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ENLIGHT Networking and IdeaLab: Tackling future challenges through critical language awareness (CLA)

On 11-12  October 2023, the research group  Responsus at the University of Groningen organised a series of events focusing on the role of  (visual) language and communication in tackling future challenges.

Their public facing event on 11 October 2023, Sustainability Reimagined delivered a series of talks, keynote lectures and hands-on workshops. 


On 12 October we  invited experts to an ENLIGHT IdeaLab. The main aim of the IdeaLab was to generate ideas around the crucial role of critical language awareness for a sustainable future. Focusing specifically on ENLIGHT flagship themes Climate change and Equity, the main aim of this workshop was to bring together experts, develop a theme network and work plan to bring greater awareness to critical language awareness (CLA).

Why Critical Language Awareness?

Our society today is rooted in a complex network of interactions where meaning-making and communication play a crucial role, shaping our understanding, attitudes, and actions towards our physical and social environment. As highlighted by the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, sustainable development is as much about promoting social equality and community resilience as it is about ensuring the well-being of our planet. In the realization of these goals, language and communication are pivotal. They shape our understanding of the world, our attitudes, and our behaviours, ultimately inspiring action towards a sustainable future. The constitutive role of language goes beyond the technical skills of communication. It sets the frames for interpretation, influences perceptions, and constructs social realities. This is especially critical in tackling abstract and intangible issues like environmental crises, political extremism and social polarization or responsible business. 

Our knowledge-based society constructs knowledge and understanding of major societal issues through discourse. Critical language awareness enables us to notice how language and discourse shape society, how it constitutes knowledge and how it is invested with ideologies. Critical language awareness has the potential to empower individuals, promoting higher levels of analytical and critical thinking skills, reflexivity, and a democratic, responsible mindset - several of the key competencies of the ENLIGHT  competency framework. To navigate the complexity of future challenges - whether they be environmental, social, or economic - it is vital to foster such an awareness. Yet, despite its clear importance, CLA receives insufficient attention as a key competency for future generations.

This new thematic network sets out to remedy this.

The IdeaLab was attended by 25 participants from Uppsala, Ghent, Bratislava, Tartu, Bern and Groningen and included sociolinguistics, critical discourse scholars, rhetoricians, historians, literary scholars, teacher education specialists, sociologists, behavioural psychologists and applied linguists.  The forming group is open to engage with colleagues across the wider network, so if you are interested to learn more about the aims and plans, and/or become part of the new theme network, please get in touch with Dr Erika Darics: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Eager to learn more? Take a look on the report written by Charmaine Kong, Alessandro Pellanda, and Laura Wohlgemuth.

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