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Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Adult Education and Community Development Program

Activism Courses 

The AECD program offers a number of courses for students interested in learning more about activism and/or improving their practice.

Courses that directly deal with activism learning include, but are not limited to:


Community Development: Innovative Models (LHA1102H)

This course attempts to come to grips with the meaning of community development in a highly networked, increasingly information-dependent society. It looks at such issues as the relationships between community organizing and community development and the role of social capital in community economic development.

Models of community development that involve government programs such as social housing and community health centres are considered, as are market-based approaches involving micro-lending, co-operatives and social enterprises.  


Social Action Education: Community Development, Social Services and Social Movements (LHA1104H)

This course provides an introductory overview of challenges encountered in social action education in a broad range of local and global community, social service, non-profit, NGO, and social movement contexts. It draws on classic and contemporary popular education, community organizing, international development, feminist, environmental, socialist, anti-colonial, anti-racist and Indigenous sources to explore a variety of approaches to social change education, service provision and organizing.

Students are encouraged to bring their own experience as well as their reading and research to bear on questions of local and global practice arising in this era of neo-liberal colonization, globalization and resistance.

Emphasis will be placed on developing a dialogue that makes room for participants with varied experience and points of view, and contributes to deeper and broader frameworks of practice and study for all. 

Students with little knowledge of critical analysis and little experience of social action education are welcome, as well as those with extensive prior theoretical and/or activist backgrounds. The course focus is North American but issues and topics are understood in a global context. 'Majority world' experience, interests and references are valued.

Creative Empowerment Work with the Disenfranchised (LHA1109H)

This is a social movement course that will be of interest to a wide range of practitioners, including activists, popular educators, and counsellors. The context in which it is offered is a world increasingly populated by disenfranchised people. The intent is to help practitioners gain a fuller understanding of the populations in question and become more skilled and creative as allies and activists.

The specific populations focused on are: psychiatric survivors, people who are homeless, people who have been imprisoned, people who use illicit drugs, undocumented people, and sex trade workers.

Learners will gain knowledge of the ABC's of strategic activism, with particular emphasis on how to modify strategy to fit the populations and movements in question. An accompanying emphasis is the use of the arts in resistance work with these populations. Examples of art forms drawn on include theatre (including theatre of the oppressed), puppetry, and video-making. Popular education is integrated.

Perspectives include: feminism, anti-racism, Marxism, transformative justice, antipsychiatry, labelling theory, anarchism, and the philosophies of nonviolent resistance.

The classes go between lectures, student presentations, film and video analysis, rehearsals, consultations, exercises, and guest presentations. Activism within the larger community is an integral part of the course. 

Working with Survivors of Trauma (LHA1111H)

This course explores the nature(s) of trauma and the different ways of working with survivors. The emphasis is on difference-different types of trauma, different ways of coping, and the significance of different and multiple identities. Work with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse is particularly highlighted.

Other areas include survivors of: homophobic assault, ritual abuse, residential schools, refugee traumatization, war trauma, trauma associated with imprisonment, trauma associated with psychiatric intervention, and second generation trauma (e.g., children of Holocaust survivors). The trauma inherent in systemic oppressions, the fact that we live in an oppressive and violent society, and the implications for practitioners is emphasized throughout. While the primary emphasis is on practitioners as counsellors, other roles are also considered, including: advocates, befrienders, community workers, and literacy workers. Practitioner self-care in light of vicarious traumatization is given special consideration.

Attention is divided between individual work, group work, and community work. The course is counter-hegemonic. Dominant perspectives include: critical theory, feminism, and existentialism.


Queer Interventions Tools for Community Organizing (LHA1144H)

This course presents a hands-on approach to community organizing on lgbtq issues and is meant to supplement the skill base of those currently working in communities as health and social services professionals, as well as those who are grassroots community organizers. The curriculum is designed to engage lgbtq history and contemporary issues and to integrate this knowledge with a skill-building approach to community development through organizing and participatory action.

Precarity and Dispossession: Urban Poverty and Rebel Cities (LHA1149H)

Some of the most pressing problems affecting community wellness can be traced to how stable infrastructures are eroding, resulting in underemployment, insecure housing, expulsions from prime real estate, and criminalization of the racialized and indigenous poor.

This course provides some important conceptual frameworks that help us understand how these themes are interconnected through militarized finance capitalism that is also alternatively referred to as ‘the new economy’, ‘casino economics’, and ‘crisis economics.’ 

As devastating as these trends are, never have possibilities for transformation been more accessible through a myriad of inspiring social movements and innovative community activism and development. This course provides some critical literacy for organizing and some hands-on experience in transformative community development.

Embodied Learning and Alternative Approaches to Community Wellness (LHA1181H)

Some very innovative community activism takes place through creative forms of embodied learning, including theatre, dance, slam poetry, hip hop, and various other art forms. In addition, many of these art forms offer alternatives to western Eurocentric frameworks of objectification, subjugation and alienation, emphasizing, instead, relationality and connectedness.

The two alternative embodied arts explored in this course include Qigong and Mindfulness Meditation, with a view to examining how these can augment Marxist Feminist dialectics, and inform social justice movements, through deep personal and social transformation.

Students will develop a community development proposal involving embodied learning and social movement building, and will participate in a group-based art-as-public pedagogy project.