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Webinar Transcripts:
Writing for Social Change: Exploring Perspectives

Transcripts for the Writing Center's webinars.

Writing for Social Change: Exploring Perspectives

Presented October 3, 2017

View the recording

Last updated 10/30/2017


Visual: The webinar begins with a PowerPoint title slide in the large central panel. A captioning pod, Q&A pod, and files pod are stacked on the right side. The slide says:

 “Writing for Social Change: Exploring Perspectives”

Co-Sponsored Webinar from the Writing Center and the Center for Social Change

Walden Global Days of Service 2017 October 9-15

[The slide includes the logos for the Walden University Center for Social Change and the Walden University Writing Center.]

Audio: Beth: All right. Well, welcome, everyone, and thank you so much for joining us today.


Visual: Slide changes to the title of the webinar, “Writing for Social Change:
Exploring Perspectives” and the speakers names and information: Beth Nastachowski Manager of Multimedia Writing Instruction; Jes Philbrook Writing Instructor and Coordinator of Doctoral Writing Assessment

Audio: My name is Beth Nastachowski and I'm with the Walden Writing Center and I’m gonna be one of the presenters today for the webinar here, "Writing For Social Change, Exploring Perspectives," and it's so wonderful to see you all here. And before I talk a little bit more about this session, I first want to give my co-presenter, Jes, a chance to introduce herself. Jes, would you mind introducing yourself?

Jes: Of course, thank you, Beth. Hi everyone, I'm Jes Philbrook. I am a writing instructor and the coordinator of doctoral writing assessment here in the Walden University Writing Center and social change is the big thing, really that, drew me here to Walden to work here and support our students so I'm thrilled to be part of presenting this webinar I that are today and to talking about this topic with you.

Beth: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Jes, and it's fantastic to be co-presenting with you today, so let me say that. And again, welcome, everyone.

Jes: I agree.

Beth: I'm the manager of multi-media writing instruction and so if you've been to other Writing Center webinars, you may find my voice familiar. That's what do I most of the days that I'm here at the Writing Center, I help do all of our webinars as well as our videos and multi-media content and this year I'm helping to coordinate some of our social change initiatives that we're working on.

And so, I'm really excited for this webinar, "Writing for social change, exploring perspectives," because we have the chance today to really, you know, pull together lots of different people from the Walden community and all talk about something that I think we're passionate about, social change.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Housekeeping

  • Recording
    • Will be available online a day or two from now.
  • Interact
    • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Q&A
    • Use the Q&A box to ask questions.
    • Send to
  • Help
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right hand corner of the webinar room.

Audio: So, with that, let me kind of jump in and talk about a couple of quick housekeeping notes that I have for everyone. The first is that you'll note that I have started the recording for this session so if you have to leave for any reason or you would like to come back and review the webinar, you're more than welcome to do so. I'll be posting it in our webinar archive by tomorrow evening. And of course, I always have to put a plug in right here and just note that we record all the webinars in the Writing Center so if you're ever looking for help on a particular writing topic or you see another webinar being presented live that you would like to take a look at, you are more than welcome to access those recordings in our webinar archive, too.

Additionally, we have lots of ways for to you interact with us today so I was so pleased to see everyone introducing themselves and talking about why they came to this webinar in the lobby there. We also have a couple of different chats and activities throughout the session which we'll be spending really a good amount of time on today so, I do encourage you to interact with us there, as well as lots of links throughout the slide. So, there is a lot going on around social change at Walden University, as I'm sure you probably know and so I've tried to link out to those really sources and services and centers and all of the different places we talk about social change throughout my slides here. So do please feel free to downloads those slides, they're in the files pod at the bottom right-hand corner but also note you can click those links and they'll open up in a new tab on your browser, so either way works just fine but I want to make sure you have access to those links if you would like them.

Additionally, we have the Q and A box on the right side of the screen and that's a place that you can ask questions or submit comments throughout the session today. So, feel free to do that. We have our colleague, Amber Cook who will be monitoring the Q and A box so please feel free to submit those to her and she'll be sure respond and Jes and I will also be pitching in and helping respond when we're not presenting. And then we also have time for questions, a couple of different times for questions, throughout the session. So, we may also take those questions and discuss them out loud because that's helpful. I do want to note if you have a question specific for the Writing Center after the webinar, maybe we have to close out the webinar at the top of the hour or you think of the question at the very end, you are also more than welcome to email us and we'll make sure to get back to you with an answer, as well. And that email address is but we will also display that at the end of the session, as well.

Alright. And our final housekeeping note, if you need any technical help, let Amber know in the Q and A box, she has a couple of tips but there is also the help button at the top right-hand corner of the screen and that's the best place to go if you have any significant technical issues.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Agenda

Welcome students, alumni, and faculty!

  • Social change at Walden
  • What is your vision for social change?
  • How does writing relate to social change?  Where can we write for social change?
  • Writing for social change toolbox


  • Goals:
    • Information sharing & suggestions
    • Discussion

Audio: All right, so, now, for -- what we all came here for today, our agenda. So, this webinar is really meant to be, sort of, the start of a conversation and in particular, start of a conversation that we wanted to have with many different members of the Walden community. So, what we're going to be doing today is kind of talking about social change in writing in two parts. So, we're first going to do a little bit of an overview of social change at Walden and talk about things that you may be already are aware of but maybe you discover some new resources or services or initiatives going on at Walden that you didn't realize were there before. Then we'll discover or explore what your vision is for social change and we really want to get your input and your ideas and share the different perspectives that we all have as part of the Walden community.

And then we’re gonna talk about both how writing relates to social change and where we can write for social change. So, a bit more practical kind of relating writing specifically since that's what Jes and I both work on a daily basis, so social change, as well. And then talking a little bit about writing for social change toolbox, so the ways that we can use writing tools or even the things that we learn as academic writers to help us write in these different venues and specifically for that idea of social change. So that's our goals today. That's our agenda and our goal is really to share information, share ideas, share perspectives and create this discussion, and as I've said, we have many members of the Walden community here today so I just want to remind everyone that this is a webinar for all the Walden communities, students, alumni and faculty so we're excited to have you all here together, and what I'm excited about this is that we'll be able to really share perspectives, I think, and be able to have a bit more of a discussion across groups, as well. So that's what we're going to do today.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: What is social change?

positive social change

  • social justice
  • civic engagement
  • community development
  • community building
  • social capital
  • civic dialogue

Audio: So, to jump right in, what is social change? Now, I don't have necessarily a clear definition on this page here, or on this slide, but what I wanted to talk a little bit about is that maybe you're not quite sure what we mean when we talk about positive social change. That's really the phrasing that we often hear about throughout Walden, is this idea of positive social change. But for me, in my background, my graduate studies at my university, my university talked about social justice and that's similar to social change, probably something that kind of goes under the overall umbrella of positive social change but I wanted to mention these different terms and phrases because these may be ones you're more familiar with, social justice. Civil engagement. Community development. Communities building. Social capital. Civic dialogue. Those are all things that sort of relate and maybe are a part of social change. So, if that's what you're more familiar with, just know that that's fine, that's all part of what we're talking about here.


Visual: Slide change to the following: Social Change at Walden


Walden University provides a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can effect positive social change.


Walden University envisions a distinctively different 21st-century learning community where knowledge is judged worthy to the degree that it can be applied by its graduates to the immediate solutions of critical societal challenges, thereby advancing the greater global good.

Audio: Now, I hope that many of you have already seen Walden's mission and vision. As Jes said, one of the things that brought her or excited her about Walden and working here was our mission and the focus on positive social change and I have to agree with her there. It's great to hear this is part of such a central component of Walden University and what I wanted to just point out here is that social change is really at the center of Walden and why I think a lot of us students and faculty come to Walden.

So of course, it's part of the mission. The goal here is that we are students, are scholar practitioners so they can affect positive social change. But I also appreciate that social change is part of our vision. This idea that our graduates are going to be able to create these immediate solutions for critical societal challenges, advancing the greater global good. All focused on making practical changes within our societies and so really what I wanted to show here is how much social change is at the center for Walden University.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Social Change at Walden

Walden 2020: A Vision for Social Change 2017 Report

Global Days of Service


“Working collaboratively, college leadership, faculty members, and curricula developers continually evaluate Walden’s programs to assess the effectiveness of our curriculum in helping our students effect positive social change.”


Contest for students who have made contributions to social change


“Welcomes manuscripts focusing on interdisciplinary research in social change that improves the human condition and moves people, groups, organizations, cultures, and society toward a more positive future.”


“The mission of the Walden University Center for Social Change is to be a connective hub that promotes, facilitates and supports collaborative partnerships, action research, and projects that lead to purposeful action for sustainable positive social change.”

Audio: But beyond that mission and vision, what's greats is all the different initiatives that are going on around social change at Walden. And again, here you might be familiar with some of these initiatives or heard of them but some of these might also be new for you, as well. And so, I wanted to kind of collect them all together in case any of these are helpful for you or you want to check them out or look at them a little bit further. One of course is the Walden 2020, A Vision For Social Change, 2017 report. If you haven't seen this yet, do take a look at it. You can access it online and it's a really comprehensive and extensive report talking about social change and sort of a vision for what that can look like moving forward for Walden.

Of course, there's also the global days of service, and that's sorts of a time where Walden and Walden University as a whole focuses on volunteer efforts and I know what's exciting for me is that here, I'm based in the Twin Cities and here in our Minneapolis office, we have multiple events that we're going to throughout the week to help give back to our communities. And so, that's also something that I appreciate about Walden, that they really focus on giving back and volunteering, as well. Of course, Walden also really focuses on social change as part of the curriculum and capstones. I saw many of the students who were mentioning earlier in the lobby that they were, you know, thinking about social change and how specifically it would relate to their course work or to their doctoral capstone study and, again, this is what's so great about Walden is that it's really at the center of what we do here and the education that we provide.

There's also the Scholars of Change contest, so this is a video contest and it's always so inspiring to watch these videos of what Walden students are doing in their own communities and helping others, so the "Scholars of Change" contest happens I believe every year and it's a fantastic contest if you haven't seen it already, you can click on this link and see past winners and I believe past submissions, as well. And of course, consider submitting in the future for yourself, as well, if you’re student.

We have the Journal of Social Change, which of course focuses more on academics and research but is also focused on specifically social change issues.

And then we also have the center for social change, the newly created Center for Social Change and what's great about this is the center -- I'm looking forward to the way this is going to really be able to bring all these different conversations together and of course as the co-sponsor of our webinar today. I heard from -- that the Center for Social Change, the website should be up in the next couple weeks so look out for that, as well, and I know I'm excited to take a look at that website and see it come to fruition. So, just a reminder that social change is really a part of all these different initiatives at Walden.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Defining Social Change

or defining social change for you.

Audio: So, at this point, then, we're going to focus a little bit more on your vision for social change and how this fits in for you, and, Jes, I will hand it over to you.

Jes: Thank you, Beth, and thank you, everyone. So, we're going the talk a little bit now about defining social change and I'm probably not going to give a very satisfactory answer because we're really going to talk about what social change means for you because this isn't the kind of term that's very easy to define in a universal way because social change is so contingent upon external factors. So, as we're going through the next few slides, I encourage you to think about what does social change mean for you and what does acting for social change look like for you, and we'll have a chat about that coming up soon.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Definition might depend on your:

  • Culture
  • Community
  • Purpose

Audio: So, some things that I think about as I'm considering social change are culture, community and purpose. And, really, purpose is the most important part for me and, actually, I saw some people putting this in the chat box at the very beginning as they were talking about why they were coming here today. I saw some people saying, you know, I'm coming because I'm looking for a result and I'm trying to find ways to make that result happen. And I think purpose is really similar to that so perhaps you see an issue in your community or in your culture, so that's how those come in and then you think about what's my purpose in this -- in the face of this situation and what can I do to make some change or to make an impact or to do something to leave the world a little bit better, so these are some components of social change that I think are important for us all to consider. What's our purpose, how are we impacting the communities, how does this fit within culture, who are we working with, what is our goal and what result are we looking for?


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Walden Catalog Definition:

Walden University defines positive social change as a deliberate process of creating and applying ideas, strategies, and actions to promote the worth, dignity, and development of individuals, communities, organizations, institutions, cultures, and societies. Positive social change results in the improvement of human and social conditions.

This definition of positive social change provides an intellectually comprehensive and socially constructive foundation for the programs, research, professional activities, and products created by the Walden academic community.

In addition, Walden supports positive social change through the development of principled, knowledgeable, and ethical scholar-practitioners, who are and will become civic and professional role models by advancing the betterment of society. (Walden University, 2017, para. 4-6)

Audio: I thought that the Walden catalog definition might give us some additional perspective, too, as we're figuring out what social change means individually for us. So, I'm not going to read all this word-for-word but you can click this link here and read the rest of it if you would like to but some important things that stand out to me are things like “a deliberative process of creating and applying ideas, strategies and actions.” So, there's something there about action, strategy, ideas. There's some kind of output. Also, the idea of positive social change results in the improvement of human and social conditions so always looking toward improvement but, again, improvement is going to mean different things to different people on this call and around the world.

At Walden, too, since this is, you know, a doctoral granting institution, we also think about positive social change as intellectual and comprehensive and constructive and that is part of our programs here at Walden. I saw people in the initial chat saying, oh, I have this social change component for my capstone and my dissertation and I'm trying to reason through that and that's because this mission of positive social change is really integrated here at Walden.

And then the last part that kind of seems important to me is that idea of being “a civic and professional role model” and looking toward the betterment of society, so we kind of see this common trend here in the Walden catalog definition of betterment, of improvement, of human and social condition. So perhaps those components from the Walden catalog can help you as you're thinking about what social change means to you.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: What is your vision for social change?

  • Is it broad or does it focus on individuals or your community?
  • Are you informing or taking action (or both)?


Let’s discuss!

[The webinar layout changes to open two chat boxes for students/alumni and faculty to type into in response to the chat question.]

Audio: So, let's have a chat, then, to discuss this. As we're taking some time here, we've got two different chat boxes, one for students and alumni, one for faculty. Use whichever one is appropriate for you but I'm going to go on mute and give you a minute or two to respond and think about what is your vision for social change? Is it broad, does it focus on something specific or individuals in your community? Are you -- is your pursuit informing people? So, are you an educator and just want to teach people about something or are you taking action and trying to change something physical? Just take a minute and share with us about your vision for social change.

[Pause as students, alumni, and faculty type.]

Fantastic, so, we're seeing a lot of really great stuff coming in here. I'm looking at the students and alumni side, I'm seeing taking action, someone who wants to see education as a level field for everyone. Some people saying it's both informing and taking action, yeah, those are often related, focusing on community, enabling youth for the future. Eliminating stigmas, this is great.

[Pause as students, alumni, and faculty type.]

Beth: Jes, I'm also seeing a lot of discussion of sort of global versus local, which is really interesting. A lot of people kind of mentioning how locally what they're working on is fitting within a more global context, if that makes sense.

Jes: Yeah, that does and I think that makes sense based on, you know, the population that we’re seeing of people here. I loved watching everyone introduce where they're from and, kind of, how much they've traveled. Seems like there are a lot of people with that global perspective overall, which is really neat.

I'm seeing a lot, too, which kind of connect education, which is more informing as a form of taking action and that's something I really relate to a lot, as well. Much of the social change that I consider for myself is related to using my skills in education and tutoring and English language learning to have an action in my community by serving those who aren't as advantaged as who may be coming to this country in complex situations. So, yeah, I like that connection of all of these things, individuals, community, informing and taking action.

Beth: And I'm also seeing the suggestion of a new term which I'm not familiar with, I don't know, Jes, if you are, but the idea of “Glocal”, sort of combining both global and local and I like that idea that both is really necessary to think about.

Jes: Yeah, that's great. Thank you for introducing that. I'm finding all this very inspiring, thank you, all of you who are sharing. I hope you have a chance to scroll up and see what some of your colleagues and peers are writing.

[Pause as students, alumni, and faculty type.]

Beth: And I think one thing I would say here, too, Jes, is also that different people have different focuses. Some people's visions are a bit more broad while some are very specific and I think that can also differ a bit based on purpose as you talked about but also maybe on where they are in the development of their ideas in that vision, but also the idea that -- I guess some people are also going to be thinking about this in different ways, like some people mentioned the idea of social justice specifically and some people are thinking about social change more broadly, as well, and just how much of this is context-dependent, that's what's really coming to me here based on these submissions.

Jes: Yeah, absolutely, Beth, I'm seeing that, too. And I think, too, you know, and part of it is probably, you know, the depth you might be into this social change already but also there are so many different ways to do social change. You know, there's the direct, like I'm going to do this one thing for my neighbor which has a positive impact versus I want to empower an entire generation through teaching or, you know, public health, there are so many different ways you can engage with it. Which I think is fantastic, it makes it possible for all have us to engage with it if we choose to.

[Pause as students, alumni, and faculty type.]

All right. Thank you all so much for your responses, and I'm sorry to cut us short but we still have a lot of great stuff to go through. So, thank you all very much and we’re gonna move, and with that, Beth, I'm handing it back to you.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Social Change + Writing

Writing is not just a product—a finished paper—but also a process that facilitates critical thinking and the development of ideas.

Audio: Beth: Yes, certainly. Thank you, as Jes said, everyone. I think it's really important to keep in mind these visions and as you were typing out that vision, I encourage to you think a little bit more about where you are in the process of developing that vision. Like I said, I think some of the visions were much broader while many were more specific and people had very specific ideas of what they were researching, what they were looking at and sort of what their purpose and their contexts were already. I would encourage you to think about that a little bit more because that's really where our writing can come in.

The writing -- and that's -- my transition here into our next part about writing is both product and as process and that's what I want to talk about next. Of course, Jes and I work with writing all day, that's our profession, that's what we love to do but even if we didn't work with writing, I think we would still understand it and be able to acknowledge the connection that writing has with social change. It's really something that can be used as a very powerful tool, both as a way of developing that vision so maybe you're not quite there yet with what your vision is but also as a way to express that vision to others so that's why I want to explore a little bit more and that's what we're going to kind of focus on throughout the rest of the session here.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Writing as Process

Writing is Thinking

  • Generate Ideas
  • Identify Gaps
  • Solidify Perspectives
  • Discover Connections

Audio: So, the first thing that I want to talk about is writing as process. And if you've heard one of the Writing Center staff members at a webinar or residency, you might have also heard us say that writing is thinking. That's something I often say to students because writing can be very difficult but that's because writing is thinking and as we write, we often develop ideas, refine ideas, discover ideas, and that's important to keep in mind when we think about this idea of social change. Social change and developing that vision, coming up with a concrete idea of what change you want to make and how you want to make it and who you want to make it for can be very difficult. But writing can really help you with that process because writing is a process, helps us think through and generate ideas. So, it's important to remember that writing in and of itself can be really helpful and Jes is going to talk about sort of the toolbox of writing that we can use in thinking about this but I wanted to emphasize that first, that writing is a process in and of itself can really help you generate ideas, identify gaps, solidify your perspective, discover connections, all these different things.

One of the things I love about writing is that sometimes I'll come up with an idea and I think it's true -- I feel like I've discovered some sort of connection or some sort of idea that I can kind of grab on to but I'm not quite sure how to explain it to someone else and so by writing, I allow myself to kind of explore that idea a bit more, get it into it a little bit more deeper, discover things that I don't know and I need to go learn but also just be able to help articulate that idea to myself even more which helps me then articulate it to others. So, keep in mind that writing in and of itself is helpful as a process, so just sitting down and writing can help you develop that vision for social change.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Writing as Product

  • Express our social change vision
  • Inform or convince others

Audio: Of course, however, writing is also a product and that's often what we think about when we think of writing, right? We think of that journal article that we submitted to the journal for publication or the paper that we wrote for our instructor for that assignment. And of course, writing as an actual product helps us to express our social change vision, and then also inform or convince others, show them that vision and show them maybe why that vision is needed. Or why your particular solution to a problem is the best one or even just inform others that is there is a problem in and of itself. So, writing as a product itself is also, of course, very, very valuable, and that's what I'm going to talk about next.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Writing as Your Voice

  • Farther reach
  • Different audiences
  • Product and process give voice

Audio: So, basically, what I want to emphasize here is that writing can become your voice. We of course can do presentations like we're doing here, we can talk one on one with friends and family, we can go to meetings and talk with one another and, of course, discussion and meetings and that one-on-one communication is always so valuable. This is not to say that those conversations are not valuable because they so are. But writing can help become your voice in a way that helps you create somewhat of a farther reach because writing can be accessible by many other people and for a longer period of time. You can also reach different audiences and both the product and the process help give you that voice.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Where can you write for social change?

Share your vision and find your audience!

[Slide includes a picture of a man sitting at a table writing in a notebook, with a laptop next to him.]

Audio: So where can you write for social change? What are the venues where you can actually do this? And we are -- I have a couple of different venues that I'm going to talk about today and the goal here is to kind of explore different places that you can share your vision and also find your audience, connect with people who support your vision and support the social change you're working for.

Now, that will depend a lot on the context, your purpose, all those things that Jes talked about, and this isn't to say that you have to use just one venue, that only writing in one place is what you should do, but it's important to think about the places that you are writing for, the venues that you're writing for and who those venues sort of reach and what kind of time commitment they have, and what kind of tone and focus they have, as well.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Share Your Vision: Find Your Audience

  • Academic: Journal articles, conference presentations
  • Social: Blogs, social media
  • Community: Letter to the editor, newsletters
  • Professional: Grants, memos

Audio: So I have four different venues or types of venues that I'm going to talk about and, again, it's not that you should choose just one and this is not a comprehensive list, there are many other venues, as well, but I thought this worked well to think about in terms of sort of academic venues, social venues, communities focused venues, and professional venues. And throughout these slides here, I'm going to link out to other resources across the university that have other information, more details. I'm going to give a broad overview here as we start just thinking about this but then if one of these really piques your interest and you want to learn more about specific -- a specific venue that we talk about, make sure to click on those links or download the files to access those because those will have much more specific information for you.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Academic: Journal articles, conference presentations, book chapters

  • Contribute to the scholarly conversation
  • Formal, evidence-based
  • Can be a larger time commitment

Writing for Publication

Research Dissemination Support (faculty)

Audio: All right. So, we're going to start with the academic venues an hopefully this is something that you all are familiar with. We have faculty in the room, we also have students and the academic writing venue or the idea of academic writing should be familiar to you as a students at Walden but when we think about academic venues, we think about journal articles,, conference presentations, book chapters, those sorts of things. And while we don't often think about these as actual places for social change or at least, I know I initially didn't when I started or became a part of academia, they really can be helpful in expressing your vision for social change and what they can do is help contribute to that scholarly conversation. We at the Writing Center always talk about the research out there as a conversation, a conversation of different scholars in your field talking about the issues and the different perspectives, ideas, sides, problems, issues in that field. So, by contributing to one of these academic venues, you can then contribute to that scholarly conversation. Of course, an academic venue will be more formal and evidence-based an one of the things I like to emphasize is it can be a larger or longer time commitment, so if you think about a journal article, I know I have colleagues in the Writing Center who have been working on a journal article that will be published very soon, this fall, but I think it will be at least a year and a half to two years from the time that they actually started writing to the actual publication date. And that's not necessarily, I would say, typical. There are some journal articles that are published much sooner, but sometimes they can take a long time. So, that time commitment for me as a writing was a little bit longer, potentially.

Additionally, though, the sort of reach of that journal article or these other academic venues can often be longer, as well, right? As a researcher, as someone who’s either going for the degree or faculty at Walden use the Walden Library, and so you have access to all these journal articles, some that go back many, many years. And so, as someone who publishes in these different places or presents in these different places, you sometimes can also reach a wider audience, just sort of long term. Where people many years from now are going to be looking at your research and referring to it, as well, so that's something to keep in mind.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Social: Blogs, social media

  • Contribute to the popular, local conversation
  • Informal, uses both anecdotes and evidence
  • Immediate, shorter time commitment

Blogging webinar

“How do I become an active blogger?”

Audio: Another type of venue would be more social focus venues, and specifically thinking about social media and blogs or I would kind of conflate sort of informal websites with this, as well. It's hard to come up with one word that encompasses all the different sort of publishing platforms that are on the web right now. But of course I would consider things like this also a way to communicate your vision for social change. And this way, by posting on social media, and that might be Facebook posts, it might be maybe something that you write for LinkedIn, I know LinkedIn has publications, more informal articles that they do sometimes, maybe it’s a blog that you run or a friend runs or you have someone you know who runs sort of one of these more informal websites, those sorts of place that is take articles. Those can be really helpful because they contribute to more popular conversation.

They're more informal, right? They don't necessarily adhere to the traditional formal academic writing conventions that we use in the academic venues but they can also be more local and what I mean by more local is a couple different things. For example, if I'm going to be posting something on a specific blog that is just for new parents, my audience is very specific, right? It's a just for the new parents and maybe the audience is a bit smaller than if I was going to be posting or I published in a book or something like that. But that local conversation also means that you can maybe be more specific, you can maybe refer to things that have been happening in that specific community and you can maybe even talk more directly to your audience. So, there can be advantages in community indicating that vision for social change.

Of course, these kinds of social platforms might use both anecdotes and evidence. It often depends a little bit on both, on which one you're using in exactly the venue but that can be another advantage, is maybe your vision is really helped by being able to show some anecdotes that you're doing, something like that. And also, it's also potential that it takes a lesser or shorter time commitment, so it's -- my guess at least, I will just put this out there that my guess is it will take you a lot less time to write a blog post than it would be a formal academic journal article, right? A blog post is usually more informal, it's shorter and so the time that you're committing to this as much shorter. However, then you also have to think that the time that people access that is also shorter, as well, so that's something to keep in mind.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Community: Letter to the editor, newsletters

  • Contribute to the community conversation, specific audience
  • Informal, uses both anecdotes and evidence
  • Shorter time commitment

“Writing for Change on Earth Day (and Every Day)”

Audio: Another type of venue might be a more community-focused venue and this I was thinking more about your local communities, so things like letter to the editor, to a local newspaper or newsletters that local organizations, things like that. And what can be helpful here is you can contribute to the community conversation, not necessarily a community like you parents but maybe a community like your neighborhood or your district or even, you know, your city or your state. There is of course a bit more of a specific audience there and because of that, you can also refer to specific things. If I'm writing a letter to the editor at my local St. Paul newspaper, I can probably refer to events in St. Paul because the audience is also from St. Paul and can understand those, so you kind of have the advantage of being able to talk about those things, as well. Like the social venues, these also might be more informal and use both anecdotes and evidence and also have a bit more of a shorter time commitment so that's also something to keep in mind.

And of course, when I think of communities, I thought of letters to the editor and newsletters but I'm sure you can think of other ways that you can connect with your local community just depending on, you know, what kind of social change issue you're focused on and sort of what your audience and your community is working on, as well.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Professional: Grants, memos

  • Contribute to the professional conversation
  • Formal, relies more on evidence
  • Range in time commitment

Grant Proposals webinar

ORDS’s Office of Research & Sponsored Programs

Audio: Alright. So, the last venue I want to talk about is just sort of professional venues and this is more things that you can do in your workplace or when you’re thinking about your professional field. What I love about Walden is I thank I get to work with both students and faculty who are so active in their fields. They're working actively on research or if they're practitioners, or scholar practitioners, and so that might mean that you're working on things like grants, maybe you're working on a grant that can help your business or your organization. Maybe you're also creating a special report or a memo for your organization or your business that you work for. There can be different ways that you can also kind of push forward or show or express that vision for social change that you have, as well, and contribute professionally to that conversation.

This is a bit more formal and depending on what you're working on, it could rely on more evidence. It sort of depends a little bit, grants vary a lot depending on the grant and how big the grant is, as well, and depending on sort of your workplace standards or, you know, sort of guidelines and what's traditional in your workplace. Evidence may or may not be necessary but I think often it is and it's also really helpful. And then that would also range in time commitment. Some grants I've seen and filled out grants that are, you know, a page or two long for smaller grants and then those larger grants, of course, are much, much longer and have a much more extensive process for applying for those, as well. So, it can really range in time commitment. But those are all things to keep in mind, as well.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Sharing Your Vision: Academic, Social, Community, & Professional


#1: What venue for sharing your voice interests you most? Why?

#2: Where have you already shared your voice, and what tips would you give others?

[The webinar layout changes to open two chat boxes for students/alumni and faculty to type into in response to the chat question.]

Audio: All right. So, I talked at you for a little bit there, I hope that was useful in thinking about the different venues and the positives and maybe cons, the pros and cons that can come with them. Again, I don't think any venue is necessarily the perfect one for everyone, nor should you stick with just one venue but I hope it's helpful in thinking about the different ways you can use that writing product to help express that vision for social change.

And so, what we're going to do is we're going to open up some more chat boxes and just like last time, we have students and alumni on the top and faculty in the bottom in that chat. And we would love to hear, you know, what venues for sharing your voice interests you the most, and why, and if you've already been publishing or sharing that vision in a sort of published way, what venues have you been using, or what venues could you use. So, let us know. If you have other ideas that I didn’t talk about, please share them. Let’s use this as sort of a time to crowd-source ideas.

[Pause as students, alumni, and faculty type.]

Alright, I’m just going through and my goodness, we have a lot coming in already. I suppose that's because we have so many wonderful students and faculty here. So that’s great! I'm seeing people talking about social media which is really fascinating. I think social media has become sort of a way that we communicate with our community and something that I don't know we always think about as a way to help communicate that vision. Because it's more informal, so it's great.

Jes: Yeah, I'm seeing lots of social media, too, and also some people who are talking about having their work published in peer-reviewed journals and writing letter to the editor columns and -- I didn't actually know that that you could have articles published in LinkedIn, that's kinds of neat. I should know more about LinkedIn, maybe.

Beth: Yeah, wow, these are some really great venues. I'm also noticing that someone mentioned a local library presentation, which I love because I didn't say anything about libraries at all but libraries are such a great way to kind of clue in with your community and I'm always seeing the wonderful presentations that our local libraries are doing which are focused on just such a wide range of issues. That's great to see as well

Jes: I'm seeing some people mention, too, they've written non-profit grants, grants for communities and that's really neat to see that there are some folks here who have experience with that already and others who have some interest in pursuing that.

Beth. Yeah. I'm seeing also letters to the editor but also letters and things to political representatives, so government representatives. Oh, wonderful. And I also see, this is fascinating, a chat book that combines my interest in social issues with photography. I love that.

Jes: Beth, I see that someone had a question asking if Walden has grant writing help, I know we have that webinar. Are there courses or instruction in the classroom about that?

Beth: There are other resources for looking for grants and I know that the slides are quite small right now but I'm going to switch back here and you’ll see here that ORDS specifically has a couple of different resources. I'm not an expert by any means on grant writing so I would defer to those resources from ORDS but that would be a great first start, I think, to look at depending on what you're looking for. That might be a good link to have.

Jes: Yeah, wow, thank you all so much for sharing what you're interested in doing and what kinds of tips you have and questions. I think there have been a number of questions in the chat pane that we won't be able to get to today so, I say just keep asking people those things. If we can't answer them, perhaps someone in your community can or your chair can or a colleague. I think a lot of these questions and considerations about social change get answered in these grass roots ways as we all support each other, so just know, even if we don't get to your question, there are lots of people out there who would probably like to engage with you.

Beth: Yes, certainly, and I see some people helping each other answering those questions, so thank you. Also, these links hopefully will be really useful and at these links, you will also be able to see more information on where to go to ask questions, too, so, again, looking at those links is really helpful.

I hope this is useful in sharing these different ideas. I hope it's also useful in just getting other ideas, by seeing what others have done and generating your own sort of ideas for what you can do and thinking this through. At this point, we're going to have to move on just for the sake of time so just one second, let me switch us over here and I will hand it over to Jes, then.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Writing for Social Change Toolbox

  • Freewriting
  • Audience
  • Feedback

[Slide includes an image of a toolbox, full of tools.]

Audio: Jes: Thank you, Beth. All right, so we've talked about these different ways that you can write for social change but I'm going to focus more on this part of writing as a process and how you can use writing to support your social change pursuits, whether those pursuits are related to writing or direct action, So, whatever kind of social change you're pursuing, these three topics, free writing, audience, and feedback are things that are going to be useful as you are writing for social change and pursuing social change.


Visual: Slide change to the following: Freewriting

  • Writing without inhibitions
  • Purpose
    • Brainstorm
    • Explore ideas
    • Discover connections
  • Types
    • Focused: Question or topic to explore
    • Unfocused: Whatever is on your mind

Audio: So, to start, free writing. This might be something you've heard about in past courses or if you've had an appointment with me in the Writing Center or if you've talked with people. But free writing is just writing without inhibitions and giving yourself the space and the freedom to, you know, either open a Word document or take out a piece of paper and a pen and just write and write about what you're thinking and what you are feeling and what ideas are coming to you. And the purpose of free writing is to brainstorm, so to kind of figure out what kind of ideas you have, to explore those ideas, so perhaps you have a cursory idea, you know, I would like to positively impact children in my community but maybe you don't know what that means or what that looks like for you, or how you can use your skills to make that impact. So, you can use free writing as a way to just kind of write without inhibitions in this topic and explore ideas around that. Free writing can also help with discovering connections so perhaps in your free writing endeavor to figure out how you can positively benefit children in your community, you realize that that is connected to, you know, the school lunch program and also connected to city parks and recreation and all these other things, and the free writing can help you realize those connections in how you can bring these things and these ideas together.

There is a couple different kinds of free writing that you can do, you can do a more focused free write where you ask yourself a question and explore it, for example, you know, how can I positively benefit children in my community. I might start writing based on that question but it can also be unfocused, maybe I don't even have a question yet and I just kind of am having some feelings about what I'm seeing in my community and I write about it and eventually come to a question or a topic that I want to pursue later. So, consider using free writing as a tool for exploring positive social change and also what you can do in your community and with your culture and for what purpose.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Freewriting

Writing for social change can require thinking outside of the box and discussing complex, difficult topics.

  • Can help you overcome writers block or feeling like you don’t have anything to contribute
  • Allows you to explore ideas you might not normally approach
  • May allow you to create connections between ideas
  • Could create questions you can explore

Audio: So, this can require thinking outside of the box and discussing complex and difficult topics. That's kind of the nature of free writing, is it brings up stuff that you're not necessarily thinking about. So, it can help you overcome writer's block, it can help you feel like you have something to contribute. Maybe you're kind of stuck and you don't want to start writing and you don't feel like you have anything to contribute. But free writing can help you get over that because you're writing. It also allows you to explore those ideas that you might not normally approach, it allows to you create connections and then it helps you to creates questions you can explore. So, again, perhaps you don't have your question but free writing can help you get to it.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Audience

Who will be reading your writing?

  • Academic community
  • Employees in the field
  • Management/leaders in the field
  • Government officials/ employees
  • Community members
  • Businesses


  • Tone
  • Word choice
  • Information
  • Research
  • Organization

Audio: Another thing to consider is audience. So, you know, the messages that we're sending out into the world have no meaning, really, unless they have audience. So, as you're pursuing social change and your purpose with your community and your culture, again bringing back to those key points from before, think about, you know, who will be reading your writing? So, are you writing to an academic community, employees in the field, businesses, business owners, managers, or leaders in the field, government officials, community members? It doesn't even have to be these things, you know, it could be school officials, it could be parents, it could be almost anyone. So, who will be reading your writing and once you've thought about that and figured out who is reading your writing, think about tone and word choice and information and research and organization. Because if you're writing to the academic community, how you say thing and frame them and what information and research and citation is necessary is going to be different than if you are communicating with community members.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Audience

Academic Community

  • In 2013, only 39% of U.S. high school graduates were adequately prepared for college-level academics as measured by  ACT standards (Adams, 2013).
    • Specific year for data
    • More formal tone
    • Citation

Community Members

  • Recent research has shown that nationally, students aren’t prepared for college, which should inform our local after-school programs.
    • Use of more informal phrasing:
      • “Nationally”
      • Contraction
      • “Our”
    • No citation

Employees in the Field

  • Teachers should take note of recent research that showed 39% of U.S. high school students are not ready for college.
    • Specific population addressed
    • No citation

Audio: So as an example, we have kind of three situations here for audience. So, the academic community, the community members. and the employees in the field. So, with the first example of the academic community, we've got this paraphrase so “in 2013, only 39% of U.S. high school graduates were adequately prepared for college-level academics as measured by ACT standards” and then a citation, Adams 2013. So, that's what's expected in the academic communities, there’s a specific year for the data, it’s a more formal tone, there’s a citation and those kinds of things are expected with the audience of the academic community.

Now, that same content is going to be presented differently if you're giving it to community members. So now we have “recent research has shown that nationally, students aren't prepared for college which should inform our local after-school program.” So, it comes from the same source and same information, to some degree, or is focused on the same topic but the phrasing is more informal and there's also no citation and no need for that explicit paraphrase.

And as a third example, for employees in the field, so here we have “teachers should take note of recent research that showed that 39% of U.S. high school opportunities are not ready for college.” So here employees in the field is the hybrids of academic and community members, it's a little bit more specific, the population is more specific, more statistics are presented than to community members, but there's still no citation, no expectation for that. The general illusion to the statistic is enough, So, this is just an example of why considering your audience is important as you're composing your writing for social change.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Feedback

  • Reflecting and improving with both peers and colleagues

[Slide includes an image here of several people sitting around a desk.]


  • Planning for future improvement

[Slide includes an image here of a “to-do” list and a pen.]


  • Incorporating (and sometimes rejecting) feedback

[Slide includes an image here of someone typing on a laptop.]


  • Discussing with others who might agree and disagree

[Slide includes an image here of people sitting at a table with a laptop.]

Revising: Reflecting on and Perfecting Your Writing

Audio: And then the last topic that I'm going to address before I hand back to Beth is feedback. So, I'm a writing instructor in the Writing Center. which means that my job primarily is giving feedback to students on their writing. So, I'm a huge advocate of feedback. It's been helpful to me in my social change writing but also writing my dissertation and working on my graduate course work and pursuing my interests. So, feedback can be really helpful for reflecting and improving your writing, yourself, receiving feedback, but also giving it. So, maybe this includes receiving feedback but also giving feedback to others interested in this pursuit.

It can help with planning for future improvement, too, so perhaps you get feedback and you realize you have a pattern of composing disorganized sentences or kind of confusing paragraph organization or not appropriately addressing the audience. And the person who provides this feedback can help you realize these gaps in these places where you need to work and improve your writing for the future.

Another thing to consider about feedback, though, is that sometimes you're incorporating that feedback but sometimes you might reject it, you might get feedback that you don't agree with. Perhaps you like how you phrased something or how you organized something and you want to keep it that way, and that's what's kinds of nice about feedback is it's not editing, it's feedback. So, you have some choice and some space and the arguments you're making are still yours.

Then also feedback can be helpful not just for thinking about writing but thinking about ideas. So, one thing that we thought about as we were preparing this, was talking about the ideas that you want to present in your writing for social change with those who agree with you but also those who disagree. So, oftentimes when you present your ideas or your arguments to people who agree with you, there isn't that critical analysis of the evidence you're using or the way you're composing your argument. But if you talk with someone who disagrees with you, you'll see where there might be a gap in the argument or where maybe some further evidence or explanation is needed or some different kind of evidence. So, that's something to consider, is not just going to people who agree with you but perhaps people who disagree with you, too.

And if you would like to learn more about this, you can click that link on "Revising, reflecting on, and perfecting your writing." We have a lot of places in the Writing Center related to revision. With that, I’m gonna hand it back to Beth.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

Let us know in the Q&A box.

[Slide includes an image of a question mark on a chalkboard.]

Audio: Beth: Thanks so much, Jes. I'm going to finish this off here by just reminding you of all the different resources and things you can think about for next steps but before you do, I want to remind you we have that Q and A box, if you have any last questions or comments, do lets us know. We're going to make sure to spend hopefully the last five minutes here addressing that and discussing a little some of the questions and comments that have come in. So, do make sure you use that Q and A box on the right side of your screen.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: The Start of a Conversation

  • Books
  • Writing Center blog and resources
  • Walden websites & resources

[Slide includes a picture of a group of people sitting around a stone table, outside.]

Audio: What I wanted to end, though, before we do that, is just sort of mentioning and emphasizing that this is really the start of a conversation or we hope it's the start of a conversation. We're introducing a lot of ideas here and hopefully new ideas and things that are interesting and spark your -- spark new ideas for yourself and kind of get you motivated in thinking about this in a new way. But we know that we don't have all the answers, so of course we have those links throughout the slides here for more information.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Books

            Personal essays:

Downs, J. (2006). Why we write: The politics and practice of writing for social change. New York, NY: Routledge.

Practical tools:

Dunlap, L. (2007). Undoing the silence: Six tools for social change writing. Oakland, CA: New Village Press.

Theoretical discussion:

Dutta, M. J. (2011). Communicating social change: Structure, culture, and agency. New York, NY: Routledge.

Audio: But we also just wanted to mention a couple of other things. These are some books that I read a couple of years ago as I was preparing this webinar in previous years and sort of our series on writing for social change. And these have been really helpful in thinking a bit more about social change and writing and how they connect.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Writing Center Blog

[Slide includes several screenshots of the Writing Center Blog.]

Audio: We also have a couple of blog posts and I know we have a new blog post that will be coming up I believe next week on social change and so you're welcome to look at those blog posts, as well.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Social Change at the Writing Center

[Slide includes a screenshot of the “Social Change at the Writing Center” webpage.]

Audio: And we also have an area on the Writing Center's website that's called "Social change at the Writing Center," and helps bring together all the different resources, blog posts, discussions, this webinar will be there, focusing on social change and that can be a helpful place to go, as well.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Social Change at Walden

Walden 2020: A Vision for Social Change 2017 Report

Global Days of Service


“Working collaboratively, college leadership, faculty members, and curricula developers continually evaluate Walden’s programs to assess the effectiveness of our curriculum in helping our students effect positive social change.”


Contest for students who have made contributions to social change


“Welcomes manuscripts focusing on interdisciplinary research in social change that improves the human condition and moves people, groups, organizations, cultures, and society toward a more positive future.”


“The mission of the Walden University Center for Social Change is to be a connective hub that promotes, facilitates and supports collaborative partnerships, action research, and projects that lead to purposeful action for sustainable positive social change.”

Audio: And then of course remember all of those resources we talked at the very beginning. We've got that vision for social change 2017 report, the curriculum and capstone information, Scholars of Change, Journal of Social Change, the center for social change. There is a plethora of places that you can go for more information and things.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Identify your social change tendencies

[Slide includes a screenshot of the homepage for the “What kind of social change agent are you?” quiz.]

Audio: And then I also wanted to include this fun piece, as well. This was a quiz we discovered a couple of years ago that's on the Walden University website. If you haven't seen it, it's a quick quiz but kind of takes you through some questions that helps establish what kind of social change agent you are, and it's really fun and interesting. And a little bit more light-hearted than what we've been talking about but, still, something I found fun and worth my time. So, something to take a look at, as well.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions

Now: Let us know!   


Continue the conversation on Twitter with #WaldenU or #WaldenUWC

Interested in more discussion of writing for social change?

Check out the recorded webinars “Blogging” and “Grant Proposals

Join the Career Services Center’s Walden Social Change Networking Hour on October 26, 7-8 p.m. ET

Audio: All right. So, at this point, then, I wondered as we're going through this a little bit, I had a question, Jes, that came up that I thought maybe we could start off with our discussion for the last five or six minutes here. A student when we earlier were talking about the things that can affect your vision for social change, they had asked specifically about how your environment could affect or influence your vision for social change and I wondered, Jes, if you could talk about that a little bit.

Jes: Hi, Beth, yeah. So actually, I was rescuing my cat from the blind. Can you restate the question? I'm so sorry. [Laughter]

Beth: Oh of course, no problem. This student was talking about how their environment could potentially change or shift or adjust their vision for social change, in addition to purpose and culture and those other factors you mentioned. Do you want to address that a little bit?

Jes: Yes, absolutely. The joys of working from home. Yeah, so we've got, you know, purpose and culture and community as those touchstones that we've brought back earlier but I would say that the environment is really kind of part of all of those things. You know, the environment that you're in can be your community. It can also be your culture but it could also be part of your purpose if, for example, you know the social change you're looking for is something environmental related to agriculture or something like that. So, I think there is a couple different ways we can take that but I like that idea of environment kind of being included in that circle of purpose and community and culture. Do you have anything to add, Beth?

Beth: I was just going to say that environment could change a lot, your culture could remain the same. You might be a Midwestern girl from St. Paul and that culture stays pretty much the same but the environment around the issue you're working on could change. Sometimes we're working on issues where those issues sort of the progress on them have changed a lot. Maybe very quickly or maybe over a long length of time and that's important to keep in mind, too. The environments of sort of surrounding the issue, that's the way I was thinking about it. Does that make sense, as well, Jes?

Jes: Yeah, there's so many ways to interpret environment and I think they all have an impact on it.

Beth: Yes, certainly, certainly. I wanted to also mention that we had a student commenting that they were a candidate for the Scholars of Change and had made a submission for that video contest. So, I wanted to say kudos to that students, it’s wonderful to hear about that. We also had a lot of questions about just more specific information and one student mentioned specifically about suggestions we have about social change in the developing world. And I wondered if we could talk more about suggestions we have for whether students aren't sure where necessarily to go, and I can maybe start with what I was thinking if that works, Jes, and you can add on.

Jes: Yeah, that sounds great, I'll brainstorm while you talk.

Beth: Okay, I was specifically thinking and I said to the student, I'm not an expert, certainly, about making social -- enacting social change in the developing world and what that context looks like but I'm sure there are experts out there and that might be maybe some of the Walden faculty you're working on who have done research in that area or maybe it's something where there's research out there from experts in your field who have found best practices and evidence-based approaches to enacting change and making change in the developing world, or in any other context. So, what I had suggested to the student was maybe doing a little research, going on the internet, but also maybe going to the Walden librarians and asking, and saying I'm really looking for some help in this area, could you point me in the right direction. That's what I was thinking initially, Jes, what do you think?

Jes: Yeah, I like those suggestions, Beth. I'm thinking about my own pursuits for social change and what I did and I think a big part of what I did to find others who could help me in my pursuits was to look for literature on the topic that I was interested in, to see how others were addressing those things. And then I kind of chased those leads to figure out, okay, these people who are writing about these things, where are they publishing and where are they presenting at conferences, and then I started attending those conferences and volunteering and being part of that academic community, And now those people those people whose work I was reading ten years ago and who were inspiring are now my colleague and people I'm co-authoring things with. So, I say have courage to reach out and to know that if you are reading the work of people who are pursuing similar things as you, chances are they’re gonna be really receptive if you write them and say, hi, I'm interested in helping with this. So, yeah, follow those leads, figure out who's talking about the topics you're interested in and don't be scared to approach those people personally and see if they want to collaborate with you.

Beth: I love that. That's fantastic. Thanks so much, Jes, and I think we've covered a lot of the great comments and questions that have come in so far. I know we're almost at the top of the hour some wondered if you had any last thoughts you wanted to share with everyone before we wrap up for the day.

Jes: Yeah, sure, thanks, Beth. Well, I want to thank everyone for being here. This was such an inspiration to see your responses in those chats and the work that you're doing and just reaffirms why I love working at this institution with these students and faculty and alumni, so thank you all for being here. I'm so proud of the work you're doing and I'm really eager to continue these conversations and pursuits for writing for social change.

Beth: Yes, thanks so much, Jes, and I would say thank you to Jes for co-presenting with me and Amber, in the background, for all your work in the background in the Q and A box. And, yes, thank you everyone for coming, this is fantastic. It's wonderful to see all the good work that students and faculty are doing here at Walden. And I'll just wrap us up by reminding everyone that you are welcome to reach out to the Writing center if you do have writing-specific questions and remember that those links throughout the slides are accessible, too. So, make sure to access those if you had more of those questions about things like grants or specific other resources across Walden University. And the last thing I would just mention is that the Career Services Center is also hosting a networking hour focusing on social change on October 26th. So, I know a lot of what we talked about is, you know, talking with other people, getting more ideas, doing more of what we did today and that might be a great opportunity, as well, so I wanted to point that out, as well. We're going to go ahead and close for the day but, again, thank you for coming and have a wonderful evening.