Research, Practice and Social Change

Comm 620



Sandra Ball-Rokeach 


Barbara Osborn

ph: 310 586 9788



The central questions guiding this course concern the challenges, models and best practices of academic research and advocacy relationships. The goal of this course is to help students who expect to make careers either as academics or nonprofit policy/research staff to understand the challenges of bridging the academic-advocacy gap and to identify models that might help them forge effective academic/advocacy partnerships.



Conduct of Class Sessions


Students are expected to play an active role in shaping class discussion.  To that end, students master the reading assignments associated with each weekly topic and come to class prepared with questions, criticisms, and comments.  For each assigned reading, one student will be asked to lead the group discussion. See your role as a facilitator of the discussion making sure that people come away with an understanding of principal content and that reactions to the piece have been fully explored.


Components of Course Evaluation


Seminar Participation                                                                           25

Course Project Research Design& Lit Review                                25

Course Project Final Paper                                                                 25

Course Project Presentation                                                               25


Community Research Project:


Students will conduct, either alone or in a small group, a community-based research project using the model of community-based participatory research. Students are expected to engage in a systematic inquiry, making use of whatever methodological approaches seem appropriate to the research and that they have the knowledge to apply. 


Students are encouraged to use their own contacts and resources to identify an appropriate organization and project though instructors will help students identify potential community organizations.


Appropriate topics for research that could be conducted within the semester timeframe might be:



Alternatively, students may choose to document an existing academic-advocacy partnership, analyzing its strengths and weaknesses. Doctoral candidates may, with instructors’ approval, design a related research project that will support the progress of their dissertation.


Each class will begin with a check-in to discuss that week’s progress, questions about research design, collaboration and trust-building, and data-collection and analysis. 




Seminar Topics & Readings


A general note about the readings: You will be reading many reports produced by academic-advocate partnerships over the course of the semester. The point is to provide you with various examples of the types of relationships and outcomes of these academic-advocate partnerships, not to make you issue-experts in each of these topic areas. Please read (or scan!) the reports accordingly.



Class 1/January 9 - Course Overview



Reading for the Next Class:


Dutzik, Tony.  “Advocacy Research: A Potent Tool for Social Reform,” ed. Jack Rothman, ed. [Title] Forthcoming.*


Strand, Kerry; Sam Marullo; Nick Cutforth; Randy Stoecker; Patrick Donohue. Community-Based Research and Higher Education: Principles and Practices. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons. 2003. Chapters 1 and 2. (available at library reserve.)


Optional Related Readings:


Alinsky, Saul D. Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.


Horton, Myles and Paulo Freire. We Make The Road by Walking. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.



Class 2/January 16 Challenges inherent in the advocacy/academic relationship


Reading for the Next Class:


Feld, Harold. “Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere: Creation of a Shared Culture of Skills and Vocabulary between Advocates and Academics,” Media Access Project.


Mueller, Milton, Brenden Kuerbis, Christiane Page. “Reinventing Media Activism: Public Interest Advocacy in the Making of U.S. communication Information Policy, 1960-2002.


Dutton, William H. “Hired Gun or Partner in Media Reform: High Noon for the Social Scientist.”


Stoecker, Randy, “Creative Tensions in the New Community Based Research,” Keynote addressed prepared for the Community-Based Research Network Symposium, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, May 13, 2004.


Optional Related Readings:


Bauer, Johannes; Sungjoong Kim, Steven S. Wildman in collaboration with Bella Mody. “The Role of Research in Communications Policy Theory and Evidence.” This is a 20 page version of a 60 page white paper, “Making U.S. Telecommunications Policy: Who Participates and Who is Heard? The Roles of Research and Ideas.”



Class 3/January 23 Case Study: Media Activism


Reading for the Next Class:


“Building A Regional Voice for Environmental Justice,” a report by the Building A Regional Voice for Environmental Justice Collaborative, September 2004.


Prakash, Swati. “Power, Privilege and Participation.” .


Tesh, Sylvia Noble. Overview, Uncertain Hazard: Environmental Activists and Scientific Proof. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.*


Stoecker. Randy. Are academics irrelevant? Roles for scholars in participatory research. The American Behavioral Scientist. Thousand Oaks: Feb. 1999. 42:5. 


Rossi, Lipsey, and Freeman. Evaluation: A systematic approach.

7th edition (Sage: 2004).


Optional Related Readings:


For another view of the academic-advocate relationship, see The Powerpoint Presentation:


Students may find “Making a Difference to Policies and Programs: A Guide for Researchers” by Robert W. Porter and Suzanne Prysor-Jones useful. prepared by U.S. AID for international researchers. It’s a practical, albeit detailed, how-to booklet.



Class 4/January 30: Case Study: Environmental Justice


Guest speaker: Andrea Hricko, Associate Professor/Clinical
Director, Community Outreach and Education, Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, USC’s Keck School of Medicine.


Reading for the Next Class:


Callahan, David. $1 Billion for Conservative Ideas,” The Nation, April 26, 1999.


Krehely, Jeff; Meaghan House and Emily Kernan, Axis of Ideology: Conservative Foundations and Public Policy,” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, March 2004.*


Rich, Andrew. “War of Ideas: Why mainstream and liberal foundations and the think tanks they support are losing in the war of ideas in America politics,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2005.


Weaver, R. Kent. “The Changing World of Think Tanks,” P.S. Political Science and Politics, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 568-578.



Class 5/February 6: The Role of Funders and ThinkTanks


Guest Speaker: Professor Marilyn Gittell, Director of the Samuels Center and professor of Political Science at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York.


Reading for the Next Class:


Driving Poor: Taxi Drivers and the Regulation of the Taxi Industry,” 


L.A. Taxi Workers Alliance white paper on taxi worker conditions at


Araiza, Olivia E. “Bridge Research and Education Organizing: Can we strength our combined power?” Justice Matters Institute. October 2003.



Class 6/February 13: The Community/Academy Partnership in Los Angeles


Guest Speakers: Gary Blasi, Professor of Law, Acting Director, UCLA Institute of Industrial Relations

Hamid Khan, executive director South Asian Network


Reading for the Next Class:


Four L.A. Alliance for a New Economy studies:

  1. “The Other Los Angeles: The Working Poor in the City of the 21st Century.” L.A. Alliance for a New Economy, 1999.
  2. Taking Care of Business (2000) –
  3. Who Benefits from Redevelopment (1999) -

4.        Examining the Evidence (2005)-  (70 page summary)



Class 7/February 20:  The Community/Academy Partnership in Los Angeles (cont’d)


Guest speakers: Jessica Goodheart, researcher L.A. Alliance for a New Economy


Reading for the next class: Badgett, M.V. Lee and R. Bradley Sears. “Putting A Price on Equality,” Stanford Law & Policy Review 197 (2005)



Class 8/February 27 Maintaining Independence


Guest Speaker: Lee Badgett, Research Director and Visiting Professor

Williams Institute, UCLA Law School


Reading for the Next Class:


Lakoff, George, “Simple Framing: An Introduction to framing and its uses in politics.”


Wallack, Lawrence and Lori Dorfman. “Media Advocacy: A Strategy for Advancing Policy and Promoting Health,” Health Education Quarterly. Vol 23 (3) 293-317. August 1996.



Class 9/March 6: Massaging it For The Media


Reading for the Next Class:


Ball-Rokeach, Sandra J. Matthew Hale, Adam Schaffer, Lorena Porras, Philip Harris and Miguel Drayton. “Changing a Media Production Process: From Aggressive To Injury Sensitive Traffic Crash Stories.”


Breed, Warren. and James R. De Foe. “Effecting Media Change: The Role of Cooperative Consultation on Alcohol Topics,” Journal of Communication (Spring 1982.)


Optional Related Readings:

Montgomery, Kathryn C. Target: Prime Time, Advocacy Groups and the Struggle Over Entertainment Television. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.



Class 10/March 13: Changing Professional Practices



Reading for the Next Class:

Readings TBD.


Class 11/March 20: Edutainment



Reading for the Next Class:

Readings TBD.



Class 12/March 27: Legal research and advocacy




Class 13-15/April 3, 10 and 17: Student Presentations & Reflections



*Readings designated with an asterisk will be posted on the web or available directly from the instructors.