Democracy Skills Civics and Citizenship Course

Each of the links below will take you to a democracy skills lesson document (in PDF format) that has been developed by the Democracy Education Network (DEN), or in a few cases to an information website developed by a government organization.

DEN suggests that civics / advocacy courses teach the more than 40 lessons set out below in the order they are set out, first teaching how government and corporations work, then how to get yourself and your group organized, then planning for effective advocacy, then key advocacy skills (including media skills).

By teaching the lessons in this order, students will likely best understand that it is easy to be an "activist" (someone who is active on societal problems) but it takes careful planning to be an "effectivist" (someone who actually helps solve societal problems).

As you will see, many of the lesson materials are ready-made, real-life activities that students can complete for credit as part of their course.  DEN suggests that teachers use the materials as follows:

  • 2 classes -- teach Parts 1, 2 with handouts;
  • 1 class - teach Part 3 with handouts;
  • 1 class - divide students into small groups and have them meet and choose an issue/problem to try to solve using the skills they learned from the Part 3 materials;
  • 3 classes - teach Parts 4 and 5 with handouts and then have the groups conduct research on their issue/problem (including political landscaping research), and develop goals, strategies and actions that are doable by the end of the course -- examples of doable actions are as follows:
    • writing a letter-to-the-editor or an article for a newspaper or magazine or website;
    • holding an event to raise awareness about the problem and solutions (with one speaker, a panel of speakers, or a debate);
    • research and prepare a written summary of proposed solutions and present them to local, provincial, territorial or federal politicians by:
      • meeting with them;
      • gathering signatures on a petition in support of a solution and and sending it to them;
      • gathering letters in support of a solution and sending the letters to them;
      • applying to testify before a committee, and/or;
      • holding a legal, peaceful demonstration in front of their offices.
  • 2 classes - teach Part 6 with handouts, and then have each group present its problem-solving plan, and then have groups begin to act on their plans;
  • each following class - have a few of the groups present a brief report of their problem-solving efforts, and;
  • end of course - have students prepare a final written report and present the results of their problem-solving efforts.

To see an outline of how to present the lesson materials in a Level 1 democracy skills course, click here, and to see an outline of how to present these lesson materials in a Level 2 course, click here.

To see information for teachers or citizen groups who want Democracy Education Network (DEN) to do a democracy skills workshop for their students, staff or volunteers, click here.

We hope that you find DEN's materials useful in teaching and learning how to advocate effectively for social change, and please let us know how and where you are using the materials (and suggest changes to make the materials better) by sending an email to: <advocacyskills "@">

For more useful civics education materials, go to the Canadian Teachers' Federation's ImagineAction website.

List of Democracy Skills Lesson Materials

Part 1: On Canadian Governments' Structures and Operations
Knowing how the real decision-makers in governments work is key to advocating effectively for social change because governments make the rules for society

General information on structure of federal, provincial and municipal Canadian governments (10-page PDF)

Roles of Canadian federal and provincial government departments and agencies (4-page PDF)

Usual structure of a Canadian federal or provincial government department (1-page PDF)

Canadian federal, provincial and territorial governments' policy development process (2-page PDF)

Canadian federal, provincial and territorial governments' law-making process (1-page PDF)

Canadian federal, provincial and territorial governments' regulation-making process (1-page PDF)

How Canadian city governments make decisions  (1-page PDF)

List of Links to Canadian Government Information Websites

How Canadians Govern Themselves (link to general information webpage/booklet by Parliament on its website about how Canada's parliamentary democracy works)

Canada's Election System (link to general information document by Elections Canada on its website)

Part 2: On Canadian Corporations' Structure and Operations
Knowing how the real decision-makers in corporations make decisions is key to advocating effectively for social change because large corporations play a big role in how society works

General information about corporations (3-page PDF)

How corporations make decisions (2-page PDF)

List of Links to Corporate Information Websites

Part 3: On organizing yourself, and your citizen group / network / coalition
Getting and keeping yourself, and your citizen group / network / coalition, organized and running well are key to advocating effectively for social change because if you are unorganized you will waste time, money and the efforts of many people

How to get yourself organized and stay organized (4-page PDF)

How to keep good records of your activities and tasks (2-page PDF)

How to be reasonable/logical (2-page PDF)

How to have a good meeting (2-page PDF)

How to support each other in your group (1-page PDF)

Types of people in the citizen group "universe" (1-page PDF)

How to make good decisions and plans (1-page PDF)

Part 4: On planning for effective advocacy
Researching the societal problem you want to solve, and planning on how you will advocate your solution (especially how you will work with others), are key to winning changes

The key steps to organizing for effective advocacy (1-page PDF)

The 4 main citizen action strategies (1-page PDF)

How to research the issue/problem (2-page PDF)

Key questions to ask to hold governments accountable (1-page PDF)

Ways of holding corporations accountable (3-page PDF)

How to know your political landscape (2-page PDF)

How to do a credible survey / poll (3-page PDF)

How to develop goals and effective strategies and tactics (3-page PDF)

How to organize a network / coalition (5-page PDF)

An example of an effective campaign (1-page PDF)

How to overcome the 7 Ds of government and corporate decision-making (3-page PDF)

Part 5: On key advocacy skills
Doing your advocacy efforts well is just as important as keeping yourself and your citizen group/network/coalition running well if you want to win the most changes

How to prepare an effective proposal report (5-page PDF)

How to set up effective information tables (1-page PDF)

How to plan an event (1-page PDF)

How to make a good speech (1-page PDF)

How to write a letter to a politician / government / corporate official (1-page PDF)

How to lobby a government / corporate decision-maker (2-page PDF)

How to organize a peaceful protest (2-page PDF)

How to organize an effective boycott (4-page PDF)

See also on the Albert Einstein Institute's webpage Gene Sharp's 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action (and you can also click here to see a PDF of the 198 Methods, and click here to see a PDF of a 148-page book about the 198 Methods).

Part 6: On how the media works, and how to work well with the media
The media -- TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites -- reach millions of people every day who may be interested in supporting your advocacy efforts, so it is very important to work well with the media

How to work well with the media (2-page PDF)

How the media gathers the news (2-page PDF)

How to speak effectively to the media (2-page PDF)

How to write a letter-to-the-editor (1-page PDF)

How to write an effective Media Alert (1-page PDF)

How to write an effective news release (1-page PDF)