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.

Instructor and Guest Experts

Course Instructors

  • Daryn Cambridge, Professional Development Portfolio Manager, EPIC, Training Resources Group
  • Maria J. Stephan, former Director of the program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace

Guest Experts

Related Publications

Can Civil Resistance Breakthroughs Advance Democracy?

Can Civil Resistance Breakthroughs Advance Democracy?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

By: Jonathan Pinckney

We are in one of the largest waves of nonviolent resistance in history. Even the COVID-19 pandemic could not stop massive uprisings in Thailand, Belarus, Myanmar and elsewhere as ordinary citizens use nonviolent tactics to challenge entrenched authoritarians and demand reform. Yet, even as more and more people have hit the streets to push for change, the Varieties of Democracy project reports that global democracy has never been weaker and the long trend of growing autocracy has only accelerated. What can be done to turn this around?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

Myanmar in the Streets: A Nonviolent Movement Shows Staying Power

Myanmar in the Streets: A Nonviolent Movement Shows Staying Power

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

By: Zarchi Oo; Billy Ford; Jonathan Pinckney

The people of Myanmar have opposed military rule in the past but never like this: In the face of horrific brutality by a lawless regime, Burmese have risen up in an historic national movement of nonviolent resistance. Led by young women, the fractious country has united across ethnic, generational and class lines, weaponizing social norms and social media in a refusal to accept the generals’ February 1 seizure of power.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

World Water Day: The Role of Nonviolent Action in Water Governance

World Water Day: The Role of Nonviolent Action in Water Governance

Monday, March 22, 2021

By: Jill Baggerman; Emmanuel Davalillo Hidalgo

Will people go to war over water? According to the United Nations, “Water is the primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change” in the years ahead. As access to this finite, vital resource becomes increasingly imperiled, water-related tensions will rise — both between states and within them. In recent decades, disputes between governments and local stakeholders have resulted in mass action events centered on water governance. Today, in the age of accelerating climate change, nonviolent movements will need to adapt their strategic thinking if they are to improve water governance and prevent violent conflict.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action; Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

In India, Women Propel World’s Largest Protest Movement

In India, Women Propel World’s Largest Protest Movement

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

By: Farida Nabourema

Hundreds of thousands of farmers have been protesting new farm laws on the outskirts of the Indian capital city of New Delhi since September 2020. The prominent presence of women in what is perhaps the world’s largest ongoing protest movement, and certainly the biggest domestic challenge facing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, has put a spotlight on the important role women play in agriculture in this South Asian nation; it also marks a milestone in women’s struggle for equality, and their leadership of nonviolent movements.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Nonviolent Action

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