The award-winning module Democracy in Action is coming to an end after running for its first full year this year. The module has had an impact in multiple ways. Whilst the primary function of the module was to deliver teaching to the students there are also wider transformative impacts for the students involved, the university community and the wider community. We did things differently on Democracy in Action and the impacts that came from that were important and profound.

Speaking to power holders 

Following their training on community organising, students taking democracy in action listened to the community on real social issues across a number of months and presented this listening to key community leaders and power holders in the community on the following issues: living wage, violence against women and girls, affordable housing and community cohesion and safety. 

Empowering the students 

In their work students were listened to and this empowered them to find their voice and take a position on key social issues in the community. They not only shared their work but also invited other members of the community to speak about social issues, their stories and experiences. These stories that were shared alongside the listening and research that the students undertook is leading to real social change. The stories that were shared from this group were eye opening and the students that shared them were brave, and they were also listened to carefully. This listening was not patronising, but instead empowering.

Bringing the community together 

The work on this module also had the impact of bringing the community together to work on social issues and meet each other in a new and different environment. Though working in partnership with the community, key community leaders and key power holders this module plays a pivotal role in building the university's ecosystem of community in a different way to usual practices.  This builds community, relational power and key partnerships.

Students’ Leadership Development

30 students arrived in class in October 2021 visibly recovering from the pandemic and navigating a new face-to-face experience. Masks hindered connection, nerves impacted participation and many lacked confidence to contribute to discussions and roleplays. Fast-forward to their project presentations and they all stood proud and presented confidently in their action teams to decision-makers in the room. Assistant Lecturers also honed their teaching and coordinating skills as they led teams of students. |

Institutional Development

The students on the inter-disciplinary module came from numerous departments which has strengthened links and revealed possibilities for shared research and action. Several departmental leaders attended the final presentations, and pledged to work more closely with module participants and to get more involved in Colchester Citizens and Citizens Essex.

Through students visiting other member institutions of Colchester Citizens they strengthened the relationship between the university and other local organisations, some of which had little previous connection with the university. Guest speakers from Colchester Citizens’ member institutions also deepened the connection between local leaders and the university.

Overview of impact from Juliet Kilpin at Citizens UK

The Democracy in Action module, delivered in partnership with Citizens Essex, has had significant impact this year. Citizens UK is a people powered alliance dedicated to challenging injustice and building stronger communities and through this module the Citizens Essex Chapter has developed leadership, strengthened University of Essex and its institutional relationships and achieved justice on particular issues.

The following blogs and press release give further detail on the impacts:

• Links to other blogs and press release