Learning Lessons from the History of Social Change

Week 2: Ordinary Citizens: Learning From Historical Social Movements

History provides a window into the reality that for every individual hero of a social movement, there is a larger group in which that individual operated. In reference to Rosa Parks, Loeb writes, “Before the day Parks refused to give up her bus seat, she had spent twelve years involved with her local NAACP chapter…; local teachers; and other members of Montgomery’s African American community” (2010, p. 1).

Every individual can have a role and responsibility in working toward social change, but the experience of making a positive impact on a community, no matter what size, is essentially a collective enterprise. When the focus is on the social issue and those who benefit from its awareness or resolution, having more people involved in the work is an advantage, not a burden.

This week, you focus on key elements that lead to the success of social movements. You also begin working on your Course Project by conducting initial research on a social issue of particular interest.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze factors that contribute to the success of a social movement
  • Analyze social issues
  • Evaluate resources to support claims on a specific topic
  • Develop problem statements

Learning Resources 

Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.

Required Readings

Loeb, P. R. (2010). Soul of a citizen: Living with conviction in challenging times (rev. ed.). New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Chapter 3, “One Step at a Time” (pp. 64–81)
Chapter 4, “The Cynical Smirk” (pp. 82–104)

Gladwell, M. (2010). Small change. The New Yorker, 86(30), 42–49.
Copyright 1998 by History Today, Ltd. Reprinted by permission of History Today, Ltd. via the Copyright Clearance Center. Group Project Resources. Seminal.

Goldberg , R. A. (2010). The challenge of change: Social movements as non-state actors. Utah Law Review, (1), 65–79.
 Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Ling, P . (1998). Martin Luther King’s half-forgotten dream. History Today, 48(4), 17–22.
Copyright 1998 by History Today, Ltd. Reprinted by permission of History Today, Ltd. via the Copyright Clearance Center. Group Project Resources. Seminal.

Document: Course Project Overview and Guidelines (Word document)

Required Media

                Laureate Education (Producer). (2015b). Learning from historical social movements [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Note:  The approximate length of this media piece is 4 minutes.

Accessible player–Downloads–Download Video w/CCDownload AudioDownload Transcript

               Laureate Education (Producer). (2011c). Scholars of change [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Note:  The approximate length of this media piece is 3 minutes.

Accessible player–Downloads–Download Video w/CCDownload AudioDownload Transcript

1.Discussion: Learning Lessons From the History of Social Change
History provides a blueprint to which you can refer as you design approaches to improving the future. Architects understand the importance of a blueprint to realizing a future vision. A blueprint, or plan, that is informed by both the successes and failures of the past can strengthen your vision for social change. What mistakes can you learn from and avoid as they relate to past social change movements? It is important to identify the factors that have made other movements successful in order to organize your own social change efforts. To that end, in this Discussion you identify and provide a rationale for factors that contribute to the success of social change movements.
By Day 1
To prepare for this Discussion:
Review the assigned readings from the Loeb course text.
Review the Gladwell, Goldberg, and Ling articles in this week’s resources for insights into lessons learned from social movements of the past.
Think about historical social movements that have had a direct impact on your own life. Reflect on the laws or social norms that have been challenged, upheld, or changed, allowing for an improved quality of life for specific populations.
Consider your perspective on the elements of historical social movements that have particular relevance today.
Bear in mind the strategies used by historical social movements and how they have built momentum to today’s movements.
Read the Discussion Spark topic, question, or comment posted by your Instructor in the Discussion thread.
By Day 2
Post a response to the Discussion Spark post. Your response should contain at least two significant paragraphs. Read the Discussion Rubric, as it will inform your writing. Important Note: The Discussion Spark and the weekly Discussion topic below will be graded together. You will see one score in your My Grades area.
By Day 4
Post an explanation of factors that contribute to the success of social movements. In what ways can you pattern socially responsible action today after successful movements of the past? What circumstances have changed over time that might necessitate differences in approach?
Support your assertions by making at least two references, in proper APA format, to your course readings.
Read a selection of your colleagues’ posting

2.Project: Course Project: Topic Exploration and Analysis
This week, as the first step of your Course Project, you select and analyze a social issue. The main goals of your analysis are to develop a problem statement, address the “heart” or “root” of the issue, describe the situation as it looks today, and explain why this social issue is important to investigate.
There are numerous social issues that prompt attention today and that directly or indirectly impact both small and large populations. These include issues as diverse as animal rights, euthanasia, the gender wage gap, intimate partner violence, access to health care, disability rights, detention of unaccompanied migrant children, and veterans rights, to name but a few.
As you consider a social issue on which to focus, keep in mind that you will be researching and writing about the social issue throughout the remainder of the course. An objective of this project is to build a well-researched foundation on which you might pursue further involvement. For that reason, you are encouraged to select an issue about which you have genuine concern and interest. Is there a social issue that has impacted you or a family member personally? Are there inequities that impact your life or the lives of others in your community? Are there global concerns that resonate strongly with you? Personal passion and connection to an issue often fuels the kind of committed action that attracts participants and achieves objectives. For this project, select an issue that you genuinely care about.
To prepare for this Project:
With the thoughts above in mind, select a social issue for further research.
Gather 2–4 resources about this issue from the Walden Library. You will use these resources in writing this Topic Exploration and Analysis.
Develop a problem statement (e.g., “The problem I will address in this study is…”).
By Day 7
In a 2- to 3-page paper (not including the cover page and references), address the following:
The problem statement you have developed (e.g., “The problem I will address in this study is…”)
What are the “symptoms” of the social issue? What does it “look like”?
What are the conflicts that exist regarding this issue? What are the interests, rights, and values of all parties involved with the social issue?
What are some potential ethical dilemmas involved with the social issue?
How has the social issue developed? What are some possible causes?
Why is the social issue important to investigate?