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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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

Digital Authoritarianism and Nonviolent Action: Challenging the Digital Counterrevolution

Digital Authoritarianism and Nonviolent Action: Challenging the Digital Counterrevolution

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

By: Matthew Cebul; Jonathan Pinckney

Nonviolent action campaigns are one of the most common ways citizens seek to peacefully change nonresponsive political systems. Yet recently developed and emergent technologies are transforming the nature of interactions between activists and authoritarian governments. This report examines the increasingly sophisticated set of tools—such as facial recognition and surveillance of social media platforms—authoritarian regimes are using to stifle nonviolent movements, and provides recommendations for how policymakers and activists can develop creative strategies for overcoming digital authoritarianism.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

Building a Peaceful Africa Through Arts, Culture and Heritage

Building a Peaceful Africa Through Arts, Culture and Heritage

Monday, July 26, 2021

By: Makila James

Across the continent, Africans are increasingly using the arts to reimagine their world and reclaim public space to reflect on what a more peaceful and prosperous Africa could look like. Indeed, the African Union (AU) has prioritized art for only the second time in its history with its 2021 theme, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.” Leaders are hopeful that by channeling this surge in artistic expression, they can help create conditions to deliver peace to conflict-prone regions of the continent and implement the goals of the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Type: Blog

Nonviolent Action

How—and When—People Power Can Advance Peace Amid Civil War

How—and When—People Power Can Advance Peace Amid Civil War

Thursday, July 15, 2021

By: Luke Abbs; Marina G. Petrova

Despite a brief lull due to COVID-19 restrictions, the past few years have witnessed one of the largest waves of global nonviolent resistance in recent history, with 2019 widely being dubbed “the year of the protest.” These movements — from Myanmar to Colombia to India — are largely focused on pushing back against authoritarianism or redressing social injustices. Less heralded and discussed is the role of nonviolent action amid civil wars and peace processes. Strategic nonviolence can foster peace in these contexts as well — but the timing and tactics are key to success.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

SNAP: Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (Burmese)

SNAP: Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (Burmese)

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

By: Nadine Bloch; Lisa Schirch

ဤလမ်းညွှန်စာအုပ်သည် ပဋိပက္ခ အသွင်ပြောင်းလဲခြင်း သို့ ဦးတည်ရာတွင်နည်းလမ်းများအား မဟာဗျူဟာကျကျ ထိထိရောက်ရောက် အသုံးပြုနိုင် စေရန်ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေး တည်ဆောက်သူများ နှင့် အကြမ်းမဖက်လှုပ်ရှားမှု ဖော်ဆောင်သူများ အကြား ချိတ်ဆက်ရန် ကြိုးပမ်းခြင်းဖြစ်သည်။ ၎င်းသည် တရားမျှတမှုနှင့် ရေရှည်တည်မြဲသော ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးကိုမြှင့်တင်ရန်အ ပြန်အလှန်ပြောဆိုခြင်း၊ တိုက်ရိုက်လုပ်ဆောင်မှုများ နှင့် နည်းလမ်းများကို ပေါင်းစပ် အသုံးချနိုင်ကြောင်း ပြသခြင်းဖြစ်သည်။ ဤလမ်းညွှန်စာအုပ်သည် ၎င်းတို့၏လုပ်ငန်းခွင်တွင် အကြမ်းမဖက် လှုပ်ရှားမှုနှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေး တည်ဆောက်ခြင်း နည်းလမ်းများအား မည်သို့ ပေါင်းစပ်အသုံးပြုရမည်ကို လေ့လာလိုသည့် စီစဉ်သူများ ၊ စည်းရုံးရေးမှူးများ၊ တက်ကြွလှုပ်ရှားသူများ ၊ ကြားဝင် ဖျန်ဖြေသူများ၊ ကြားဝင် ညှိနှိုင်းသူများ နှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးတည်ဆောက်သူများအား ပံ့ပိုးပေးနေသော သင်တန်းဆရာများ ၊ ပံ့ပိုးပေးသူများ နှင့် အခြားလက်တွေ့ ကျင့်သုံးသူများအတွက်ဖြစ်သည်။

Type: Toolkit

Nonviolent Action

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