Maria Cotera
3666 Haven Hall
Ann Arbor, Michigan


Activism Project Guidelines

This project is designed to help students make key connections between what they learn in class and the "real world" of social and community activism. Students will work in small groups of 3-5 to identify an issue affecting Latina/o in Southeastern Michigan and develop a plan of action to address that issue.

If you are interested in this assignment, the first thing you will have to do is choose a Topic. At section meetings in Week Four students who have chosen to do the Activism Project will hand in a list of your top three choices for topic areas from the list of topics. Your GSI will create groups of 3-5 students who share an interest in exploring the same topic area. Each group will then work together to do the following:

  1. Research the issue
  2. Interview at least one activist working on this issue to find out some of what is being done
  3. Develop a plan or strategy for future action that promises to have an impact on the issue
  4. Write a report that details the previous three items
  5. Deliver a brief (10-15 minute) presentation in your section on the work you've done and the strategy you've planned.

The formal requirements for the project are laid out below:

!. Preparatory Assignments:
Each group must complete all three (3) of the preparatory assignments before submitting their final Written Report. The assignments are designed to get you started on the project and ensure that you make adequate progress throughout the semester. Go to the preparatory assignments page for detailed information on assignment guidelines.

II. Written Report (6-8 pages)
The written report must include three sections that address: (1) your research on this issue, (2) a summary or accounting of what you learned from the activist interview (NOT a transcript of the interview), and (3) a detailed plan about how you would implement your proposed activism project.  

Section 1: Research the Issue
This section consists of a write-up on the research you have done on the issue you have chosen. It should include 1) an introductory discussion/presentation of the issue; 2) an explanation of the issue's significance, including information on the specific Latina/o communities that are affected by it and the impact it has on their lives; 3) a discussion of key theories or arguments about the issue. In addition to any pertinent readings from the syllabus, you should use at least 2 (two) additional sources that are not on the course syllabus. These might be books, articles from scholarly journals, and reports prepared by research and/or advocacy organizations. Articles from popular periodicals (e.g., Newsweek , Cosmopolitan ) might be completely appropriate to include, but they will not count toward the "at least 2 additional sources" requirement. Ditto on internet sites: you are welcome to use them and again, depending on your issue, you might need to use them: but they do not count toward the additional sources requirement.

Section 2: Activist Interview/What Is Being Done
This section will contain a write-up of the information you've obtained from the activist(s) with whom you've spoken. Merely providing a transcript of the interview is not sufficient. Remember that, in addition to learning about the particular things that others are doing, your goal is also to get a general sense of what resources are available and what actions are being taken in the larger--global or domestic--context. Activists involved in advocacy or direct-service organizations are often excellent resources on this score. Keep this in mind when you prepare your interview. You'll want to ask about the particular concerns, interests, strategies, and experiences that the person has had; but you might also want to ask them for their impression on the over-all status of activist work on that issue and suggestions of appropriate interventions.

By "interview" we mean that you should engage in a direct and extended conversation with someone actively working on the issue you've identified. This direct and extended conversation might take place in person, it might take place by email, or it might take place by phone. In any event you will need to briefly detail when, how, and with whom you've made contact.

Please note : activists are, in general, extremely busy and (over-) committed people who may or may not find conversing with students a good way to spend their time. For this reason, you are strongly suggested to contact more than one potential interviewee. Keep this mind as you "reach out" to make contact. Past practices that have not worked well: sending long lists of questions (typically taken directly from this hand-out) by email to strangers who (surprise!) ignore the message altogether. Past practices that have worked: sending a well-written and respectful letter (of the postal variety) indicating your general interest, your general need, and a request to call and/or meet with the person at their convenience, followed up by a phone call several days after the letter is sent.

Section 3: Developing a Plan for Future Action
This section will outline, in as much detail as possible, an action, intervention, and/or strategic plan that your group has worked out to address this issue. You are under no obligation to carry out this action.   In the past, students have opted both to enact their plan--and thus to devise something that is enactable within the limits of the semester--and not to do so. The choice is yours, collectively. But regardless, this section of your report will need to present your plan as if it could be enacted. So if, for example, your topic area is health and your issue is Latina/os with HIV/AIDS, it would not be sufficient to indicate that your plan is to raise money for a clinic, and leave it at that. If you determine that fund-raising for that clinic is a viable and vital activist project, then you'd need to determine how you would fund-raise; what would be entailed in planning the fund-raising event; a realistic money figure for what the event would cost; a realistic account of where that money would come from; etc. In other words, you must complete a detailed "mock" plan for your event/action/plan. It may be necessary to consult with additional activists / professionals when devising your intervention. For example, if you plan to ask an organization or individual to donate to your project you should contact them to ascertain the feasibility of such a request being granted.

The group will deliver a deliver a brief (10-15 minute) presentation in your section on the work you've done and the strategy you've planned. The presentation may incoporate audiovisual elements, handouts, and any other resources that will help you toshare your work with the class. Your GSI will assign specific dates for the presentations during the second half of the semester.

A Note on Work-Sharing
It is the responsibility of each group to share the work equally and it is each group member's responsibility to complete their assigned tasks. The project includes several different elements, each of which can be tackled by groups, pairs, or individuals. But: it is very important that the different elements of this project be well integrated in your final product. In other words, the research section ought to connect with the activist interview (e.g., does the activist share the predominant understanding(s) of the issue that your research uncovered? Does s/he agree with how the issue is being analyzed?) and the activist interview should inform the action that you are planning or proposing (e.g., what other actions have been taken in the past? What has been effective? What would the activist advise against ? If you choose not to follow your activist's suggestions, please explain why). However you choose to divide the work ( if you decide to the divide the work), you must continue to work together as a group so that your final report integrates all the different elements successfully, and thus achieves an over-all coherence and persuasiveness. Lack of integration will adversely affect the evaluation of your project.

Except under extraordinary circumstances, all group members will receive the same grade for the final project. It is your responsibility as a group to ensure that all members contribute equally to the project. If it appears that one or more members of the group are not fully participating/contributing to the project you must address this issue within the group as soon as it arises. You will be asked to submit a written evaluation of the project at the end of the term in which you will assess each group member's contributions as well as your own . Please note that the group evaluation, while important, is not a sufficient means to address problematic group dynamics. These concerns must be dealt with collectively by your activism group before the written and oral reports are due.  

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