University of Southern California
Professor: Paul Lichterman
Office: KAP 352; firstname.lastname@example.org
Hours: Weds. 3:30-5:00 and by appt.
Lecture: Mon.-Weds. 2:00-3:20pm
C. Brady Potts
Grassroots Participation in Global Perspective
How and why do ordinary people get involved in organizations that address local, national or
What are different ways of participating?
What are the benefits of drawbacks
This course introduces you to different forms of citizen participation. We will learn
about volunteer and community service groups, social movement organizations, nonprofit
organizations that work for the social good, and governmental bodies that invite citizen
We will treat some religious as well as secular organizations. We will focus
primarily on the contemporary U.S., with comparison cases from other countries and periods that
can help us contextualize current U.S. realities we would take too much for granted otherwise.
Many public organizations, and many nations, want to increase citizen participation, in order to
become more democratic, more fair, or more seemingly legitimate.
There are heated debates
inside and outside academia about citizen participation, what is good about it, why it has been
declining, what can be done to increase it.
This course introduces you to these important
conversations and gives you tools for making your own decisions about the virtues and
drawbacks of different kinds of participation.
While introducing you to different forms of citizen participation and big debates about
participation, the course also introduces you to ethnographic research.
Los Angeles is a
fabulously diverse city with many different kinds of citizen participation, and many, many
problems that citizens try to address.
Using Los Angeles as a case, everyone will need to attend
at least two meetings or events of a “grassroots” civic group or organization
--that is, any kind of
activist group, volunteer group, or government-sponsored meeting that involves average citizens
You will learn some basic skills of social science research:
listening closely to
everyday conversation, taking detailed notes on what you observe, writing memos that apply or
challenge social science concepts in light of your observations.
In other words, you will see at
an introductory level what professional ethnographers do in order to write books and scholarly
In short, this course’s goals include:
•introducing you to enduring scholarly questions and themes regarding citizen participation
•introducing different kinds of participation, their potentials and limits
•giving you concrete, introductory research experience
•sharpening your ability to think and write critically and comparatively about citizen
participation, beyond the usual clichés