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Making Policy Change

  • 4-week Global Online Course

  • May 20 – June 16, 2024

  • For educators, university and secondary students, community leaders, and volunteers

  • Learn from Cornell University instructors, guest speakers, and participants from around the world 

  • Asynchronous lectures, readings, and assignments

  • Optional live webinars with experts and instructor “office hours.”

  • Receive a Cornell University certificate upon completing course

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Translation for participants in China:

中国学员请关注公众号 (CornellCEL) 获取课程中文详情。

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Course Description

The course is largely asynchronous--meaning you can access the short lectures, readings, and other materials when it’s convenient for you. We also hold weekly webinars (recorded for those who can’t make it) as well as optional weekly office hours.

Do you ever wonder how you can go beyond lifestyle actions–like eating less meat or driving fewer miles–to advocate for sustainable climate policies? Participants in this course will learn about advocacy strategies-–such as letter writing, campaigns, forming relationships with decision-makers, and litigation–-under both democratic and authoritarian governments. You will also explore theories that explain how individuals, groups, and coalitions influence government policies. 

After the course, you will have the opportunity to join a global community of climate advocates, who share experiences and mentor each other as they implement their advocacy plans. Professor Krasny will guide this international advocacy community.

Meet Our Team


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Marianne Krasny, PhD

Course co-designer,

Cornell University Professor


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Fish Yu

Graduate student in Natural Resources and the Environment, Cornell University

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Alex Kudryavtsev, PhD

Course co-instructor

Cornell University

Research Associate

As you learn with us, you will be supported by our experienced and dynamic team! Instructors include Marianne Krasny, Alex Kudryavtsev, and Fish Yu. The course team also includes several co-instructors, teaching assistants, and administrators. We cannot wait to have you in our course!


Course Administrators

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Renda Sun

AMS Candidate in Environmental Conservation Education at NYU

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Amy Daniel

Course administrator, Cornell University MPH candidate

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Kim Snyder, MS

Course administrator,
Program Coordinator at Mass Audubon

Please refer to our FAQs below. If you still have questions, feel free to ask Amy Daniel and Kim Snyder, our course administrator, any questions about this course. When you contact us, please type "Advocacy" in the subject line of your email.

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Advocacy means working with government, businesses, and other institutions to change governance policy and systems. 

Course participants can join weekly webinars with renowned speakers from the UK, China, and Nigeria. 

Webinars are at 9am NY time on Wednesdays. We record them for those who want to watch later. 

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Professionals, volunteers, university and high school students, and environmentally-concerned citizens from any country. The examples throughout the course will mostly be drawn from environmental and climate advocacy in the US and China. Discussions will be in English and Chinese.

Learning approach

The course is based on three learning principles: (1) Learning is self-directed: We provide you with a wealth of resources--lectures, readings, webinars, and a global online community--you will choose which of the resources to skim over and which to dive into deeply. (2) Learning is social: You will learn by discussing ideas and sharing resources, thus a big part of the course is sharing via the webinars, discussion boards, and social media. (3) Learning should lead to action: You will apply course content to designing a locally-relevant advocacy project.


edX Edge (Xiaoe-Tech for Chinese) for pre-recorded lectures, readings, and discussion questions (asynchronous). We will use Facebook, WhatsApp and Wechat for optional informal discussions and sharing. Weekly webinars via ZOOM with recordings posted on edX Edge and Xiaoe-Tech for those unable to attend in person.

Course outline

Week 1. What is Advocacy? Citizens making change

1. What is Advocacy?  

2. Friends of Nature: From Environmental Education to Advocacy in China 

3. Policy Advocacy Strategies: the Adaptive Advocate

4. Advocacy NGOs and Coalitions

Week 2. Advocacy Strategies

1. Advocacy Campaigns

2. Public Awareness Campaigns

3. Lobbying

4. Litigation

5. From Public Participation to Advocacy in China

Week 3. Pathways to Changing Policy

1. Advocacy Coalition Framework 

2. Narrative Policy Framework

3. Multiple Streams Theory

4. Punctuated Equilibrium Theory 

5. Overview–Applying Policy Theories

Week 4.  Advocacy Toolkit

1. Choosing your advocacy strategy 

2. Planning your advocacy actions (including physical and emotional safety)

After Week 4, course participants will have two weeks to submit a 1-2 page advocacy plan. 

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

1. Explain: (a) differences between advocacy and other kinds of climate action (lifestyle, stewardship, activism); and (b) how advocacy occurs through organizations and coalitions of organizations.
2. Understand advocacy strategies and any associates risks in your local context, and ways to keep safe.
3. Research advocacy strategies practiced in your country (using AI or other search engine).
4. Apply one or more advocacy theories to analyze an advocacy initiative in your country.
5. Complete an oral or written case study of an advocacy example in your country.
6. Develop a plan for advocacy for yourself working with existing groups.
7. Join an ongoing network to share advocacy work.


Total workload is 25 hours, which will be reflected on your certificate. On average, participants work on this course about 5 hours per week. The course includes four weeks of instruction, and two weeks to submit the final project (an action plan). Weekly assignments include lectures, readings, and discussion questions. Participants are required to participate in a minimum of one course webinar synchronously or by watching one recorded webinar. Required course project is creating a Plastics action plan.

Cost: $70

Value for the price is excellent. Our courses depend on your contribution, which is paid by most participants. You can pay a higher fee ($140) to sponsor another student, or a lower or no fee if you cannot pay or live in a country without international payment systems (e.g., Afghanistan, Iran).

Your Certificate

Participants who complete the course – including the weekly assignments and the final project – are awarded a Cornell University certificate (PDF).

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What time(s) of the day will this course take place? During the course time, we will release most of the course materials including pre-recorded video lectures, readings, and discussion questions every Sunday evening (NY time). You can choose anytime during each week to review and learn from the course materials. We will also host one live webinar and one live office hours each week on Zoom. Webinars will be recorded for participants unable to attend in person.

  2. Why do you have more than one level of course fees? To ensure equal access to course materials and instructor feedback, we are committed to providing materials to all students regardless of their location or ability to pay. There is an option for students to pay a reduced fee if they live in a country without a system to transfer funds to the U.S. (e.g., Afghanistan, Iran, Somaliland) or if they cannot afford the basic $70 fee (economic hardship). Participants in most countries can afford this price, provided they don't have serious economic problems. For course development, offering, and administration. We appreciate your support!

  3. If I pay more than $70, can I link with the student I sponsor? No, we would like to keep who pays and who doesn’t pay anonymous. However, you will be able to connect with students from many different countries through the course social media and EdX Edge discussion board.

  4. Can I sponsor more than one student? Yes, we would be grateful for your support of other students, especially in countries with emerging economies, who otherwise cannot afford paying for this course.

  5. What is the refund policy? You may request during the first week of the course.

  6. How long is the course? This is a 4-week course with two additional weeks to complete the final project (one-page lesson plan). If you complete all required course assignments you will receive a Cornell PDF Certificate.

  7. Can I submit the course project in my native language? We strongly encourage you to submit all assignments in English so that instructors and other students can give you feedback. But you can also submit your final project in Chinese. Our teaching staff speak English and Chinese.

  8. How will I receive course certificates? You will receive your course certificate via email within two months after the end of the course.

  9. What social media are used in this course? We use optional Facebook, WhatsApp, and WeChat groups for participants and instructors to share ideas and resources. Only course participants can be part of these groups; please do not invite people outside this course.

  10. Can I share course materials with my colleagues and friendsYou are NOT allowed to share, copy, distribute, or forward any materials from this course. They are only for your own learning.


If you have other questions, please contact our course administrators ( Please write “Climate” in the subject line.

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