DV455      Half Unit
Advocacy, Campaigning and Grassroots Activism

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Duncan Green

Dr Duncan Green is Professor in Practice in the International Development Department, and Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam GB, an international NGO. His blog, From Poverty to Power (http://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/) is one of the most widely read international development blogs. His most recent book, How Change Happens (OUP, 2016) is the core text for this course.


This course is available on the MSc in African Development, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies and MSc in Population and Development. This course is not available as an outside option.

The course will be offered in Lent term and capped at 30 students. In case the number of applicants exceeds this number, applicants will be asked to submit 200 words on their background and why they want to take the course, to be assessed against interest, experience and passion. Access to the course is underpinned by equality of inclusion and this includes the criteria for entry. All students who meet the School requirements for masters level learning and submit an application will be considered on the strength of criteria that embrace equality and diversity.

Course content

There are two blocks in this course:

1. Understanding How Change Happens, including systems thinking and power analysis

2. The analytical frameworks used by INGOs and other change agents

This course introduces students to some of the analytical frameworks and practical techniques used by INGOs such as Oxfam (where the course leader is senior strategic adviser) and other activists (broadly defined, including 'change agents' in governments and the private sector) in influencing political, social and economic policy and practice. 

Lectures will introduce the importance of systems thinking and power analysis in understanding and influencing processes of change and the role of civil society and advocacy in driving such change.

These will be used to explore how activists and activist organizations use ‘theories of change’ as an organizing tool for influencing.

The course is designed for students who have been, or intend to become, active in driving change, whether as members of civil society organizations, in government, in aid donors or in the private sector. You will develop your understanding both of endogenous change processes in developing countries, and the role and limitations of deliberate efforts to bring about political, social and economic change.

Students will be asked to come with an initial idea for an influencing exercise (for example a campaign, policy reform, or effort to shift public attitudes) and will apply the coursework to that case study, developing a Theory of Change at the end of the term that will be assessed.

Students will be required to produce a blog post and vlogs (video blogs, as part of group work) summarizing their individual and group projects, which will also be summatively assessed (students will receive a ‘blogging for beginners’ lecture on writing for impact)


15 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the LT.

Teaching will consist of a combination of lecture presentations, involving powerpoint, video and group discussion, and seminar discussions. There will be one lecture of 90 minutes each week of term. This will be followed up by 60 minutes of seminar work. Reading week will occur in week 6, during which time there will be extended office hours available

Formative coursework

Students will be asked to submit initial proposals (1000 words max) for their individual assignments in week 6, for feedback from the course leader.

First drafts of the group assignment will be presented in seminars in weeks 6, 7 & 8 for verbal group/tutor feedback

Indicative reading

Course Text: Green, D. 2016. ‘How Change Happens’. Oxford University Press

M. Andrews, L. Pritchett and M. Woolcock, Building State Capability, (Oxford: OUP, 2017)

R. Chambers, Revolutions in Development Inquiry (London: Earthscan, 2008).

M. Edwards, Civil Society, 3rd edition (Cambridge: Polity, 2014).

J, Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho, (University Of Minnesota Press, 1994)

M. Lockwood, The State They’re In: An Agenda for International Action on Poverty in Africa (London: ITDG Publishing, 2005).

D. Meadows and D.H. Wright, Thinking in Systems: A Primer (Abingdon: Routledge, 2009).

S. Popovic, Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015).

A. de Waal, Advocacy in Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Transnational Activism (London: Zed Books, 2015)

World Bank, The World Development Report 2017: Governance and the Law (Washington DC: World Bank, 2017)

J. Gaventa and R. McGee, Citizen Action and National Policy Reform: Making Change Happen (London: Zed Books, 2010).

D. Green, ‘Fit for the Future? Development Trends and the Role of International NGOs’, Oxfam Discussion Paper (Oxford: Oxfam GB, June 2015).

D. Hudson, H. Marquette and S. Waldock, Everyday Political Analysis, Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) (Birmingham: University of Birmingham, 2016).

A. Rao, J. Sandler, D. Kelleher, and C, Miller, Gender at Work: Theory and Practice in 21st Century Organizations (Abingdon, Oxford: Routledge, 2016).

C. Valters, Theories of Change: Time for a Radical Approach to Learning in Development (London: Overseas Development Institute, 2015)


Project (45%, 2500 words), coursework (25%, 2000 words) and coursework (15%, 500 words) in January.
Blog post (5%), presentation (5%) and blog post (5%) in the MT.

The summative assessment will consist of two assignments:

a) Individual project proposals for an influencing project (individual) will be formatively assessed and feedback given. This will then inform the final project that will be summatively assessed in January. A blog or Vlog of the project will also be produced and summatively marked.

b) Historical case study (as groups of 4 or 5). Group membership will be assigned in advance. Students will select from a range of historical change episodes – assign the groups, then give them a range of options and let them choose). Assessment will be in three parts - the shared written summary; individual written self-reflection; a shared group presentation and an individual blog or vlog will be produced, drawn from the group project and summatively marked.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Controlled access 2016/17: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills