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Migration and Home Affairs
Target Audience
key themes association
(Early) preventionFormal/informal education
Peer Reviewed practice


Peace Education Projects – Fortress of Democracy

Foundation Peace Education Projects is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) whose mission is to develop and produce educational projects (like exhibitions, workbooks, films, etc.) based on an interactive methodology in the fields of peace, diversity, democracy, conflict resolution and international cooperation.

The foundation has few staff members: about 15 dedicated freelance workers and about 100 volunteers. Various mobile exhibitions are taken on tour across the Netherlands and Belgium (bilingual).

Type of Organisation: Foundation

Project description

The Democracy Factory is an interactive exhibition on democratic citizenship where visitors (children and young people aged 10-18 years, as well as adults) can enjoy a hands-on experience in a stimulating environment. Visitors are presented with challenges, and must exchange opinions and engage in discussion in order to complete their visit.

The Factory consists of 12 galvanised steel modules on wheels, connected with pipes to lead electricity. When students work in the factory, they produce factory sounds with the devices and machines. About 50 assignments are constructed in these modules, on many devices and machines.

During the week, children and youngsters visit the exhibition as part of their school activities. After school hours and at weekends, adults are also welcome, in the context of adult education, parent conferences or neighbourhood meetings. The exhibition offers three main learning levels that vary in complexity and length, and are suited to students of different schools and grades.

Students work in pairs and follow a course using a small booklet or digital device that guides them through the assignments and questions. Each student is provided with one of these booklets or devices, which also function as a notebook in which to record answers and opinions. The exhibition has a solid structure and is based on self-directed learning.

Students work at their own pace and learning level, and make their own way through the exhibition. There are only 1 or 2 instructors needed for a group of 30 students and their teacher.

The instructors host the students and are trained to guide them if required. At first sight, the interactive exhibitions appear to address many kinds of social problems, but visitors soon discover that the themes and missions inspire self-reflection.

They will dive into a dialogue focused on their own world views, doubts, opinions, prejudices and ambitions. Most of the assignments in the exhibition contain a selfcorrecting mechanism. For instance, one assignment requires students to distinguish between democracy and dictatorship by assigning blocks with certain characteristics to the corresponding category.

When completed correctly, the stacks of blocks should all reach the same height, to allow students to check their answers. In terms of exploring opinions, several assignments provide feedback. For example, in an assignment on freedom of speech, students are asked to form opinions on six statements: while they are engaged in doing this, conflicting information is provided as a means of stimulating discussion.

After the assignment, students are given feedback on their choices, which takes the form of comments like 'For you, freedom is very important; you don't like rules. You decide for yourself what is best for you'. After completing the assignments, students receive a certificate with feedback on their opinions.

Students given the booklet record about 20 answers and observations in an online application for the feedback; students given a tablet use the device's button to receive feedback on screen.

The certificate is based on about 600 standard lines in an application, and only provides feedback on opinions; it expresses a neutral, non-judgemental (i.e. not moralistic) approach based on widely accepted constitutional law principles.

Occasionally, students visit who support sharia law and/or hold the opinion that homosexuality is a punishable offence. Their certificate contains the following text: 'You can have this opinion, but it is not accepted to punish homosexuals in our country; they can freely live their lives as they wish'.

Most students appreciate the feedback and use it in their graduate portfolios as proof of their work in the Factory. Our own experiences in several countries with various museums and educational institutions taught us a great deal: many students and teachers working in our exhibitions shared comments and feedback.

Their input showed us that many serious social dilemmas can be put on the table for discussion, and that learning can be exciting and fun. Our approach is characterised by certain features, all representative of an interactive methodology, which:

  • contains diverse learning concepts to accommodate diversity and different learning styles;
  • includes value clarification and communication instead of taking a moralistic approach;
  • offers innovative means of self-directed learning;
  • presents social problems as a challenge relevant to all;
  • can be implemented in various forms: traveling exhibitions, table exhibitions and educational software;
  • includes a process evaluation with clear, transparent and SMART- designed objectives;
  • uses the target group as a source, and draws themes from the local context.

The students:

  • have an enjoyable learning experience;
  • can handle facts and opinions;
  • can deal with sensitive issues and prejudices;
  • learn about the scapegoat phenomenon;
  • learn through peer interaction;
  • recognise how peace and democracy are embodied in their daily lives;
  • enjoy learning by doing;
  • clarify and communicate social values;
  • employ multiple intelligence tools;
  • can use several learning styles as a springboard;
  • have the experience of feeling like part of a given social problem as well as part of its solution.

The teachers:

  • are mediators and partners in learning;
  • cooperate in the pupils' exploration, instead of merely transferring information;
  • enjoy teaching pupils who find learning a pleasure;
  • foster independent thought
  • communicate a social values;
  • experience greater satisfaction in their profession;
  • have mentioned that this learning process has had a positive effect on the social context.


  • Fabrique de la Paix – Fr (2007)
  • Fortress of Democracy (2008)
  • Democracy Factory Belgium – Fr/NL (2009)
  • Hope Factory Switzerland (2011)
  • Democracy Factory NL (2014) travelling
  • Democracy LAB NL (2014) permanent
  • Freedom Crossover (NL) (2016) permanent
  • V-LAB Express NL (2020) travelling Freedom Crossover (1:56).

Other exhibitions and workbooks have been developed and produced in the past decade, all based on monitoring and chain evaluation.

Contact details


Peace Education Projects – Fortress of Democracy
Lucas Bolwerk 10
3512 EH Utrecht

Contact person: Jan Durk Tuinier
Telephone: (+31) 683833358
Private Email Address
Email| Website

Read the full practice

Democracy Factory
(222.39 KB - PDF)