Using both practice and theory, this course explores civic organizing, civic social systems, and democracy. Civic organizers create civic relationships that bridge across institutional and other social divides. The resulting civic social systems enable the collaborative formulation and resolution of issues in ways that respect the good of the whole group. The course examines the relationship of civic systems and civic organizing to democracy and government-in both the domestic and the international contexts-as well as to other social institutions including business, families, and those of “civil society.” Consideration of the role of lawyers is a key part of this examination.
The course covers the following:
1. the role of lawyers and other professionals vis-à-vis civic systems, as civic organizers, and in civic decision-making;
2. civic organizing skills such as active listening, one-on-ones, and network mapping;
3. case studies of organizers and organizing movements;
4. civic relationships, networks, systems, culture, stories, and institutions;
5. the relationship between civic systems and democracy;
6. an introduction to civic systems and democracy in the international context; and
7. an introduction to civic systems in the context of existing non-governmental organizations and social institutions.
The course is taught in a seminar format with students at times assisting in leading the discussion. The course includes a practice component that offers a supported opportunity for students to learn civic organizing in an actual context relevant to their lives. Examples might be a student organization, workplace, civic or community group, family, faith community, or neighborhood. The professor works with students individually to design and execute these projects. The course is structured so that the theory and skills covered in class support the practical work outside. A portion of the class time is devoted to applying the theory and skills materials to the students’ practice components, to discussion and trouble-shooting vis-à-vis that work, and to reflective debriefing.
- The work product for this course consists of the practice component described above as well as several pieces of writing over the course of the semester:
- a short initial paper surveying each student’s own networks;
- a slightly longer paper describing the student’s planned practice component;
- an analytical paper assessing an existing legal or institutional practice from a civic system or civic organizing point of view; and
- a final paper in which the student integrates the practical and theoretical components of the course and reflects on both.
Taught by: Strand