Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact 2.0:
Strategies for Social Change
This is a draft syllabus and may be updated.
This course will explore different frameworks and pathways for social change with an explicit focus on
developing knowledge for action. Participants will explore how social change is created and shaped at the
local, state, and national levels as well as the different roles people can take in facilitating that change.
The course will engage participants in an examination of the socio-political-economic context of the
world in which we live, and how systems and structures of inequality have shaped this context.
Participants will engage in self-reflection about their own positionalities, their strengths and capacities as
leaders, and how all of these influence their professional and/or community work. In addition, participants
will develop specific skills that they can apply to their own lives.
This class is grounded in experiential learning. This means that participants continue to engage in
significant work in the community, build upon the relationships they have developed within their own
professional and/or community networks, and engage in reflection to integrate that experience with course
Participants will each identify a specific social issue that is related to their work and/or interests. They
will research the issue, including its historical foundations, and report on how it is being addressed (via
public policy, via advocacy, or via organizing) using provided frameworks.
In this course, students will:
● Examine and critique political economic and social structures in the U.S.
● Understand the foundations of U.S. government and how this impacts current social change efforts.
● Examine actual political/social/economic issues facing communities in Massachusetts and nationally.
● Gain knowledge of various social change frameworks and how change is made via different pathways and/or roles.
● Learn how to overcome barriers and increase confidence in participating in the social change process.
● Develop capacities and skills necessary to do work that advances social change.
Each class session will include a mix of interactive activities, small group work, individual work, large
group discussions and presentations by faculty and guest speakers (guest speakers TBD).
The class will take two field trips:
● Boston, MA – visit to the State House to meet with elected officials, other policymakers, and policy advocates
● Springfield, MA – visits with community leaders and to community organizations
9am Arrival, coffee & snacks
9:15 Understanding of Self & Others
10am Understanding How the World Works: Social/Political/Economic Context of U.S.
1pm Frameworks of Change
2pm Skills of Social Change
3pm Wrap up and Closing (end by 3:30)
Reading: Prior to each monthly class session students will read approximately 100 pages (25 pages per
week) from three main texts and supplementary readings.
Coplin, W. D. (2017). Public Policy Skills in Action: A Pragmatic Introduction. Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield.
Sen, R. (2003). Stir it up: Lessons in community organizing and advocacy (Vol. 16). John Wiley & Sons.
Warde, B. (2016). Inequality in US social policy: An historical analysis. Routledge.
Additional readings TBD (and will be posted on Moodle).
Written Work: Each month students will submit:
Short reflections on assigned readings/materials (500-750 words)
Personal reflection (500-750 words)
Action Plan updates (see assignment below)
Action Plan Assignment: Students will select a topic/issue of personal interest to them, research that
issue, and propose a plan of action on that issue that focuses on at least one pathway for change (policy,
advocacy, organizing, activism, etc.) and incorporates additional content from the class. Throughout the
year, students will submit various components of their plan that build upon one another, culminating in a
complete proposal by the end of the course.
September 7, 2019
September 28, 2019
October 7, 2019 (MONDAY) Field Trip to Boston
November 2nd, 2019
December 7, 2019
January 25, 2020
February 29, 2020
March 27, 2020 (FRIDAY) Field Trip to Springfield
April 25th, 2020
May 16, 2020
June 2020: Graduation Celebration, date TBD
This class is built on four foundational blocks:
1. Understanding of Self and Others (examples could include, but are not limited to):
a. Cultural humility
b. Communication across difference (including concepts such as compassionate conflict, dialogue, et.)
c. Social identity and positionality
e. Sense of self/Self-confidence
2. Understanding How the World Works – The Social/Political/Economic Context of the U.S.
In this block, we grapple with our understanding of democracy, inequality and oppression,
history, and political economy through case studies of current issues. We also recognize that in
order to build a different world, we have to be able to Vision what that world would look like.
How do we imagine beyond the parameters of what we know? Cases could include:
b. Health Care
c. Mass Incarceration
d. Reproductive Rights
e. Environmental Justice
f. Gun Violence
h. Voter Suppression
i. Religious Literacy
j. Racial Justice
k. Gender Justice
Course participants will decide together on seven issues to explore as case studies throughout the year.
3. Understanding different pathways for change:
c. Community organizing and activism
d. Legislative change
4. Building the Skills of Social Change (examples could include, but are not limited to):
b. Strategy – goal setting, tactics
c. Public speaking
e. Communication via social media/email/examination of digital profile
g. Active listening