Bringing democracy to life for students through action in the community

Excellence in Education Awards: Excellent Collaborative Educators Award winner

  • Date

    Thu 27 Jan 22

graphic logo reading Citizens Essex in red, yellow and black text on white background

What is democracy? What makes you angry? How can you work with the local community to bring about change and invigorate democratic practice? Encouraging students to tackle questions such as these has won the interdisciplinary module ‘Democracy in Action’ an Excellence in Education Award.

This participatory, research-informed and student-led module was developed by Essex Business School and the Department of Government in partnership with Citizens UK.

The students who take this module are trained in community organising by Citizens UK and attend seminars on democracy, citizenship and power, alongside active engagement with local community organisations.

Accordingly, students are able to learn from both theoretical and real-life engagement, putting into practice what they learn in the classroom, making connections to other modules, and engaging in participatory forms of learning.

This initiative creates an environment in which students are able to develop, refine, and practice a wide range of skills that are relevant to their employability prospects, and their role as citizens.

Course director, Dr Rebecca Warren said: “There are few opportunities for students to explore these concepts in practice. This module has encouraged students to better appreciate the challenges of collective decision making, policy impact, active citizenship and community action that are relevant to many facets of their academic degree content across disciplines.”

The students actively forge links with community organisations, such as the YMCA, The Methodist Church, The Salvation Army and Colchester Foodbank. Participants have the opportunity to listen to, and engage with, different views and a variety of community issues and then formulate and present their own ideas and possible solutions. In this way, they are able to gain a practical understanding of local governance proceedings and everyday life problems and connect with the community in a new way.

The impact of this work with the community is illustrated by the following quote from a student:

“By having conversations with people seemingly different to us we have realised that we have many things in common, and that we have to work together to make Colchester and Essex County a better and safer place to live.”

The winning team are:

  • Dr Rebecca Warren, Lecturer in Accounting, Essex Business School
  • Professor Jason Glynos, Professor of Political Theory, Department of Government
  • Dr Konstantinos Roussos, Lecturer, School of Health and Social Care
  • Dr Jimena Vazquez Garcia, Fixed Term Lecturer, Department of Government
  • Lorenzo Crippa, PhD student, Department of Government
  • Anne Steinhoff, PhD student, Essex Business School