Organizers in Residence

How Does Social Change Happen?

Stephanie Jo Kent & Lindsey Peterson

We provide a framework for teachers to guide students through a civics unit exploring the question: “How Does Social Change Happen?”

Beginning with students’ own concerns, we facilitate a process of identifying alignments between student interests and current local, state, national and international movements. These alignments are then evaluated for potential impact. From here, particular campaigns are selected as leverage points for change.  Students design tactics to stimulate community interest and actions in support of campaign goals.

Bring us to your school! For the Fort River program, we were funded by a grant from Teaching Tolerance.

    • Classroom visits to teach, support and consult
    • Use of video technology to continue the process with the students between visits
    • Networking with local and regional groups working on the same or related social change campaigns and linking them to the teachers and students.
    • Encouraging the students, encouraging the teachers!

“…each class began to develop strategies and tactics around their campaign with the support of our Organizers in Residence and a website they developed containing resources for each of the campaigns. This site was also used for communication between the Organizers in Residence and the students, as well as between the students themselves.” –Fort River Elementary Civic Literacy and Organizing Unit Diverse Democracy Grant Report.

Download the full grant report here.


Learning how social change happens by organizing to make social change happen.

Emphasis not on learning about organizing but learning organizing itself.

Observing their community, noticing and expressing what they would like to see changed.

Identifying motivating values, such as:

    • People deserve to live without fear of violence.
    • We should treat one another and the planet with respect.
    • We should all take responsibility for caring for one another and for the planet.
    • All people are inherently valuable and worthy of respect; money, race, gender should not determine a person’s worth.
    • Our actions have impacts.
    • We are connected; another person’s struggle is connected to my own struggle.
    • We should pay attention to the suffering of others and work to alleviate it.

Through recognition of shared motivating values and goals for change, move from individual projects to collaborative organizing in three broad movements for social change:

    1. Anti-bullying and Anti-Violence
    2. Climate Preservation
    3. Economic Transformation

Continuing in the collaborative spirit, recognizing that social change happens when people come together, students, teachers and Organizers in Residence identified possible campaigns which would be strategic to focus energy on and narrowed it to three:

    1. Stopping deforestation and planting new trees
    2. Encouraging support for a Green New Deal
    3. Changing the MA State Flag

How does social change happen? from Stephanie Jo Kent on Vimeo.


Rev. Lindsey PetersonRev. Lindsey Peterson

Lindsey is a UCC minister and works with the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership. She also writes music; for her, spirituality, song and social change are woven together.


Stephanie Jo Kent, PhDStephanie Jo Kent, PhD

Steph is a Community Interpreter and social scientist who uses the principles of action research to promote communication for social change.