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What Why Democracy Project

What, Why Democracy?

Research and Film Projects about Democracy:

Students, Academics and Filmmakers United


Why do political regimes and institutions develop how they do, where they do? What does democracy mean? How do people view democracy, and are there different opinions around the world? Why are some countries democratic and others not? In this project, which started in 2011, students apply their acquired theoretical and academic knowledge in practice, by working on both academic research projects and film projects. This What, Why Democracy Project is developed and led by Renske Doorenspleet, and is embedded in the module on comparative politics PO233.

Research Projects:

In term 1 and term 2, students work on their own individual research proposal on the topic ‘what, why democracy’ in which they develop an interesting and relevant research question, describe the relevant theories, concepts and measurements, compare countries, and collect and analyse empirical data. The aim is to put research-led teaching into practice, to work on own research projects, to develop research skills, to write findings down in an academic article, to send it to journals such as Reinvention and to present resarch at conferences such as the BCUR.

Please click here to get an impression of students' research projects (selection).

BCUR 2012

Jenni, Ben and Giulia (not in picture), and Jure (in middle of the photo), presented their resarch project on democracy (developed in PO233 comparative politics module) at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research, which invites students from all disciplines to submit their work in various forms including poster presentations, papers or creative outputs, see www.bcur.org. Picture is made by IATL

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Jure Jerich was invited to present his poster on 'democracy-building in Bosnia-Herzegovina' at an BCUR event, which had been staged in Parliament, and it brought together students from 10 universities to give presentations of their projects at Westminster.


Film Projects:

In term 2, students get the opportunity to develop other skills, such as film making and working together in small groups. Students make their own film (of around 3 minutes) on the topic ‘what, why democracy’ – hence using their acquired academic, theoretical and empirical knowledge from the module on comparative politics PO233. The aims are to develop new skills for students, combine academic and creative ways of working, to use interdisciplinary approaches, and to engage with global events and culture.

Please click here, if you want to watch some of the short films made by the students!


Students working on their film

Helen and Leslie working on their short film 'what does democracy mean to you?'


‘What Why Democracy Festival’, for all students and staff Warwick:

At the beginning of term 3, the Centre for Studies in Democratization organizes a ‘What Why Democracy Festival’. At this festival, students get the opportunity to present both their academic research projects and their films on ‘what, why democracy?’ A professional film maker is invited to present her own films related to democracy and other topics in the field of comparative politics, and she will watch and comment the short films made by the students. The aims of such an event are to put theoretical knowledge into practice, and to build a bridge between academics, students and film makers working on the same topics in comparative politics.

Please click here for summary of this event (click on video to watch and listen, 58min48sec) and


click here for news coverage of this event in The Boar


click here for roundtable on corruption, democracy and freedom of speech (click on podcast to listen)



Another Unexpected Outcome:

Inspired by this WhatWhyDemocracy project and by Zoe d'Amaro's feedback, students founded SIBE in 2011. SIBE is a student run producer and broadcaster of live interactive TV and documentaries encouraging constructive action. As a voluntary organisation, students involved in SIBE 'do it purely for passion and not for cash, and because it is a tremendous opportunity for students from all disciplines to develop their skills and to gain exciting new experiences that will have a real impact.' Visit the website of SIBE.


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A little bit more info:


People Involved:


* Dr. Renske Doorenspleet, associate professor comparative politics (PaIS, department of Politics and International Studies) and director CSD (centre for studies in democratization). Renske is module director of comparative politics PO233 and developed the 'What Why Democracy Project' to enable students to work on their own research and film projects, and to encourage them to think 'differently' - in more creative ways- about academic debates around democracy, freedom, political and social change

* Mr. Robert O'Toole, Senior Academic Technologist, University of Warwick

* People from the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning, which financially supported the project in 2011/2012 with an academic fellowship for Renske Doorenspleet, click here for IATL

* Politics students following the module 'comparative politics PO233', students who are active in SIBE, and Warwick students interested in a future career in film & media

* Ms Zoe D'Amaro, Italian filmmaker based in Amsterdam and founder of Godmother Films (see www.godmotherfilms.com). Among other productions focused on social issues, in 2008 Zoe was part of the international project Why Democracy (www.whydemocracy.net) and directed the short documentary Interferenze on the issue of freedom of speech in Italy during the second government of Silvio Berlusconi.

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Due to her strong belief in using media as a tool for democratic participation and positive social change, Zoe created the Godmother Foundation with the aim of developing media projects within disadvantaged communities around the world. In 2009, she developed and implemented a documentary training program for underprivileged youth of the coloured township of Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town South Africa. Zoe has also extensive experience with social advertising and has directed campaigns for international NGOs such as Greenpeace, Fairfood and Dance4Life.

Click here for Zoe's film company and recent projects