Power and Strategy Class Fall 2021

How do groups in society achieve the changes they seek?  This course will explore how elites, labor unions, community organizations, political parties and social movements organize, develop strategies and deploy resources to advance their interests and win major changes in society.  To provide a shared framework, we’ll begin with an overview of classical and contemporary theories of power and cause and effect.  We’ll look at elite strategies to wield power developed in the military, Silicon Valley, business, and politics.  We’ll also consider five “strategies from below,” including building mass organization, disruptive movements, efforts to capture governing power, “inside-outside” strategies.

In the eternal battle between David and Goliath, how and why does David sometimes win?  We’ll examine a variety of case studies from the right and left, including the orchestrated rise of neoliberalism, and cutting-edge campaigns from contemporary racial justice and labor and other movements.  The class will focus heavily on introducing applied tools for strategy development from a variety of traditions.  We’ll review tools commonly used in campaigns like power analysis and strategy charts, but also introduce frameworks like “lean start up,” reverse engineering, OODA loops, emergent strategy, scenario planning, policy feedback loops, time shifting and methods to harness and work with strong emotions. The class is appropriate for intermediate to advanced social change organizers and campaigners, as well as for graduate students. The class will feature guest faculty and practitioners with extensive experience building winning campaigns.

Departmental permission required.


Stephanie Luce is Professor of Labor Studies at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is a member of the PSC-CUNY/AFT faculty staff union and has spent many years working with unions and labor community coalitions on living wage campaigns, policy fights and organizing projects.

Deepak Bhargava is Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies and has been involved in social change movements and organizations for over 30 years, including 16 years leading Community Change.

Who Should Apply

This class is suitable for both current graduate students and for non-matriculated students who are experienced labor, community, environmental or social movement leaders, organizers, or campaigners.  Departmental permission required. 

Meeting Schedule and Requirements

The class will meet on Thursday evenings from 6:15 – 8:45 pm Eastern time.  The class will be held entirely online, so non-NYC students can participate fully in the course.  The first class will be held on 8/26/2021 and the term runs for 15 weeks ending on 12/16/2021.

There will be extensive reading, writing and class engagement as part of this course.  Non-matriculating students who are social change practitioners will be assessed based on their application of tools presented in the course. 


Exact tuition and fee levels have not been set for the fall term, but for the spring 2020 term fees and tuition costs for non-matriculating New York State residents were $1552.50 and for non-matriculating out-of-state students $2707.50.  For graduate students, the total cost was the same, plus an additional $10.00 in application fees. 

(Up to date information on fees and tuition can be found here).

Deadline for Applications: May 30thBut the class will be filled as successful applications are approved, so early submission is strongly encouraged.

Application Form is here

Those accepted into the class will be asked to fill out the CUNY enrollment application form.

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