What is the Our Democracy Project?

Americans are passionate about democracy. Many would die for it. And yet, definitions of the term vary widely.

To lend a hand toward greater understanding, Our Democracy is building a growing, living multimedia record of the state of local, everyday experiences of democracy across America today, by exploring the question, “What does democracy look like?”

The Our Democracy Team

Andrea Bruce (Photographer / Project Leader)
For almost 15 years, award-winning photojournalist Andrea Bruce covered some of the world’s most troubled areas, focusing on Iraq and Afghanistan. Her photographs appeared in National Geographic Magazine, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Often, the communities she photographed would ask her to explain democracy and why America had come to fight for it. Inspired by their questions, Bruce returned to the US and launched her own inquiry into democracy, in search of better answers. Her journey began as a 2016 Neiman Fellow at Harvard University, where her studies concentrated on democracy.

Lorraine Ustaris (Videographer / Education Specialist)
As a longtime Writing Project teacher-consultant and former high school English teacher, Lorraine Ustaris is committed to pedagogical and inquiry-driven multimedia work that lies at the intersection of education and journalism. She earned her master’s in journalism and documentary filmmaking at Columbia University. As Our Democracy’s video journalist and education specialist, she uses her experiences in production and public education to create documentary video content, teaching strategies and digital curricular materials that will ensure the reach and impact of the project in schools and communities around the world.

Rebecca Lee Sanchez (Writer / Scholar)
Rebecca Lee Sanchez is a freelance multimedia journalist. She is also a PhD candidate at the European Graduate School, where she is earning her Doctorate in Philosophy and Media and Communications. Previously a photo editor at NBC News and MSNBC, Rebecca worked under Director of Photography Amy Pereira on award winning feature projects and daily coverage, and also taught visual storytelling at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, as an adjunct professor alongside Nina Berman. She began her journalistic career at the GlobalPost, later the GroundTruth Project, where she was the writer and editor for the daily RIGHTS vertical, covering human rights and social justice, and the deputy editor for Special Reports.


Andrea Bruce began her reporting for Our Democracy immediately following the 2016 presidential election.

Since then, the project has grown and will culminate in the 2020 election year, as the team continues its reporting across America and invites youth and community groups everywhere to contribute as well.

Both an election and census year, this exploration is more important in 2020 than ever.

Project Components

This project combines print and visual storytelling from the Our Democracy Team with an interactive online map, community journalism, and education outreach—all in an effort to engage audiences in an inquiry into democracy through the stories of communities across the country, their strengths, weaknesses, ideas around citizenship, and the commonalities across American democracy’s divide.