MAIS 604

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3 - Planning and Action for Community Change
Delivery Mode: Grouped-study
Prerequisite: Successful completion of MAIS 601 and MAIS 602.

Introduction | Course Author | Course Structure | Course Objectives
Evaluation | Course Materials


Planning and Action for Community Change delves into the underlying intellectual traditions of community studies and introduces you to the realities of community practice. The central idea of the course is that planning for action, particularly action resulting in community change, is something to be desired in a society that values rationality. In this course we will draw on a number of academic disciplines that provide a theoretical as well as practical basis for understanding change at the community level. We will apply planning theory from traditions of sociology, political science, and psychology to real organizations in local communities, using theories of practice of community social work and action research. Four traditions of planning provide the framework of the course:

  1. social reform
  2. policy analysis
  3. social learning
  4. social mobilization

These traditions cluster into two divergent intellectual positions (Campfens, 1999, p. 26), which we will call

I. technical reason, which is manifest in programs of social reform and the practice of policy analysis

II. social transformation, which is manifest through social learning and the processes of social mobilization

This theoretical framework will facilitate a deep understanding of how planning for community change takes place from the highest planning authority to the most spontaneous of grassroots groups. Examining these traditions in the light of actual conditions in real communities will facilitate your critical analysis and teach you alternative options and tactics for community change.

Course Author

Ken Banks is assistant professor of community studies and a subject matter expert (SME) at Athabasca University. He also teaches at the School of Social Work, University at Buffalo SUNY. Ken holds a PhD in sociology in education from the University of Toronto and an MA in social policy from McMaster University. His academic interests are in the vitality of communities in transition and the practice of action research. He is principal investigator of The Company of Neighbours, a funded research project, and has published various articles on related interests. The Social Science Federation of Canada has awarded a subvention for his book with J. Marshall Mangan on the process and outcomes of the research, The Company of Neighbours: Revitalizing Community Through Action-Research, published by University of Toronto Press (1999).

Course Structure

Part I: Theories of Planning for Community Change, consists of six units:

Part II: Community Change in Action: The Group Project and The Great Debate

Outside of the constraints of a textbook, the results of planning for change are infinitely fluid and disorderly. In this second half of the course you will have the opportunity to spend several weeks drawing on planners' and activists' personal experiences, the Internet, libraries, and (with ethical approval) personal communication to compare and contrast change processes in real communities in the context of the four traditions. In order to accomplish this research, you and your fellow students will form community-development-style task groups with the guidance of your professor. Some of these groups will focus on technical reason and others will focus on social transformation.

To conclude the course, the groups that have focused on technical reason and those that have examined social transformation in the community will, with the support of your professor, organize an online debate, which will be followed by a virtual end-of-term celebration in Week 13.

Course Objectives

The course provides students with:

  1. a comprehensive method for the understanding of community change processes
  2. an historical context for modern approaches to planning and action
  3. an approach for making current case material accessible for analysis
  4. a theoretical basis for planning and practice of community work


There will be two written assignments in this course, both of which relate to an important group project that will be the focus of the second half of the course. Your participation in online discussion and activities, including the group project, will be noted and evaluated. For a detailed description of the participation activities and assignments, refer to the "Assignment File" near the end of the Course Guide.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Online Participation 30 %
Assignment 1: Short Essay 30 %
Assignment 2: Major Paper 40 %
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for Master of Arts-Integrated Studies 604: Planning and Action for Community Change include the items listed below (except for the optional textbook, which you may purchase on your own). If you find that any items are missing from your course package, please contact the Course Materials Production department at Athabasca University as soon as possible. You may call Athabasca University, toll-free, from anywhere in Canada or the United States at 1-800-788-9041 and ask to speak to someone in Course Materials Production (ext. 6366). Students in the Edmonton and Calgary dialing areas are asked to call the Learning Centres to connect with the automated attendant, and then dial the four-digit extension. You may send e-mail to, or write to Course Materials Production at Tim Byrne Centre, 4001 Hwy 2 South, Athabasca AB T9S 1A4.

Print Materials


Required Texts

Optional Text

Athabasca University materials

Course Guide: The Course Guide contains the course introduction, objectives, commentary, reading assignments, online activities, assignments, and other information that you will need to complete the course successfully. The "Study Schedule" identifies the course activities and assignments that you are to complete each week. Please take time now to review the information in this document in order to become familiar with the design of the course.

Reading File: Most of the assigned readings, which supplement the course textbooks, are included in the Reading File.

Forms: The forms that you will need to request an extension, register in a course, or request a letter of permission are included with the course materials.

Online Materials

Digital Reading File: The assigned reading available online can be accessed via the MAIS 604: Planning and Action for Community Change Digital Reading File, which is linked to the course home page.

Online Resources

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools: