Researching social change (Summer 2020)

Course content

The course presents theories of social change through activism and democratic engagement drawing on an interdisciplinary field of methods in sociology, anthropology, and psychology.

The focus is on activists’ search for effective models of cooperation, organizing and collective action allowing people from different backgrounds to dialogue and take democratic decisions together in a shifting political, emotional, organizational and ecological environment. This gives rise to important questions that the course will explore: How and to what extend do activists succeed to build coalitions to support the change they strive for? Which barriers do they encounter? To what extend and in which contexts can structural, social, cultural and/or psychological barriers and obstacles be identified, and which solutions need to be undertaken? What role has research in processes, where social change is going on? What is the nature of the knowledge production that can possible be produced in this type of research?

The lecturers and the reading materials give the students the opportunity to explore theories and practices of deliberation, pre-figurative democracy and sustainability. Empirically the course draws on examples from a global as well as a local context. A hands-on approach is established through involvement with different kind of communities and organisations working for sustainability in different settings. Working with methods drawing from action-research and performance theory, combined with the sociologist Alain Touraine’s interview method and the cultural anthropologist Cathrine Hasse’s work, the students are trained to handle ‘real life’ challenges.  


Elective course

MSc 2015:

Welfare, Inequality and Mobility
Culture, lifestyle and everyday life
Knowledge, organisation and politics




Learning outcome


  • be able to explore social change theoretically and practically
  • identify barriers encountered during social change processes, and discuss if they are structural, interactional or so forth
  • understand the role for a researcher in action research, when using Touraine’s interview design and interacting with cultural processes as Hasse points out
  • reflect on research ethics under ‘real life’ circumstances



  • facilitate a research process concerning social change through activism, while the change is taking place
  • analyse and actively address barrier to social change
  • assess and critically discuss the agenda of social activists and the potential consequences of their actions.



  • manage to work with complex social phenomena, while interacting with different stakeholders
  • take responsibility for the research process and share the result of the exploration with the participants
  • give and receive feedback and reflect on how to integrate this into future learning and working strategies

Lectures, student exercises, shared reflections and a written report are supplied with excursions to settings where activism focusing on sustainability takes place.

Alain Touraine, Peter Gundelach, Kurt Lewin, Lev Vygotsky, Cathrine Hasse

BA or MA students from the respective discipline targeted as the cross-disciplinary outset of the course.

Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Peer-to-peer feedback is an integrated part of the course helping developing the skills and understanding of the students

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Course participation
Active participation – manifested in a written report on the topic worked upon through out the course. The report will include descriptions of theoretical assumptions, methodological approach and data gathering, supplied with discussions of identified barriers and ethical reflections on researcher’s position.
Max 15 pages per person
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Please see the learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 178
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 206