Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hour / session

Course Description

This graduate seminar examines the engagement of civil society actors, including social movement, nongovernmental (NGO), nonprofit, and ad hoc organizations, in international, national, and local environmental governance. We will consider theories pertaining to civil society development, social movement mobilization, collaboration, and organizational accountability and legitimacy. Domestic and international case studies will be used to provide concrete examples in order to bridge theory and practice. As a result, over the course of the semester, students will gain familiarity with a variety of analytic perspectives that will help them critically assess the roles and impacts of diverse types of organizations that attempt to shape environmental policy and planning. This course is appropriate for students interested in NGO, nonprofit, and social movement organizations from a research or policy perspective as well as for those students who may work with or in these organizations.

Grading Criteria and Assignments

Term Paper

You are required to research and write either a single term paper or two short papers. In either case, your work should examine a topic of personal interest that is related to civil society and the environment. For example, you could examine the role of NGOs in a specific campaign or context, the formation of the environmental movement within a given country, the impact of transnational environmental networks, NGO-state or local government relations, a specific environmental organization and its activities, community responses to environmental issues, the involvement of environmental organizations in international development, just to name a few. There are two requirements and deadlines related to the project: 1) Submit a one paragraph summary of your topic in Week 7; and 2) Submit your final paper at the end of the class session in Week 11. Late papers will not be accepted.

Case Presentation and Discussion

You are required to give a 15 minute presentation on environmental movements, mobilization, or participation within a self-selected national or sub-national context. You will then lead a 20-30 minute discussion of the case. The goal of the discussion is to examine how the case relates to and illustrates key course themes and readings. You should select one reading (preferably a case study) and post it on the Class Discussion Board at least one week prior to your presentation. You also should prepare 3 or 4 questions in advance that will guide the discussion. Submit your topic no later than Week 3. Presentation dates will be arranged according to how topics fit with the weekly sessions.

Reaction Papers

You are required to write brief (no more than one-page) reaction papers on the readings each week. These papers should include a one or two sentence statement of what you believe are the key argument(s) of each article followed by a reaction to the main point. A reaction can be comments in agreement, critiques, disagreements with the main points, and / or questions that come to mind as you read. Reaction papers will not be graded, but they count towards your final grade.

Class Participation

This seminar requires active participation in discussions and critical reflection and assessment of the course material. While quantity matters, participation grades ultimately will be based on the quality of your participation. Therefore, you should be prepared to discuss the main points of the readings, ask questions, provide constructive feedback, and generate and share critical perspectives. There is an additional requirement that will be factored into your participation grade. Some weeks you will be assigned specific articles to read. You should be prepared to present a summary and lead a discussion of your assigned article.


activities percentages
Term Paper 40%
Case Presentation and Discussion 15%
Reaction Papers 20%
Class Participation 25%