Modes and Areas of Social Change Work

This Program of Study includes not only those courses and clinics that are obviously relevant, but also classes and activities that with less obvious links to law and social change that are potentially critical to building relevant understanding, skills, and strategies. Learning about the past, analyzing relationships among law, society, the economy, and social institutions, dissecting powerful institutions, and developing skills and capacities – including data and policy analysis skills – are all important steps; so is understanding particular problem areas and related legal materials. In order that students may develop a broad understanding of the ways in which law can contribute to social change, the Program is organized in two ways. First, recommended courses and faculty advisors are categorized according to different modes of social change work (a list that we continually expand and modify as the Program develops):

Second, because many students are drawn to law and social change through a substantive focus, problem area, or constituency, courses and faculty are categorized into substantive “areas” (also a list that we continue to expand and modify):

The Program of Study is not designed to encourage students to concentrate on a single mode or area of social change work. Nor does the Program view these different modes and areas as completely independent of one another; to the contrary, modes and areas of social change are deeply related to and impact each other. In sum, the Program’s intent is to enable students to develop a rich understanding of the promises and limitations inherent in the various modes and areas of work that are of interest to the student.

What follows is a description of modes and areas of social change, along with a preliminary list of faculty advisors and courses for each. Please note that for administrative ease, classes are listed only once in the “areas” section of this overview – although most have relevance to multiple areas of social change work. These lists will be updated as the Program continues to develop.

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Modes of Social Change

Organizing and Social Movements

People are at the heart of social change. So, then, are deliberate strategies to organize people, to mobilize groups with shared interests, to forge social movements, and to connect these efforts to law. The question of how law can facilitate organizing – how law can contribute to the building of social movements by enabling associations to meet, raise funds, speak, and act or by offering targets and arenas for action – is an important theme. The role of intellectuals and intellectual movements in social movement work is also an important area of study.

Recommended Courses:

HLS
Harvard Kennedy School (not all courses offered every year)

Faculty Advisors:

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Institutional Reform

Social change also involves reforming the institutions that structure and govern our society – including corporations, labor unions, administrative agencies, schools, child welfare institutions, and religious organizations – as well as working through these institutions to influence other sectors of society. Forging partnerships between public and private institutions also constitutes a promising avenue for reform.This mode of social change will enable students to understand how to reform and harness existing political, social, legal, and economic institutions.

Recommended Courses:

HLS
Harvard Kennedy School (not all courses offered every year)
Harvard Business School (not all courses offered every year)

Faculty Advisors:

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Litigation

Litigation is an historically significant and still often powerful force for social change. Indeed, litigation has been central to many of the most well-known and important achievements in social change work. This mode will enable students to develop an understanding ofhow litigation can function as a tool of social reform and in evaluating the uses and limits of litigation in this context.

Recommended Courses:

Faculty Advisors:

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Organizational Leadership

Social change requires not only mobilization, but also creating institutions capable of sustaining movement work. Building and leading lasting organizations of this kind depends on critical contributions from lawyers. This mode will enable students to understand the ways in which law can be instrumental to the development and leadership of social change organizations.

Recommended Courses:

HLS
Harvard Kennedy School (not all courses offered every year)
Harvard Business School (not all courses offered every year)

Faculty Advisors:

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Electoral Politics

Change often comes through the political arena, and perhaps no mode of change is more directly defined by law than electoral politics. Campaign finance laws and election law – along with the Constitutional issues they raise – form the heart of this Program mode, but union and non-profit participation in the electoral process is also crucial.

Recommended Courses:

HLS
Harvard Kennedy School (not all courses offered every year)

Faculty Advisors:

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Media and the Internet

In contemporary society, almost no movement for social change succeeds without an effective media and internet component. Indeed all of the modes of social change listed here often depend heavily on the media and the internet. Legal regulation of these outlets is extensive, and understanding the ways in which law structures, facilitates, and constrains media and internet work is integral to understanding law and social change.

Recommended Courses:

HLS
Harvard Kennedy School (not all courses offered every year)

Faculty Advisors:

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Areas of Social Change

Children, Youth, and Family: Health, Welfare, and Education

Recommended Courses:

HLS
Harvard Kennedy School (not all courses offered every year)

Faculty Advisors:

Community Economic Development

Recommended Courses:

Faculty Advisors:

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Criminal Justice

Recommended Courses:

HLS

Faculty Advisors:

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Economic Justice

Recommended Courses:

HLS

Faculty Advisors:

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Environment

Recommended Courses:

HLS

Faculty Advisors:

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Gender and Sexuality

Recommended Courses:

HLS
Harvard Kennedy School (not all courses offered every year)

Faculty Advisors:

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Health Care

Recommended Courses:

HLS

Faculty Advisors:

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Immigration and Asylum

Recommended Courses:

HLS
Harvard Kennedy School (not all courses offered every year)

Faculty Advisors:

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International Human Rights

Recommended Courses:

HLS
Faculty Advisors:
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Land Use and Property

Recommended Courses:

Faculty Advisors:

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National Security

Recommended Courses

Poverty

HLS Recommended Courses:

Faculty Advisors:

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Racial Justice

HLS Recommended Courses:

Faculty Advisors:

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Religious Freedom

Recommended Courses:

Harvard Kennedy School (not all courses offered every year)

Faculty Advisors:

Workplace

Recommended Courses:

Faculty Advisors:

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The Dynamics of Social Change

The Program of Study is also designed to enable students to develop a range of methodological tools – including sociological, anthropological, and historical tools – that can be deployed to understand the relationship between law and social change, both historically and in contemporary society. Faculty available to assist students in this endeavor include Professors Chris Desan, Janet Halley, Michael Klarman, Adriaan Lanni, Ken Mack, Todd Rakoff, Jeannie Suk, and Jed Shugerman.

Academic Careers

Students who wish to pursue academic careers in this area should combine the course work discussed above with opportunities for significant research and writing.

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