UMass Amherst Public Policy Students to Brief Washington-Based Advocacy Group on Building Support

AMHERST, Mass. – Five graduate students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst will brief officials from the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) on Dec. 12 in Washington, D.C. on possible strategies for building global support for its goals.

According to Charli Carpenter, assistant professor of political science, the students will review successful strategies used by other campaigns and offer concrete suggestions to CIVIC leaders for garnering support for its efforts to build a global norm for compensating collateral damage victims worldwide. CIVIC is preparing to launch a global effort to gain support for its goals, and has requested input from researchers studying successful worldwide campaigns, such as initiatives to ban landmines and combat HIV-AIDS, she said.

Carpenter, who joined the UMass Amherst faculty in September, has been studying the CIVIC campaign for a year as part of her research project on international norms development. Her project, “Issue Emergence in Transnational Advocacy Networks,” received a $650,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Allowing my students to think strategically about how to apply the concepts they were learning to the CIVIC campaign became the perfect opportunity to integrate my research and teaching,” said Carpenter. “It’s also a chance to give something back to the communities of practice I study—academic knowledge that can help them further their goals.”

The class, “Global Agenda-Setting,” which was offered for the first time this semester, is built around the question “Why do some issues make it to the global agenda and others don’t?” Offered through the Center for Public Policy and Administration at UMass Amherst, the course combines theoretical literature, process tracing of successful cases and critical analysis of an emerging campaign with professional development and a chance to interact with practitioners in Washington. The class studied the history of global policy issues such as landmines, cluster munitions, child soldiers, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, HIV-AIDS, debt relief and conflict diamonds.

The culmination of the course is the preparation of a collaborative paper and 45-minute PowerPoint briefing for CIVIC’s executive director and staff. Public policy graduate student Anna Tomaskovic-Devey, who was elected by her classmates to lead the briefing, said, “It has been exciting to research and discover how new issues appear on the global agenda. The real-world application to the CIVIC case makes the theory much more important and crucial to real issues in the world.”

Amy Fleig, a doctoral student in political science, said, “This course gave me a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast policy work with academic, more theoretical work and how we in the profession might bridge the two.”