Introduction to CLP’s curricular materials*

The Community Learning Partnership is affiliated with a growing number of community college and university programs in Community Change Studies (also known as Community Organizing, Social Justice Leadership, Community Development, and Community Leadership Studies).  Some of these sites offer Community Change Studies as a major or minor for a Degree; others offer a Certificate.  An increasing number offer students an opportunity to deepen their knowledge and skills in community work by continuing to study such courses at a four-year university after community college.  A good many join Public Allies or Americorps VISTA to gain experience working at the community level and earn a stipend for further education.

These sites vary in the courses they offer, depending on what local partners want to emphasize most and how much flexibility there is in the college curriculum for adding new courses and/or modifying existing ones.

However, to be part of CLP network, the set of courses must be aimed at building the students’ knowledge, skills, commitment and vision concerning community and social change, preparing them for jobs or further education in this field.  In particular, they must develop the initial knowledge and skills needed for “organizing” — reaching out to people of color and others with low-incomes, bringing them together, helping them identify and analyze common issues and how they might be addressed, and preparing them to develop leadership and take action on those issues.

CLP curricula vary by site, but most cover the following four areas of knowledge**:

  • Critical Consciousness: Culture, Community and Identity – understanding of self and community, exploring personal history and identity, the impact of race, gender, class, sexuality, culture, oppression and trauma, personal transformation, cultural competency, identity as a change agent
  • Introduction to Community Organizing: History, Theory and Practice, including both a review of different approaches to social change and skill development
  • Understanding the Region and Its History of Community Development and Organizing: History of social movements and community action in the context of the local economy, local and state government, and politics
  • Experiential Education: An internship or practicum involving experience helping bring people together to identify and address a common issue

Other courses which are often offered as part of a Community Change Studies curriculum include:

  • Advanced community organizing, campaigns and movement-building
  • Participatory action research, issue development and popular education
  • Political theory, history of social movements
  • Social media and communications strategies for social change
  • Legislative and electoral strategies
  • Issue -related courses, e.g.
  • Environmental issues, including climate change and green jobs
  • Community development
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Health care and promotion
  • Employment and labor issues
  • Education reform

To get started, check out these section from the CLP report: “Listening, Building, Making Change: Job Profile of a Community Organizer.”


*Additional materials are available only to members of CLP’s Networker.  To become a member, please email Hilary Binder-Aviles at

**Programs range from 3-5 courses and range in teaching strategies and emphases, but these are the main topics covered in core courses at CLP sites.