broader social, cultural and economic outcomes.

Through explaining and amplifying what young people are doing to shape democracy, the project will inform political parties, civil society groups and educators on how to effectively engage with younger people in democratic processes.  The project will share research findings via the media library, public reports and a major international workshop with policy-makers, educators, civil society organisations and students.



  • Bessant, J., Collin, P., and Watts, R., L., (2023), ‘Blah, Blah, Blah … [not] business as usual’: politics through the lens of young female climate leaders, Australian Journal of Political Science.
  • Bessant, J., Collin, P., Watts, R. (forthcoming). A Revisionist Account the Democratic Crisis and Youth Participation. In Bessant, J., Collin, P., O’Keeffe, P. (Eds.), Research Handbook for the Sociology of Youth, Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Catanzaro, M. & Collin, P. (2021)Kids Communicating Climate Change: Learning from the Visual Language of the SchoolStrike4Climate Protests” in Educational Review special issue - Youth Activism, Climate Change and Education (eds. Frances Howard, Ian Gimpsey, David Rousell).
  • Collin, P., & Gordan, F. (2023). Children and young people contesting citizenship. In J. Wyn, H. Cahill, & H. Cuervo (Eds.), Handbook of Children and Youth Studies (pp. 1-14).
  • Collin, P., Bessant, J., and Watts, R., L., (forthcoming). When We Can’t vote, Action Is All We Have’:  Student Climate Politics, Rights and Justice. In McLeod, J., Wright K.  (Eds.), Childhood, Youth and Activism: Global Perspectives on Demands for Rights and Justice from Young People and their Advocates, Emerald.
  • Collin, P. & Matthews, I. (2021) ‘School Strike for Climate: Australian Students Renegotiating Citizenship’ in Bessant, J., Mejia Mesinas, A., and  Pickard, S. (eds). 2020. When Students Protest. (Vol 1): Secondary School students. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield: 125 - 144.
  • Collin, P., Matthews, I. Churchill, B.& Jackson, S. (2020) in Joost de Moor, Katrin Uba, Mattias Wahlström, Magnus Wennerhag and Michiel De Vydt (Eds.) Protest for a future II: Composition, mobilization and motives of the participants in Fridays For Future climate protests on 20-27 September, 2019, in 19 cities around the world. Retrieved from:
  • Tasker, S. & Collin, P. (2022) Young people shaping wise futures. in Joy Higgs, Dr Diane Tasker, Jan Orrell, and Dr Narelle Patton (eds) Shaping Wise Futures, Brill Publishing, Leiden: pp 396-415.

Media Coverage


Expected outcomes include improved capacity for investigating student political action, new knowledge of the motivations, norms and practices that characterise student climate politics and concepts and tools for democratic renewal through engagement with young people.

Collaboration team


  • Professor Philippa Collin
  • Dr Michelle Catanzaro
  • Dr Luigi Di Martino


  • Professor Judith Bessant, RMIT University
  • Assoc Prof Faith Gordon, Australian National University
  • Dr Stewart Jackson, University of Sydney
  • Professor Rob Watts, RMIT University

Student contributors and interns

  • Anhaar Kareem
  • Emily Webb
  • Dinusha Soo
  • Moxit Saurabhkumar Doshi
  • Ashish Mohanraj Doyizode
  • Dipti Sharma
  • Skye Tasker


  • This project has been funded by the Western Sydney University, University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, RMIT University and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project program.



2022 – 2025

Contact: If you would like to get in contact with the New Possibilities team, please email Dr. Luigi Di Martino at