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?

Thea Ormerod, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

Whereas I had been working intuitively and reasonably well as a part of with a team of dedicated volunteers, the Community Organising Fellowship is providing a range of easy-to-understand useful tools which will help ARRCC to be much more effective. The training is carefully crafted to maximise skills development so we can use our limited resources in a way which will deliver results far more strategically. I already have quite a clear vision of how to successfully motivate our volunteers into participating more actively in the change effort.
2015-03-17T19:24:22+11:00
Whereas I had been working intuitively and reasonably well as a part of with a team of dedicated volunteers, the Community Organising Fellowship is providing a range of easy-to-understand useful tools which will help ARRCC to be much more effective. The training is carefully crafted to maximise skills development so we can use our limited resources in a way which will deliver results far more strategically. I already have quite a clear vision of how to successfully motivate our volunteers into participating more actively in the change effort.
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!

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!

Claire Van Herpen, Environment Victoria

The Community Organising fellowship provides a positive and nurturing environment in which to learn and apply the practical skills required to effectively mobilise communities to create change. It's a great opportunity to learn from others in the environmental movement and provides space for collaboration and reflection.
2015-03-17T19:26:27+11:00
The Community Organising fellowship provides a positive and nurturing environment in which to learn and apply the practical skills required to effectively mobilise communities to create change. It's a great opportunity to learn from others in the environmental movement and provides space for collaboration and reflection.

Leigh Ewbank, Yes2Renewables coordinator

Usually, organisers learn in the heat of battle – through trial and error, stress, and necessity. The Community Organising Fellowship has provided a rare opportunity to step off the campaign trail, slow down, and do some deep learning. The suite of tools explored in the program will influence my practice for years to come.

 By creating a ‘community of practice’ of organisers, those behind the fellowship have shown strategic leadership. The relationships the program has cultivated (within the cohort and between alumni) will pay dividends. 
2015-03-17T20:58:10+11:00
Usually, organisers learn in the heat of battle – through trial and error, stress, and necessity. The Community Organising Fellowship has provided a rare opportunity to step off the campaign trail, slow down, and do some deep learning. The suite of tools explored in the program will influence my practice for years to come.  By creating a ‘community of practice’ of organisers, those behind the fellowship have shown strategic leadership. The relationships the program has cultivated (within the cohort and between alumni) will pay dividends. 

Jono La Nauze, FoE Melbourne

Totally awesome working with you guys. Thanks for your patience, commitment, considered and constructive guidance and generously giving so much time and effort. Thank you also for having faith in the process. Working with tCA was easy and a pleasure.
2014-03-30T08:23:37+11:00
Totally awesome working with you guys. Thanks for your patience, commitment, considered and constructive guidance and generously giving so much time and effort. Thank you also for having faith in the process. Working with tCA was easy and a pleasure.

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.
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.

Alexandra Soderlund, Solar Citizens

The fellowship has managed to achieve that elusive duo of being both a broadening and deepening experience - complete with delicious food. Learning as much from the incredible and diverse participants as the amazing facilitators, the ten days of the first workshop have flown by. I feel like I’ve come a long way as an organiser (and dare I say a person?!) already, I’m excited and a little bit scared to see where I end up. 
2015-03-17T20:59:30+11:00
The fellowship has managed to achieve that elusive duo of being both a broadening and deepening experience - complete with delicious food. Learning as much from the incredible and diverse participants as the amazing facilitators, the ten days of the first workshop have flown by. I feel like I’ve come a long way as an organiser (and dare I say a person?!) already, I’m excited and a little bit scared to see where I end up. 
Julie Lyford

Julie Lyford, Groundswell Gloucester

Such a long fight. Without you and the Change Agency we would be floundering. Thank you so much for your energy, passion, wisdom and guidance and for all that you do in changing the world.
2016-09-30T13:24:47+10:00
Julie Lyford
Such a long fight. Without you and the Change Agency we would be floundering. Thank you so much for your energy, passion, wisdom and guidance and for all that you do in changing the world.

Cate Faehrmann, Director, Nature Conservation Council NSW, 2005

We did a two-day workshop with The Change Agency early this year which provided our organisation with some much-needed tools for strategic campaigning and planning. There was nothing but positive feedback from our staff and board members about what they gained from the two days spent with James and Sam. The power mapping exercise was particularly insightful for staff and board members alike and as a result our campaigns are more pro-active - we are seeing results!
2014-03-30T07:51:49+11:00
We did a two-day workshop with The Change Agency early this year which provided our organisation with some much-needed tools for strategic campaigning and planning. There was nothing but positive feedback from our staff and board members about what they gained from the two days spent with James and Sam. The power mapping exercise was particularly insightful for staff and board members alike and as a result our campaigns are more pro-active - we are seeing results!

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.
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.