course

Environmental advocacy at Griffith University

Environmental advocacy describes social action that occurs when communities are compelled by a tension between desired and actual environmental management. Effective advocacy bridges the gap between community values and institutional environmental management.

Environmental Advocacy was a one-semester postgraduate elective offered through the School of Australian Environmental Studies, Griffith University, Australia. It was available to students enrolled in the Faculty of Environmental Science postgraduate programs and as an elective course. The course attracted ten credit points toward relevant degrees and involves ten hours of class and independent study each week.

Wild Mountains 2003

Wild Mountains 2003

  • Students learnt about the strategies, tactics and traditions of environmental advocacy through a combination of traditional academic research and experiential learning. An integral element of the course was a 50 hour placement with community sector advocacy organisations.
  • The course did not focus on the technical dimension of environmental problems but, rather, on advocacy strategies to resolve them.
  • The course was developed in close liaison with key Australian environmental advocacy organisations and provides opportunities for close collaboration between the academic and community sectors.
Wild Mountains 2005

Wild Mountains 2005

The course was removed from the curriculum in 2006. Comparable courses are available at progressive universities including:

‘Activism and Social Change’ Masters Program @ University of Leeds
‘Public Advocacy and Action’ Diploma and Maters program @ Victoria University
RMIT University Community Advocacy Unit

Environmental advocacy course curriculum

This course was developed by James Whelan in 2003. Please use these resources with appropriate acknowledgement.

What students said about the course

“The course has really empowered me. I was passionate about it all, knew how to throw my body around in a direct action setting, but the steady approach of strategy and planning eluded me. I feel like the course gave me a game card… how to play the game, so my energy doesn’t get dissipated by less useful things, and I dont have to fret so much about if something doesn’t seem to work. It doesn’t have to work, right now that is, it may work, or be part of something that works later! so you’ve give me a whole new lease of activism life… I’ll always love direct action, but it’s so good to have a few ways to go.”

“The course is practical. It relies on real life stories to connect with theories of change and ideas about campaigning. It encourages analysis which is sadly lacking in the movement and provides politics in a university which frequently forgets its political role.”

“The strengths definitely lie in the experiential learning component of the course (internship). I also found the facilitated discussion/engage approach to lectures more beneficial for my style of learning than ‘lectures’. The focus on evaluation and reflection was particularly valuable.”

“For me, the greatest strength was that the coursework strongly informed my activism. Another great strength was the people involved – they were great!”

“It’s been an excellent opportunity to reflect on what I’ve done and the approaches I’ve taken over the past five years.”

“The weekend retreat at Wild Mountains was a tremendous opportunity to get to know the other students and really develop a learning circle – in a way that classes would never have established.”

“The sessions we worked through… personal theories of change, the role plays … were fantastic, really got me thinking about the different aspects of campaigning.”

“This course encourages analysis which is often lacking in the movement and provides politics in a university which frequently forgets its political role.”

“The strengths definitely lie in the experiential learning component of the course (internship) and also having the opportunity to mix with the campaigners in the course who were auditors.”

“I found the facilitated discussion/engage approach to lectures more beneficial for my style of learning than ‘lectures’. The focus on evaluation and reflection was particularly valuable.”

“Being involved in a campaign was incredibly useful to truly experience some of the setbacks, and wins of campaigning.”

“The diversity of topics and the freedom of learning within the weekly workshops were excellent.”

“The diversity of people within the course particularly those overseas made it really interesting.”

“I realise every time I talk to someone how influential what I’ve learned in environmental advocacy has been. The tools we learnt about are useful on a personal level as well as an organisational one (especially strategic questioning & MAP) and now that I’ve started using strategic questioning in addition to the usual issue-based interview questions, I get much more interesting answers!”

Wild Mountains 2006

Wild Mountains 2006

What are people saying about us?

Chloe Aldenhoven, Victorian Lock the Gate Coordinator

A packed program of skills, stories and discussions to figure out how to build the place of community development in our campaigns. So important to draw on the experience and wisdom of past campaigns and seasoned campaigners.  But not only that, an amazing opportunity to learn with and from the cohort of campaigners from across the country who between them have decades of organising experience.  Skills, conversations and connections that are going to be essential to us building a movement to achieve climate justice in Australia.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T19:27:44+11:00
A packed program of skills, stories and discussions to figure out how to build the place of community development in our campaigns. So important to draw on the experience and wisdom of past campaigns and seasoned campaigners.  But not only that, an amazing opportunity to learn with and from the cohort of campaigners from across the country who between them have decades of organising experience.  Skills, conversations and connections that are going to be essential to us building a movement to achieve climate justice in Australia.

Manny Pasqualini, Community Power Agency

One highlight for me is the focus on relational organising; the importance of taking the time to really get to know the people you work with. The deeper the relationship, the better it stands up to testing times and the sweeter it feels when your movement achieves success.

 The diversity present within this year’s cohort is another major highlight for me. To be able to spend this time learning and practicing day in and day out with people from right across the country and right across the breadth of the climate action movement has been an honour. To share this time and space with two wonderfully inspiring indigenous Australians has filled a gap in my education until now and opened up a real sense of belonging to an Australia that I want to be a part of.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T21:10:26+11:00
One highlight for me is the focus on relational organising; the importance of taking the time to really get to know the people you work with. The deeper the relationship, the better it stands up to testing times and the sweeter it feels when your movement achieves success.  The diversity present within this year’s cohort is another major highlight for me. To be able to spend this time learning and practicing day in and day out with people from right across the country and right across the breadth of the climate action movement has been an honour. To share this time and space with two wonderfully inspiring indigenous Australians has filled a gap in my education until now and opened up a real sense of belonging to an Australia that I want to be a part of.
Chris Rose

Chris Rose, Author of ‘How to Win Campaigns’

They (tCA) really are movement makers... the Aussie inheritors of Alinsky.
The Change Agency
2014-03-30T08:05:33+11:00
Chris Rose
They (tCA) really are movement makers... the Aussie inheritors of Alinsky.
Richard Yin

Dr Richard Yin, Doctors for the Environment Australia 2020

We had the privilege of working with James Whelan and The Change Agency over two days to clarify our understanding of campaigning and advocacy. With over 20 doctors and medical students from varied experiences in advocacy work present and a very complex and full agenda, the workshop was a huge success made possible through a very thoughtful and professional facilitation process from James. I can only commend the quality of his work and thank him once again for the weekend.
The Change Agency
2020-02-25T11:16:05+11:00
Richard Yin
We had the privilege of working with James Whelan and The Change Agency over two days to clarify our understanding of campaigning and advocacy. With over 20 doctors and medical students from varied experiences in advocacy work present and a very complex and full agenda, the workshop was a huge success made possible through a very thoughtful and professional facilitation process from James. I can only commend the quality of his work and thank him once again for the weekend.

Govind Maksay, MarketForces organiser

Workshop sessions are extremely well structured, with small group work, personal reflection time and larger group discussions included throughout. This approach allows all participants to contribute and caters for different learning styles and personalities.

In addition to the formal learning, the personal relationships I have formed with other participants and the facilitators will be extremely important to help me become a more effective and confident campaigner. Without hesitation I would recommend the Fellowship to other campaigners.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T19:34:58+11:00
Workshop sessions are extremely well structured, with small group work, personal reflection time and larger group discussions included throughout. This approach allows all participants to contribute and caters for different learning styles and personalities. In addition to the formal learning, the personal relationships I have formed with other participants and the facilitators will be extremely important to help me become a more effective and confident campaigner. Without hesitation I would recommend the Fellowship to other campaigners.

Anna Rose, ASEN Convenor and NUS National Environment Officer 2005

As a direct result of the training you ran at Melbourne Uni, they will be running a real campaign on public transport concessions next year and are even investing in properly researching so they can have a strategic, directed campaign.
The Change Agency
2014-03-30T07:48:37+11:00
As a direct result of the training you ran at Melbourne Uni, they will be running a real campaign on public transport concessions next year and are even investing in properly researching so they can have a strategic, directed campaign.
Nic clyde

Nic Clyde, Climate team leader, Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Before coming into this cohort, my community organising ability was – at best – intuitive, with not much structure and theory... or ‘all hat and no horse’ (as the Texans say). This is starting to change. This fellowship has reinvigorated my thirst to become a better campaigner. It has built my skills in strategy and community organising. It has connected me with a mob who are passionate, connected and willing to help out in whatever way they can. Thanks!
The Change Agency
2014-05-23T16:40:41+10:00
Nic clyde
Before coming into this cohort, my community organising ability was – at best – intuitive, with not much structure and theory... or ‘all hat and no horse’ (as the Texans say). This is starting to change. This fellowship has reinvigorated my thirst to become a better campaigner. It has built my skills in strategy and community organising. It has connected me with a mob who are passionate, connected and willing to help out in whatever way they can. Thanks!

Kate Lardner, Doctors for the Environment Australia

During the Fellowship, I have embarked on an enormous learning curve that has resulted not only in exposure to concepts and skills, but knowledge of these things, through application of the teachings with leaders in their fields and the opportunity to be integrated into a real time campaign. I have been challenged creatively and analytically and been given the chance to create the openings and space to make my own opportunities arise.  
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T20:53:26+11:00
During the Fellowship, I have embarked on an enormous learning curve that has resulted not only in exposure to concepts and skills, but knowledge of these things, through application of the teachings with leaders in their fields and the opportunity to be integrated into a real time campaign. I have been challenged creatively and analytically and been given the chance to create the openings and space to make my own opportunities arise.  

Simone van Hattem

The Community Organising Fellowship has given me effective organising skills and tools, and background information of the Australian environment and climate movements I need to develop strategy for campaigns, and provide training for other organisers and campaigners across Western Australia. The support I've been given through the ongoing mentorship and buddy program helps me stay connected with the wider movement, and stay on track to organise the people we need to defeat organised money. This program is a transformative experience, changing my work and the movement, and I'm so thankful to be part of it.
The Change Agency
2015-03-17T21:04:17+11:00
The Community Organising Fellowship has given me effective organising skills and tools, and background information of the Australian environment and climate movements I need to develop strategy for campaigns, and provide training for other organisers and campaigners across Western Australia. The support I've been given through the ongoing mentorship and buddy program helps me stay connected with the wider movement, and stay on track to organise the people we need to defeat organised money. This program is a transformative experience, changing my work and the movement, and I'm so thankful to be part of it.
dave & gemma

Dave Muhly, Sierra Club

What began at Pittwater as a collection of skilled campaigners became a cadre of skilled organizers by the final day at Baden Powell. On Sunday evening as we gathered, I overheard one participant chatting with another at a picnic table and heard, "challenge, choice, outcome" as part of her conversation. Another commented at the final circle at how what had seemed like such a large group at Pittwater now seemed like a much smaller group, reflective of how closely this group had bonded as a team despite their vast differences in geography or organizational size or style, but based on a common goal and identity. Concepts like "building teams" and "building relationships" were part of the normal parlance and just a cursory review of the evaluations to date show an increased appreciation for and attention to leadership development and strategic planning. A number of participants reminded me of my off-the-cuff set of definitions about the differences between mobilizing, campaigning and community organising (focusing on local power), and one told me she has it on the wall of her office to inspire her every day. This has been the successful launch of an ambitious and visionary program. Many thanks to James and Kate for their vision, wisdom, and care in developing and nurturing the curriculum and the cohort. Kudos!

The Change Agency
2014-09-15T10:27:41+10:00
dave & gemma
What began at Pittwater as a collection of skilled campaigners became a cadre of skilled organizers by the final day at Baden Powell. On Sunday evening as we gathered, I overheard one participant chatting with another at a picnic table and heard, "challenge, choice, outcome" as part of her conversation. Another commented at the final circle at how what had seemed like such a large group at Pittwater now seemed like a much smaller group, reflective of how closely this group had bonded as a team despite their vast differences in geography or organizational size or style, but based on a common goal and identity. Concepts like "building teams" and "building relationships" were part of the normal parlance and just a cursory review of the evaluations to date show an increased appreciation for and attention to leadership development and strategic planning. A number of participants reminded me of my off-the-cuff set of definitions about the differences between mobilizing, campaigning and community organising (focusing on local power), and one told me she has it on the wall of her office to inspire her every day. This has been the successful launch of an ambitious and visionary program. Many thanks to James and Kate for their vision, wisdom, and care in developing and nurturing the curriculum and the cohort. Kudos!
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The Change Agency