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Master of Arts Integrated Studies (MAIS) 604

Planning and Action for Community Change (Revision 2)

Delivery Mode:Grouped study.


Prerequisite:Successful completion of MAIS 601 and MAIS 602.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Program: Master of Arts Integrated Studies

**Note:Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


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 Structure

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

  • Unit 1: Background and Foundations of Social Action and Community Change
  • Unit 2: Social Reform and Community Change
  • Unit 3: Policy Analysis and Community Change
  • Unit 4: Social Learning for Planning and Action
  • Unit 5: Social Mobilization
  • Unit 6: The Interaction of the Four Traditions of Community Change

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

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Integrated Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

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.


Required Texts

  • Friedmann, John (1987) Planning in the Public Domain: From Knowledge to Action. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Optional Text

  • Banks, C. Kenneth & Mangan J. Marshall (1999) The Company of Neighbours: revitalizing community through action-research. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.


  • Campfens, Hubert (ed.)(1999) Community Development Around the World: Practice, Theory, Research, Training. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Athabasca University Printed Materials

Reading File: The Reading File contains selected articles from various sources that are required reading for this course.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

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:

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, May 1, 2011.

Last updated by MAIS 08/05/2014 13:51:13