In the Winter 2016 term, I’ll be offering a new course at Michigan titled “How To Change the World: Sustainability and Social Change.” After developing a shared theoretical perspective about social structure, the course considers and critiques several popular change paradigms including the adoption of disruptive innovations, social entrepreneurship, and tactical urbanism. The aim of the course is to foster a lively interdisciplinary exchange which links the insights of classic social theorists (such as Ostrom, Schön, and Schumpeter) with the latest cases and ideas from the social innovation field. University of Michigan students can enroll in the course under number UP 532. A draft syllabus is available upon request, and the final syllabus will be posted to my faculty website next semester.
Achieving sustainability requires changing contemporary society. Therefore this class investigates theories and research findings from several fields about how societies change at multiple scales. Although the focus is on social change, the course views society as a complex adaptive system, and explores the connections among social, technical, and natural systems. Change theories examined include the adoption of innovations, institutional evolution, social entrepreneurship, civic technology, sociotechnical transitions, and tactical urbanism. Theoretical readings are complemented by the close study of cases, as well as a diverse array of invited guests. The course is taught in a seminar format and assignments include a weekly response essay, a scholarly book review, and a final essay.