Browser does not support script.

Institute for Social Justice

Living Lab

An interdisciplinary network in which university students and staff collaborate with local organisations and policymakers to investigate and tackle real-life local problems.

Student putting notes onto map drawn on cardboard

We know from previous research at York St John that our students want to get actively involved in ecological and social justice issues, on campus and in the local area.

Students want to find out how their particular discipline can contribute to more just and sustainable futures, starting with the university itself. Complex sustainability issues require interdisciplinary solutions, and collaboration between academic departments and professional services like Estates and Catering, so the Living Lab draws on the diverse expertise of a range of university staff.

Humanities students bring their understanding of cultural change; science students their ability to monitor problems and innovate solutions; arts students their creative channels for engaging the public with complex challenges. Shared events bring students together to learn from each other and from experts and campaigners, and the 'live brief' of designing solutions helps them develop skills as researchers, advocates and activists.

For our first Living Lab (Learning At The Junction, Spring 2022), students and staff from 9 different subjects collaborated to investigate local air quality, culminating in a public festival in which they shared their proposed solutions with policymakers and the public. Staff and student perspectives on this pilot Living Lab can be read in the project Reflection Report.

From here the Living Lab will diversify into other issues, particularly the local food system.

Cookie Settings