Jan 8, 2019–In this course, you will learn about the major areas of research and debates related to  advocacy, communication, and social change. You will connect scholarly work to insights from leading strategists and journalists, and to contemporary trends and issues. We will focus on the varying ways that campaigns, news, technology, social movements, philanthropy, and big ideas influence societal decisions and the implications for our democracy.


  • Engage critically with major issues, trends, challenges, and questions in contemporary advocacy and nonprofit communications.
  • Familiarize yourself with major research methods that inform advocacy campaigns and develop literacy in reading, understanding, and applying the results of these methods.
  • Develop deep knowledge of peer-reviewed research and scholarship on a specific advocacy and non-profit communications topic, subject, or issue.
  • Apply big picture concepts, theoretical frameworks, and concepts to strategic thinking and planning.
  • Familiarize yourself with role of philanthropic institutions and funding sources in shaping and promoting advocacy and non-profit communications.
  • Identify, retrieve, assess, and write effectively about research and scholarship related to advocacy and non-profit communications.


Class Participation (10%): You are expected to attend every class unless you have an excused absence. (Please email me in advance if you will not be in attendance.) You are also expected to actively participate in class, to do the reading in advance, and to share readings, news articles, and examples that you encounter outside of class that may be relevant to discussion.

Take Home Exam #1 (20%) and Take Home Exam #2 (20%): You will be completing two take home essay exams that test your understanding of key theories, topics, and concepts fand your ability to apply these principles to strategy.

Annotated Bibliography (15%): For your final strategy paper, you will be analyzing a major national policy issue. To inform your analysis, you will be preparing an annotated bibliography of 15-20 of scholarly and research-based sources that describe the issue’s history, major lines of contention, and obstacles to reaching agreement on ways to address the issue, specific theories of change that apply to the topic, and the roles that philanthropy, the news media, public opinion, narratives and ideas, messaging, and advocacy have played.

Social Change Strategy Paper (35%): You will research and write a 15-20 page strategy paper drawing on your annotated bibliography and other sources, assessing the major barriers to addressing your chosen problem or issue, and the role that various actors, ideas, narratives, and events have played. In doing so, you will identify and evaluate specific possible framing and communication strategies, and search databases of major foundations, examining their program descriptions, annual reports, and grantees, identifying the funders’ theory of change, major strategies, and preferred types of programs and grantees. Based on this analysis, you will develop a theory of change specific to your topic, and outline an organizing, communication, and funding strategy to achieve specific short term and long term goals.


  • Fri March 1 — Annotated Bibliography Due
  • Mon March 11 — 1st Exam emailed to class and due by 11pm Fri March 15
  • Fri March 29 — First draft of strategy paper due
  • Mon April 1 —  2nd exam emailed to class and due by 11pm Fri April 5
  • Wed April 10 —  Final strategy paper due



*Apart from assigned books, all readings are either available freely online or accessible if you click on the link to the article from campus or when logged into the Northeastern University library portal from off-campus.

Jan 8  — Introductions and Overview

Jan 15 — Research and Strategy

Additional Resources

Feb 19 — The Liberal Order: Reinvention or Revolution?

Additional Resources

Feb 26 —  Political Polarization and Hyper-Partisanship

Additional Resources

March 5 — Spring Break

March 12 — Philanthropy, Advocacy, and Social Change

Additional Resources

March 19  — The Trump Resistance

March 26 — Expertise and “Post-Truth” Politics

Additional Resources:

April 2 — News, Social Media, and Democracy

  • Vaidhyanathan, S. (2018). Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy. New York: Oxford University Press. [READ ALL]

Additional Resources

April 9 — Discuss Final Papers