This course provides a multidisciplinary perspective on nonviolent, civilian-based movements and campaigns that defend and obtain basic rights and justice around the world, and in so doing transform the global security environment.

Grassroots movement for human rights in Kenya. Photo by USIP
Grassroots movement for human rights in Kenya. Photo by Flickr/CC.

Course Overview

The rise of nonviolent, people power movements around the world has become a defining feature of the 21st century. Organized citizen campaigns and movements using nonviolent methods are challenging formidable opponents: unaccountable governance, systemic corruption, institutionalized discrimination, environmental degradation, dictatorship, foreign military occupation, and violent extremism. Their “weapons” are not guns or bombs but rather protests, boycotts, sit-ins, civil disobedience, building of alternative institutions, and hundreds of other nonviolent tactics. Combined with the use of traditional political and legal means, these movements have and continue to shape political, social and economic change across the globe.

Participants in this course will:

  • Learn from a diverse set of activists, scholars and practitioners through stories, research, and exercises.
  • Transform how they analyze and think about conflict – its value, mode, and outcomes.
  • Engage with a growing community of learners and experts enrolled in the course through a continuous series of live, interactive, and collaborative online events.
  • Co-create new knowledge and insights to enhance and update the course as the field evolves.

Activists, civil society leaders, scholars, regional experts, policymakers from governments and international organizations, journalists, religious figures, educators/trainers, and those with a keen interest in how ordinary people are transforming conflicts through nonviolent action are encouraged to enroll and join this powerful global conversation.

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Agenda

Chapter 1 - Setting the Stage: The Historical and Theoretical Foundations of Nonviolent Struggle

This chapter investigates the theories of power, peace, conflict, and obedience that lie at the foundation of nonviolent struggle. We also examine the history of nonviolent struggle and what it can teach us about its effectiveness, challenges, and common misconceptions.

Chapter 2 - Preparation: Analyzing and Strategizing as a Nonviolent Movement

This chapter looks at how nonviolent movements analyze their conflict landscape and think strategically once that information is gathered. We explore a variety of analytical tools and strategic principles that have been adopted by successful nonviolent movements.

Chapter 3 - Mobilization: The Role of Leaders and Followers

This chapter examines leadership styles, movement-building, and movement structure. We will look at the importance of recruitment, building relationships, sustaining participation, activist roles, and the third party actors.

Chapter 4 - Taking Action: The Methods of Nonviolent Struggle

This chapter explores the range of nonviolent methods that are in a movement’s arsenal. We look at how the use of methods can be mapped out and utilized to carry out the strategic plan and adapt to changing conditions on the ground.

Course Instructors

Maria J. Stephan

Maria J. Stephan

Guest Experts

Featured Voices

  • John Lewis, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Georgia Ivan Marovic, Organizer, Software Developer and Social Innovator
  • Dr. Erica Chenoweth, Associate Professor, Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver
  • Dr. Peter Ackerman, Founding Chair, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC)

Related Publications

Protests Test Nigeria’s Democracy and its Leadership in Africa

Protests Test Nigeria’s Democracy and its Leadership in Africa

Thursday, October 22, 2020

By: Oge Onubogu

Nigeria’s protests against police brutality already were the largest in the country’s history before security forces opened fire on a crowd in Lagos on October 20. The protest and bloodshed have only heightened the need for the government in Africa’s most populous country to end the pattern of violence by security forces against civilians. Leaders must finally acknowledge that this brutality has fueled violent extremism. How the Nigerian government will respond to citizens’ insistent demand for accountable governance will influence similar struggles—for democracy, accountability, nonviolence and stability—across much of Africa.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Democracy & Governance; Nonviolent Action

Nonviolent Action in Myanmar: Challenges and Lessons for Civil Society and Donors

Nonviolent Action in Myanmar: Challenges and Lessons for Civil Society and Donors

Friday, September 18, 2020

By: La Ring; Khin Sandar Nyunt; Nist Pianchupat; Shaazka Beyerle

The National League for Democracy’s decisive victory in Myanmar’s 2015 elections inspired hopes of a full transition from military rule and an opening of civil space. Neither has materialized, and the groups working to advance social, political, and economic change in Myanmar continue to face significant challenges. Focusing on three cases of organized nonviolent action in Kachin, Mandalay, and Yangon, this report explores the divide that has opened between civil society and the NLD government and the rifts emerging within civil society itself.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

Curbing Corruption after Conflict: Anticorruption Mobilization in Guatemala

Curbing Corruption after Conflict: Anticorruption Mobilization in Guatemala

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

By: Walter Flores; Miranda Rivers

This report analyzes the fight against corruption in Guatemala by social movements over the past five years, homing in on their major successes and challenges in working to advance transparency, accountability, and good governance. The lessons drawn from these efforts can be applicable for other movements around the world operating in similar contexts. The work also has a larger bearing for international actors helping states build peace and democratic governance following prolonged violent conflict.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

Mali’s Coup: Harbinger of Hope or Uncertainty

Mali’s Coup: Harbinger of Hope or Uncertainty

Thursday, September 10, 2020

By: Anushka Bose; Jonathan Pinckney

Last year was one of the most dramatic years of nonviolent action in recent memory, with millions taking to the streets to push for greater economic equality, democratic representation, and social justice. Some of the most dramatic uprisings took place in Africa, where longstanding repressive political regimes were forced from power in Sudan and Algeria, and protests over fuel prices in Zimbabwe led to a government crackdown. The recent almost entirely bloodless coup Mali, in which soldiers abducted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and forced him to resign capped a similar uprising, but is complicated by the role of the military in the president’s ouster and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

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