DV455      Half Unit
Advocacy, Campaigning and Grassroots Activism

This information is for the 2022/23 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.

Together they run the Influencing component of the Global Executive Leadership Initiative Course (https://www.geli.org/programs-courses/regional-training-programme/influencing-senior-leaders-analysis-strategy-and).


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 design 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), 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 also choose and analyse a past case study of change, which will be assessed.


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 leaders.

First drafts of the group assignment will be submitted in seminars in weeks 7 & 8 for 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)

Y.Y. Ang (2016) How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. Ithaca, Cornell University Press. Introduction and Conclusion. Also the FP2P Review or listen to the podcast. 

K.A. Appiah (2010) The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen. New York: WW Norton. Chapter 5.

Batliwala, S. (2020) all about Power. CREA.

J.W. Busby (2007) ‘Bono Made Jesse Helms Cry: Jubilee 2000, Debt Relief, and Moral Action in International Politics’. International Studies Quarterly, 51: 247-75.

R. Chambers, Can We Know Better? Reflections on Development, (Practical Action, 2017)

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

Gaventa, J. (2020) ‘Linking the prepositions: using power analysis to inform strategies for social action’. Journal of Political Power, 14 (1).

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.

N. Klein (2007) The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. London: Penguin. Introduction and Conclusion

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).

N. Nyabola (2018) Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya. Zed Books. Part 2.

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).

D. della Porta. (2018) Protests as critical junctures: some reflections towards a momentous approach to social movements. Social Movement Studies.

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).

P. Yanguas, Why we lie about Aid, (London, Zed, 2018). Introduction, Conclusion. FP2P Review.


Project (50%, 2500 words) and project (40%, 4000 words) in April.
Blog post (10%) in the LT.

Individual Project (50%, 2000 words) and blog post (10%) in April;, Group Project (40%, 4.000 words) in April.

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 a written assignment, summatively marked.

Student performance results

(2018/19 - 2020/21 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 15
Merit 69.3
Pass 15.7
Fail 0

Key facts

Department: International Development

Total students 2021/22: 75

Average class size 2021/22: 15

Controlled access 2021/22: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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