DV455      Half Unit
Advocacy, Campaigning and Grassroots Activism

This information is for the 2019/20 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.

Dr Thomas Kirk is a researcher and consultant based at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Interests include the provision of security and justice in conflict affected regions, social accountability, civil society, local governance and public authority. Lived and worked in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Timor-Leste, the DRC and Kenya.


This course is available on the MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Health and International Development, MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies and MSc in Political Economy of Late Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

The course will be offered in Lent term and capped at 75 students.

Selection criteria: 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.

If there are any spare spaces, the course is available as an outside option.


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 these as organizing tools 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 design 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 that they would personally like to design and implement (for example a campaign, policy reform, or effort to shift public attitudes) and will apply the coursework to that case study, developing a project proposal at the end of the term that will be assessed.

Students will be required to produce a blog post or vlog (video blog) summarizing their individual project, which will also be summatively assessed (students will receive a ‘blogging for beginners’ lecture on writing for impact).

Working in small groups, students will analyse past case studies of change, and be assessed against both their written assignment and their presentation of initial findings to their seminar group.


20 hours of lectures and 10 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 120 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 formative proposals (1000 words max) for their individual assignments in week 6, for feedback from the course leader.

Following feedback, students will present their individual proposals to the seminar groups for further discussion.

First drafts of the group assignment will be presented in seminars in weeks 7 & 8 for verbal group/tutor feedback and an assessment of their presentations.

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)

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

J, Heimans and H, Timms (2018) New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World--and How to Make It Work for You. New York: Doubleday.

J, Howell and Pearce, J. (2001) Civil Society and Development: A Critical Exploration. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

R. Pascale, J. Sternin, and M. Sternin, The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2010).

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

J. Rowlands, Questioning Empowerment: Working with Women in Honduras (Oxford: Oxfam UK and Ireland, 1997).

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


Project (50%, 2500 words), coursework (40%) and blog post (10%) in April.

Individual Project (40%, 2000 words) and blog post (10%) in April;, Group Project (40%, 4.000 words) in April and group presentation (10%) in February/March.

The summative assessment will consist of both individual and group 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 April. A blog or Vlog of the project will also be produced and summatively marked.

b) Historical case study (as groups of 3 or 4). Group membership will be assigned in advance. Students will select an agreed historical change episode. Assessment will be in two parts - a joint group presentation based on the group project and a written assignment, summatively marked.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2018/19: 39

Average class size 2018/19: 13

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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