DV455      Half Unit
Advocacy, Campaigning and Grassroots Activism

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Duncan Green and Mr Thomas Kirk

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 to inform and desigh their advocacy.

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), Plan International and Crisis Action, along with 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, through both 'insider' or 'outsider' strategies.

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.


Teaching will consist of a combination of lecture presentations, involving powerpoint, video and group discussion, and seminar discussions. There will be one lecture at or above 60 minutes duration each week of LT. This will be followed up by 60 minutes of seminar work in the LT. 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.

N. Kabeer, R. Sudarshan, and K. Milward. Organizing Women Workers in the Informal Economy: Beyond the Weapons of the Weak. (London, Zed Books, 2013). Chapter 5.

R. Krznaric, How Change Happens: Interdisciplinary Perspectives for Human Development

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.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 21.4
Merit 66.7
Pass 12
Fail 0

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2020/21: 69

Average class size 2020/21: 14

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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