case studies

One obstacle to effective community organising and advocacy is the shortage of written material documenting and analysing environmental and social justice campaigns. Interviews with community organisers and activists suggest that few have access to descriptive and analytical campaign accounts. As a result, we forego opportunities to learn from experience and insights gained through others’ campaigns.

This collection of critical campaign case studies includes several written by participants in Griffith University’s Environmental Advocacy course during their internships. Others have been written by activists and activist researchers from around the world.

Add your case study

We’d love to add your case study. Be sure to drop us a line for encouragement and suggestions for focus, tone and structure. Campaign case studies should cover:

  • What your campaign set out to achieve
  • How you saw the political context: the forces for and against change
  • What you / your group did and how things changed
  • What you learned – about social change, about your group, your society or yourself.

A permaculture model for sustainable land use and appropriate technologies in central Brazil

The audacious sustainable work strategy was to teach and learn by doing. The organisation’s prolific allies span from national policy makers to children and international foundations. IPEC provides a rough model that, once well groomed, could operate coherently and help in the shaping of a viable future. Case study by Andre Soares. (Cerrado, Brazil) Tags: case study, community development,

Anti freeway campaign: long term movement building

Community organising case study of a campaign to prevent freeway construction in an inner-city park. Written in 2003 by tCA member James Whelan. Tags: community organising, James Whelan, movement building, research,

Anti whaling campaign in Australia

Rebecca Gray’s anti-whaling case study includes interviews with protagonists from the 1970s when this campaign dominated Australian environmental discourse. Tags: environment, research,

Aquarius Rising: Terania Creek and the Australian forest protest movement

Vanessa Bible’s thesis on how the Terania Native Forest Action Group formed in 1974 and challenged the NSW Forestry Commission’s plans for Terania Creek in any conceivable way they could. What unfolded was a natural and spontaneous response Ð a direct act Tags: case study, forests, research,

Byron Farmers Market

Vanessa John. Insights into the challenges of working as a change agent and advocating for systemic reform. Tags: case study, community development,

Campaign to control landclearing in Queensland

James Whelan and Kristen Lyons. Examines a hugely successful campaign run collaboratively by several ENGOs. The success of this campaign suggests that the emphasis placed on a narrowly defined set of social capital indicators in prevailing natural resource management arrangements may overlook the broader range of political and social strategies that can effect social change. Tags: case study, environment, James Whelan, research,

Cape York Wilderness Campaign

Liliana Williamson’s case study of conservation campaigns in far north Queensland: “To influence political processes a ‘social movement organisation’ uses either or both unconventional methods – direct actions to increase awareness about an issue, – or conventional techniques – utilising political processes…” Tags: case study, environment,

Changing the System

Irene Opper’s case study “What Works”: Insights from interviews with advocates for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Queensland. Tags: case study, human rights,

Conservation enterprise: lessons for corporate engagement

Does engaging with corporations compromise  independence and integrity or reduce pressure on nature, and mobilise resources for conservation?  Pepe Clark’s 2016 paper discusses key lessons for conservation leaders, including the need for conservation organisations to develop robust analytical frameworks to inform engagement with the private sector, and the importance of building movement wide capacity to […] Tags: corporate campaigns, strategy, theory of change,

Creating an ecological, worker run co operative

John Hepburn. A personal history of Reverse Garbage in Brisbane that diverts materials away from landfill, making them available at low cost to the community. Tags: case study,

Defend Freedom: national security and human rights

Justin Whelan’s succinct analysis of Australian campaigns to protect human rights in the ‘war on terror’. Draws on Moyer’s Movement Action Plan. Tags: case study, human rights,

Effective Action for Social Change | The campaign to save the Franklin River (Part 1)

Claire Runciman, Harry Barber, Linda Parlane, John Stone, and Gill Shaw, 1986 “Too often activists only develop critiques of campaigns which fail. This implies that successful campaigns use the best of all possible strategies and tactics, and that the reasons for success are clear to all onlookers. Even a quick look at the Franklin Campaign […] Tags: action research, activist education, case study, direct action, nonviolence,

Effective Action for Social Change | The campaign to save the Franklin River (Part 3)

Claire Runciman, Harry Barber, Linda Parlane, John Stone, and Gill Shaw, 1986 “Too often activists only develop critiques of campaigns which fail. This implies that successful campaigns use the best of all possible strategies and tactics, and that the reasons for success are clear to all onlookers. Even a quick look at the Franklin Campaign […] Tags: action research, activist education, case study, direct action, nonviolence,

For the Common Good: the Murray Darling Basin campaign

Mary Tinney. A Case Study of the Murray-Darling Water and Salinity Campaign of the Social Action Office Tags: case study, environment, research,

Free at Last: The Struggle for Independence in East Timor

In May 2002, Xanana Gusmao was sworn in as President and East Timor became world’s newest nation. Jason MacLeod’s case study explores the resistance movement and its strategy. Tags: case study, peace,

Friends of Earth Climate Justice Campaign: for the greater good

Nancy Entwhistle. A study of the reframing of the climate change campaign and the notion of distributive justice. Tags: case study, climate action,

Gully Insights

Sam La Rocca. Lessons for local planning and NIMBY campaigning case study of a two-year community-based campaign to protect green space from development. Tags: action research, case study,

I Vote and I Protect the Grey Nurse Shark Campaign

Estelle Gaillard’s case study of the grey nurse shark campaign led by the Australan Marine Conservation Society. Tags: case study, environment,

Interpares: a case study in democratic management

Jean Christie’s reflections on the establishment and operation of the Interpares (‘among equals’) collective. Tags: case study, communication, learning organisations, organisational development,

It’s only a garden

Jason MacLeod & Catherine Byrne 2013 > What happens when a local council-funded community engagement and development process ends up being actively opposed by a local councillor? What is the role for community development practitioners and community devel Tags: case study, community development, community organising,

Lessons in process: the TAWA story

This case study by Christine Herzog and Deborah Radford attempts to understand why a women’s group using alternative processes was not able to survive differences that arose within the group, and to share the learnings. Tags: action research, case study, communication, learning organisations,

Listening: Community development, dignity and respect

Julie Foreman (2010) reflects on her community development work in Minto. This case study examines the dilemmas and challenges of working with communities undergoing crises, in this case the demolition of the homes of public housing tenants. Tags: case study, community development,

Not in our name: An evaluation of the Australian anti war movement 2002-2003

Justin Whelan’s (2007) evaluation of the campaign against Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war examines the efforts of anti-war coalitions and the broader movement. Justin draws on social movement theories including Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan Tags: advocacy evaluation, case study, peace, research,

Om Gaia dudes: The North East Forest Alliances’s old growth forest campaign

Aidan Ricketts’ (2003) analysis of NEFA’s forest campaign, based on activist interviews. Published in Wilson H (ed) Belonging In the Rainbow Region, SCU Press, Lismore. Tags: case study, environment, forests, research, strategy,

Organisational Learning and the NGO

Steph Walton. A critical reflection on mass convergence as a protest tool employed for refugee advocacy. Tags: case study, learning organisations, social justice,

PNG Forests: Campaigning to stop illegal logging

Cassie McMahon’s case study of Greenpeace’s campaign to stop illegal logging in Papua New Guinea. Tags: case study, environment,

Protecting Pooh Corner

Nikki Parker and Simon Birrell (2007) describe the Friends of Pooh Corner campaign to stop private developers taking over ownership of an area valued by the local community. The short and successful campaign led to the area being managed as a bushland reserve for nature conservation Tags: case study, environment,

Protecting Queensland’s Wild Rivers

Shantala McMaster’s case study of a community-led campaign that secured legislative change. Tags: case study, environment,

Public Transport Not Traffic 2014: Campaign review

Danae Bosler and Cait Jones review the Public Transport Not Traffic campaign which began on 29 November 2013 – exactly a year before the Victorian state election. The campaign was run by a coalition of over 35 community groups from across Melbourne and regional Victoria opposed to the East West Link and seeking immediate funding […] Tags: advocacy evaluation, case study, community organising, elections,

Rethinking deliberative governance: dissecting the Queensland landclearing campaign

The remarkable campaign highlights an apparent rupture between the discourses and practices of deliberative governance and adversarial power politics. The orthodox processes of consensus politics were rejected as inadequate by conservationists in favour of a strategic blend of community mobilisation, electoral politics and protest. Case study (2004) by James Whelan and Kristen Lyons. Tags: case study, environment, James Whelan, research,

Rules of the Road

Ian Kebbe’s analysis of a campaign to stop a road construction project through the Baru Volcano National Park in Panam‡a. Tags: case study, community organising,

Student environmentalism: shifting winds

Holly Kemp’s insider perspective on Australian student environmental activism during a time of major change. Tags: backlash, case study, environment, movement building,

Supported living campaign: Autonomy and control by people with disability and their famlies

Belinda Epstein-Frisch describes a campaign that reframed ‘supported accommodation’ where people were allocated a bed in a group facility to ‘supported living’ where people had the right to determine how they live, with whom they live, who provides them with support and how they live their lives. Tags: case study, disability,

The Australian Student Environment Network: The future of student organising?

A critical appraisal of student organising in the context of voluntary student unionism. Colin invites readers to comment and engage with him in this analysis. (112kb PDF) Tags: action research, backlash, case study, movement building,

The Narangba campaign: From reactor to refrigerator

Robin Taubenfeld’s assessment of the food irradiation and anti-nukes campaign by a lead organiser (Brisbane, Australia). Tags: case study, community organising,

‘The Pangolin and the Coal Mine: Challenging the Forces of Extractivism, Human Rights Abuse, and Planetary Calamity’

In Australia, the resistance of a group of Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners to the Adani Carmichael thermal coal mine – one of the worlds’ last such mega mines – have centred their rights, including the right to say “no”, in opposing violent extractivism on their homelands. In so doing, they – like other First […] Tags: Aboriginal rights, action research, research,

The role of strategy in advancing nonviolent resistance in West Papua

Jason MacLeod’s case study analyses the West Papuan struggle from the perspective of the theory and dynamics of nonviolent resistance and the strategic principles of nonviolent conflict. He begins by discussing the historical background, root causes of the conflict and the sources of Indonesia’s power in the territory. Tags: case study, nonviolence, strategy,

Wildlife Advocates

Monica Alba Murillo’s case study of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. Tags: case study, environment,

Work Justice and the Will of God: The Uniting Church Campaign Against WorkChoices

Using an assessment framework to devise strategic questions, Justin Whelan’s case study considers the influence of the Uniting Church social policy and justice team in campaigning against the WorkChoices legislation. Tags: advocacy evaluation, case study, unions,