Douglas A. Johnson Photo

Douglas A. Johnson

Lecturer in Public Policy


Human rights have been essential tools for social change. But to sustain change, human rights leaders need to expand from a narrow set of legal tactics.  Recognizing that each defined “human right” was created by social movements and struggle, our focus is “how we can make a difference?” Committing our professional futures to human rights struggle requires not only moral commitment but also the sense that we are being effective and strategic in our approaches to change making.   When resources are scarce and the environment unstable, where conflict with powerful interests moves from latent to actual, human rights leaders must have the capacity to think and act strategically.  This is a skill that can be practiced and developed. This class will take concepts from historical and current strategists and study cases of successful campaigns to apply these principles to today’s human rights struggles. We will develop our strategic capacities by creating a team to focus on a human rights issue of importance to the team members, analyzing the nature of the issue and power imbalance, understanding the adversary, the resources and capacities of potential allies, and the terrain where we are most likely to make a difference.  Teams will prioritize the targets they must affect and consider a broad repertoire of tactics most appropriate to leverage what needs to be done.  We will explore social science research that is useful to the leadership task of strategizing, broaden our understanding of available tactics, use tactical mapping and other strategizing tools to construct alternative scenarios to resolve an active human rights struggle, and apply analytic frameworks that help us think through the acceptable balance between risk and success in making social change.

IGA-385 Strategizing for Human Rights is also approved for the Certificate of Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences (MLD) and for a specialization with International and Global (IGA).