‘Defending the Commons: Strategies for Action’ is the second in a series of online short courses focusing on different aspects of commons, in particular their management, governance and sustainability.

Course overview
Over eight weeks, this course will cover four broad themes, which will take the participant through the skills required for undertaking social action. In the UK these might be referred to as ‘campaigning skills’, where a campaign is considered to be any form of sustained collective effort by a group of individuals, a community or organisation, or an alliance of different bodies, undertaken to achieve a common goal or set of objectives. In other parts of the world these skills might be better understood as the basics of social action.

Campaigners in the UK
Campaigners in the UK

Four broad themes 
Principles for action on the commons
Focuses on the principles underpinning social action including establishment of aims and objectives, making allies, funding, and creating a ‘task force’ for action.

Gathering evidence
A key aspect of defending commons is collecting and using relevant evidence to help develop and support your arguments.

• Gaining public support
Without public support any form of collective action on commons will fail, so this part of the course will focus on developing communications strategies and using the media to publicise your aims.

• Assessing effectiveness of your action
The fourth area of study will explore issues of transparency and accountability and basic approaches to understanding the impact of your activities.

Using case studies from around the world, the course will take participants through the stages of developing, operating, and evaluating social actions in defence of their commons and common rights. Participants will have the opportunity to learn from unsuccessful actions as well as from those that achieved success.

Course delivery
The course will be delivered through distance- learning approaches making use of video and audio materials, readings, on-line activities, and group discussion forums, enabling participants to learn from one another as well as from the tutors.

Uniquely the course is being delivered through a partnership of academics from the University of Gloucestershire in the UK and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico, together with practitioners including Kate Ashbrook, an experienced campaigner for commons access rights and General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, which is Britain’s oldest national conservation body. See principal teaching staff.

Once participants have registered for this online course they will be able to access a Moodle site which will hold a range of materials (readings, video and audio pods, exercises) and provide discussion -forum space for online learning. This distance- learning course provides a structured approach that takes participants through the materials with regular on-line discussion support.

There are no special IT requirements in order to be able to access the materials.

Please Note:  Students will obtain a certificate of completion but at this point there is no opportunity to take the module for academic credit. The Universities will be developing opportunities for gaining academic credit through additional work and assessment.

Who will benefit from taking this course?
The course is targeted at those wanting to learn more about social action, or acquire some of the basic skills required to engage in sustained and focused action for defending commons and common rights. It will be of interest to practitioners involved in supporting community development, as well as a wide range of those involved in, or wanting to learn about, the basics of taking action to protect rights of access to common resources.

Participants who complete the course will improve their understanding of the principles and requirements for engaging in social action in relation to protecting and defending their commons and common rights. They also have the opportunity to gain skills needed for designing and delivering collective action, in particular where there is a strong need for different groups and individuals to work together in order to achieve a common aim.

Key information
Course dates for 2016 to be confirmed
Cost: £100
Registration: registration and payment can be made at the University of Gloucestershire online store
Contact:  Email ccri@glos.ac.uk or telephone +44 1242 714122

Other short courses in the series
See Commons Management & Governance – Short Courses

Community elders discussing commons management - India
Village elders discussing protection of their common rights in India

The course is sponsored by IASC and has been made possible by a development grant from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).