MA course on Participation, Power and Social Change: ‘It changes People’s Lives’

Rosalind Eyben

‘What’s special about MAP?’ I asked, bursting into Patta’s office, ‘I promised Rosie, I would blog about it today.’ 

‘It changes people’s lives’, came my colleague’s prompt answer, as she smiled at me before returning to her email I had so impetuously interrupted her from sending.

MAP – aka the MA in Participation, Power and Social Change that Rosie (McGee) currently convenes. The first week of the course, we ask the ‘Mappers’ to each draw a river of life, marking the key stepping stones that have brought them here to IDS. As the semester flows on, they find themselves taking a critical look at their professional practice.

‘I’m sure it comes as little surprise to you’ emailed a Mapper I supervised a few years ago, ‘that this course has the effect of making students seriously evaluate how they work. For me, this has included some reflection on where I’m working, and what I’m working on.’ 

The course is designed to enhance reflective practice: using critical and creative methods to develop self-awareness of our own power, identities and worldviews and how these shape our perceptions and actions.

‘MAP stirs you up’ a student said to me. ‘It has been one of the most exciting things about learning at IDS.’

Some time ago. a Mapper – a social marketing consultant – asked past students what they most liked about the course, summing up their answers as:  

  • The mix, or balance of theory and practice – we get a solid grounding in theory and the opportunity to put our learning into practice
  • Our experience and thinking matters to this MA
  • We get a lot out of IDS, in terms of personalised support from staff and access to resources
  • We get a lot out of each other – we feel part of a team, a community of support and practice

When asked who they would recommend MAP to, MAP is considered ‘ideal’ for everyone from natural scientists to business professionals to people with a development background; for people with a couple of years’ experience to people with 10 years experience.

Perhaps more telling is the range of ways they have grappled with participation, power and social change in their professional practice that lead them to this MA. MAP students work all over the world. And not just in the ‘South’. We have also had community development practitioners, social workers, even a politician, working for social change in their own organisations and communities in North America or Europe.  

I hadn’t stayed to ask Patta whose lives she was referring to. She may have been thinking of the lives of the people Mappers meet during their 4-month period of action research and work-based learning in an organisation of their choice in the third term. – and also all those they work with after graduating, including when, as is often the case, their career follows a new pathway. After graduating, Mappers work to further development within particular communities; to support groups and causes often marginalized by those in power; to build agency and capacity among communities; to support participation in national and local policy processes; in civil society organisations, local and international NGOs, faith based organizations, media and communications, international development organizations and consulting firms.

Perhaps Patta was thinking also of another change? She is one of several IDS researchers and teachers, including Rosie and me, involved one way or the other with the course since its inception in 2004. My involvement with MAP has been something I have most enjoyed about working at IDS. I have been challenged in my assumptions, impelled to clarify my thinking, stimulated to reflect critically on my own practice and to experiment with new ways of learning (and teaching). MAP has certainly changed my life. Perhaps it might change yours?

Rosalind Eyben is a Research Fellow in the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS and her Twitter account is: @rosalindeyben

Previous blog posts by Rosalind Eyben:

Read a previous blog post by a MAP student:

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2 Responses to MA course on Participation, Power and Social Change: ‘It changes People’s Lives’

  1. […] am one of those ‘mappers’ that Rosalind referred to in her post about MA in Participation, Power and Social Change, or ‘MAP’. For the last few weeks I have been working with a number of NGOs and social […]

  2. […] MA course on Participation, Power and Social Change: ‘It changes People’s lives’ […]

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