London is a city of diverse and multicultural nature. The University of Westminster embodies 169 nationalities. The University’s position within it provides a perfect environment for collaboration between London’s many international communities and its long-standing and prestigious academic institutions.
DEN is a venture by students to bridge the perceived activity deficit between academia and communities by involving different international communities in both the research process and its practice. This relationship has helped us to develop exchange between both parties, giving those who study the a new insight into the experience of immigrant populations.
Therefore, we have build upon our strength encouraging our students to take a lead to develop a link between their communities and the University. Our initial project, International Community Project (ICP) – before DEN – helped us to develop the necessary infrastructure to exchange knowledge with local ethnic communities in London such as Somalia, Iranian, Vietnamese, Kurdish, Turkish communities. Therefore, through students we are developing DEN into a hub that links local to global community partners around the world. This, we hope, will also inspire academics from international universities to contribute with local communities in London and Vice versa.
DEN has led and worked to overcome obstacles for those less willing or able to participate; through the quality and inclusiveness of its provision, visible demonstration effects and mobilising activities organised by students and staff.
Students and staff members of DEN have played a proactive role within the University. We have developed a comprehensive understanding and delivering projects in the University including Black History Month, LGBT History Month, Interfaith and Secularism workshops, and “Challenging Prejudices, Celebrating Diversity” workshops.
DEN has worked with students to participate in and manage projects in collaboration with the Students Union and different student societies. This has made a meaningful and positive contribution to our Westminster Community (Links to hand Up Production and STAR).
DEN has been at the forefront of promoting diversity and inclusion as one of the key drivers of democratic education. Our Network embraces students from every corner of the world and is proud of promoting events to raise awareness on issues such us, gender, discrimination, racism, and women in politics. The network has been also offered the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our students by organizing international food festivals and roundtable discussions.
The focus of DEN is on the participation of these groups in the political and social processes of democracy. DEN strives to be more than purely a research organization, working with community members and academics to improve the responsiveness of representative democracy in the UK. We hope to leave a legacy of mutual trust and respect between the University and grassroots organizations, allowing the project to grow and expand internationally.
For students, the project is an opportunity to expand their university experience beyond the confines of the academic paradigm. The field of active research is one usually limited to post-graduate students, and DEN is an opportunity to develop active research and organizational skills in an open and flexible forum among like-minded peers.