This webinar about writing and using case studies was originally delivered as part of the Commons Library’s Skills Sessions on 19 October 2022.
What are Case Studies?
Activist case studies are histories and accounts of campaigns and events which include lessons and insights that can be applied more broadly.
Case studies can be used to:
- Illustrate how a particular process, skill or idea works in practice
- Focus on the history of a campaign or event to draw lessons from it
They can be:
- Brief accounts ranging from a few sentences to 300 words or come in the form of a short video
- Medium length accounts of 300 to 5000 words in article, interview and other formats or a podcast episode
- In depth case studies of 5000 words or greater in report, pamphlet or book form, a full length documentary or a podcast series
Using Campaign Case Studies in Organising
Every organiser should have a collection of ‘hope stories’ they can use to inspire and persuade people to step into action and show them that collective action works.
Campaigns also influence the campaigns that follow through the application of training and lessons. Major campaigns can serve as experiments that others that can follow but we need to be aware of context and to learn from similar situations to our own.
An example of how case studies can be used to help people understand aspects of campaign strategy is as follows:
a) Split the group into smaller groups
b) Give each group a case study in the form of a handout summarising the campaign which they can read together and/or a short video clip.
c) Prompt them to discuss the campaign with questions like:
- How did this campaign shift power to win an outcome?
- What different impacts can you see these campaigns having?
- Who were the stakeholders in this campaign? Who had an interest in the outcome?
d) Regroup to hear insights from each of the groups, drawing out similarities and differences.
Starting out with Research and Writing
You can begin by considering the following:
Do you have a situation in mind already and what lessons could be drawn from it?
Or do you have particular lessons, skills or points in mind and what kind of situation do you need to illustrate those?
Other things to consider when thinking about a topic, length, format, etc include:
- Who is your audience?
- How much time do they have?
- How familiar with the topic will they already be?
- How will the case study be used?
- Where will it be published?
- Who will be involved in creating it?
Your case study can include any of the following:
- Campaign or group goals
- Research and planning
- History and key moments
- Strategy and tactics
- Organisational forms
- Decision making processes
See the Commons Library Case Study template for more information and an example of contents and categories you might cover.
You may draw on any of the following:
- A key text
- Your own experiences
- Workshops and forums
- Campaign and group websites
- Social media
- Campaign and group records
- Mainstream and alternative media reports
- There are many text, visual, and audio formats to choose from.
- You might consider combining narrative with direct quotes.
- If your case study is text based then try to include images.
Thanks to the John T Reid Charitable Trust for their generous support with this and the Commons Library’s other Skills Sessions.