Skip Navigation

Fall 2012 - 62195 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Building and Sustaining Local Communities

Instructor(s): Rhodes, Lodis
Unique Number: 62195
Day & Time: W 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Room: SRH 3.360
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Course Overview

Topics for these policy seminars have included environmental and natural resources policy, health-service delivery policy, social welfare policy, transportation policy, science and technology policy, international affairs, national security, urban and regional growth policy, and political campaigns.


Section Description

Community, in practice, is the ‘of/by/for the people’ formula of popular democracy. It is a regulating, shaping force. The force works through networks of formal and informal social institutions. These institutions are the building blocks of a sustainable community. 

Two policy traditions generally frame community studies, particularly low to moderate-income populations and neighborhoods. One is the community/economic development tradition. The other is the community-organizing model. Both favor elitist, top-down interpretations of the leadership and management of a community’s social institutions. That is, the activism and action of community change trickles down from a few to the many. This course expands the traditions. It frames communities as social-ecological environments. That is, a community is a network of interacting and constantly changing relationships. A sustainable community, therefore, is one wherein individuals and institutions learn and successfully adjust to continuous change in local and distant environments.

The ‘adaptive capacity’ framework shifts attention to the structural and the transactional dimensions of community. Structure includes the physical, organizational, and procedural features the social institutions found in communities. Transactional features of community include the individual and institutional relationships that define the social interactions in and among communities. The goal is to see and examine community as something more than economic growth—conflict and competition over markets. It also envisions community organizing as more than conflict and competition over political power—communities and neighborhoods engaged with ‘local’ governments.

The intellectual challenge in the course is to synthesize an often-disparate interdisciplinary literature that cuts across the specialty fields of community, international, and sustainable development. The practical challenge for each learner in the course is to develop a useful ‘working theory’ to guide the completion of a required project paper.

Students in policy-related fields like planning, education, social welfare, education, non-profit management, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) might find the course useful.