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U-M SW 652 - SW 652 SYLLABUS

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THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGANSCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK SW 652.001 Organizing for Social and Political Action Fall 2004r 20 Thursday, 2:00-5:00 p.m. Instructor: Michael Reisch Office: 2792 SSWB Phone: 734-936-5065 E-mail: [email protected] Course Description This course examines methods of organizing people for social and political action on their own behalf or on behalf of others. Students will analyze different approaches to bringing people together for collective action, building organizational capacity, and generating power in the community. The course includes the study of skills in analyzing power structures, formulating action strategies, using conflict and persuasive tactics, challenging oppressive structures, conducting community campaigns, using political advocacy as a form of mobilization, and understanding contemporary social issues as they affect oppressed and disadvantaged communities. Special emphasis will be placed on organizing communities of color, women, LGBT populations, and other under-represented groups in U.S. society. Course Content In this course, students will learn that organizing for social and political action aims to create change by building powerful organizations at the community and societal level. This course takes the perspective that organizing can win improvements in people’s lives, make people aware of their own power, alter the relations of power in the community, and create a more socially just society. The history of organizing for social and political action and its underlying theoretical assumptions about power, conflict, and change will be covered. This course will also examine the sociopolitical and political-economic arenas in which organizing operates; the roles and responsibilities of practitioners; several major strategies and tactics of organizing; forces that facilitate or limit organizing; ethical and value dilemmas of organizing; and lessons learned from research on social and political action and change. In addition, different schools of thought about organizing and their approaches to the formulation of goals, issues, constituencies, targets, and tactics will be compared. The course will also analyze strategies and tactics that employ conflict as a vehicle for generating power and creating change. Students will assess theories of conflict and power and ways of analyzing power structures at the community and societal level. Political advocacy will be examined as an empowering process of strengthening solidarity and challenging oppressive structures, systems, and institutions. In contrast to viewing advocacy as a narrow approach to representing group interests in legislatures and established institutions, this course will consider advocacy as an empowering process by2which traditionally excluded groups advocate for themselves in ways which build organizations and develop communities. Course Objectives Upon completion of this course, students will be able to: 1. Understand and analyze the changing role of context of social and political action; 2. Understand contemporary social and political issues and their relationship to social and political action strategies and tactics; 3. Understand and apply social and political dynamics as they relate to issues of power, privilege, social justice, and resource distribution; 4. Analyze alternative models, strategies, tactics, and modes of social and political action directed towards these goals; 5. Demonstrate skills in community assessment, leadership and organizational development, planning and conducting campaigns, and evaluating their results; 6. Formulate strategies to engage constituencies in social and political action; 7. Identify and incorporate attention to issues related to race, gender, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, and other dimensions which are associated with privilege, discrimination, domination, and oppression; 8. Identify and analyze value and ethical dilemmas that arise in the course of organizing for social and political action; 9. Contribute to developing a climate in the classroom in which everyone can (a) experiment with new skills; (b) explore their own multicultural competence and the implications of one’s own background for developing and implementing social and political action strategies; (c) consult with each other on action projects and assignments; and (d) generate plans and strategies for future learning and development. Course Design The format of the course will include instructor lecture/class discussion, analysis of assigned readings, class exercises and simulations, and external individual and group activities. Speakers and videos will be used to augment other course materials. Relationship of the Course to Four Curricular Themes Privilege: A critical, if often unacknowledged manifestation of social injustice is the difference in the degree of privilege experienced among individuals and groups in the U.S. on the basis of race, class, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability in their efforts to create social and political change. One goal of social and political action is to eliminate or reduce these disparities – through both ends and means. This course will explore how privilege, or its absence, influences the nature of social change at the community and societal levels and what can be done to overcome it. Oppression: Social workers have an ethical obligation to work to overcome oppression in society in all its forms. This course will examine how social and political action can contribute to this goal by altering societal institutions, structures, policies, and processes, and by empowering oppressed communities to work on their own behalf.3Diversity: The course will focus on the issues involved in working for social change in a multicultural society and in engaging in social and political action in and with multi-cultural communities. It will also address the problems and potential of engaging in successful social and political action with diverse populations. Case examples of social and political action within multicultural communities will be used to illustrate strategic and tactical issues. Social Justice: An underlying assumption of the course is that the goals of social and political action are to promote social justice and produce progressive social and political change. The course will explore the different meanings of social justice


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