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Power and Imagination * Spring 2015 * MacCormack/Shao

For this project, we ask you to leave the classroom to explore how you as individuals and as a community
perceive and create society, and how you can change that society. The goal of this project is to recognize the power
structures in the world (as well as personal responsibility within those structures) and to research, engage with and
possibly participate in an organization that is working to effect change in a shared area of concern. The problem and
the organization can be international, national, or local in scope, but you must be able to personally contact local
members and/or clients.
Nongovernmental organizations occupy important roles in our public arena. They advocate, they educate,
and they provide services that augment or complement those provided by the public sector. While there are
usually paid employees working for the organizations, volunteers are almost always deeply involved. For this
project we are interested in how the individuals and the organization work to achieve change or meet a need in the
community. The goal of this project is to recognize the power structures involved in the attempt to create a
specific social change, as well as personal responsibility within those structures, and to understand the tactics
employed and the arenas in which such tactics are effective.
To understand these issues, you will work in groups of 4-6. Your team will decide on a general area where
groups are trying to create change (for example, health care, homelessness, animal rights, immigration, anti-tax).
You will then narrow your topic to ONE specific issue of change in that area (for example, you could choose to
focus on the movement for universal health care, or equal insurance coverage for mental health, or reproductive
rights, etc.) Once your team has narrowed your topic, you will employ various modes of research to
characterize a community group (which may include fringe groups) attempting collective, effective action
on the issue today.
Learning objectives for this project include (but are not limited to):

Reflect on the role of diverse individuals and groups in issues of power and social responsibility, and on
your own perceptions (and their origins) and involvement around these issues.

Collaborate with peers to collect, analyze, and interpret information and express the results using several
communication methods (oral, written, quantitative, and visual).

Integrate course studies into direct, concrete experiences through field observation and research.

Seek to actively listen to, interrogate, and understand different perspectives regarding power and social
change, such as government institutions, community activists, affected individuals, and your self-perspective as
an insider or outsider.

Both appreciate and critically question the different motivations, methods and objectives of those who have
committed themselves to addressing specific social needs.
Assignment sequence:
The assignments for this project are as follows, and will be introduced throughout the term. All assignments are to
be completed by your team, except those with an asterisk (*), which you will complete individually. (Note: there
may be some additional mentor session exercises related to these):
a) Proposal: what is the problem and which organizations? Due 4/16
b) Individual Pre-reflection* In class 4/16
c) Research including
a. Textual research on the social problem, the organization and the political/social context
b. Field research (interviews and other field observation to understand the issue and the organization
runs on a human/practical level). What motivates members? How do they gauge their
effectiveness? Each member will be expected to participate in an interview.
c. Media watch (to consider how the group and the issue are communicated to the public)
d. Quantitative analysis (how do you define and analyze the issues to be addressed by your
communityhow do you measure success?)
e. Service to an organization. (optional)
d) A critique and a comparison of the organizations you have engaged. Are their objectives clear? Do their
methods seem effective? How might they improve their approach?
e) Team presentations and Individual Post-reflection*

Assessment: To be determined with your feedback, after groups are defined. You will be considering your own
work as well as your teams efforts. You will be required to submit a works cited for your project, and also include
explicit connections to key course theories and concepts, as applicable to your project.