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

Curbing Corruption after Conflict: Anticorruption Mobilization in Guatemala (Spanish)

Curbing Corruption after Conflict: Anticorruption Mobilization in Guatemala (Spanish)

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

By: Walter Flores; Miranda Rivers

Este informe analiza la lucha contra la corrupción en Guatemala llevada a cabo por movimientos sociales en los últimos cinco años, y se hace foco en sus principales éxitos y desafíos al trabajar para avanzar la transparencia, la responsabilidad y la buena gobernanza. Las lecciones aprendidas de los esfuerzos de los movimientos sociales para lograr un cambio positivo en Guatemala pueden aplicarse a otros movimientos del mundo que se encuentran en contextos similares. Las lecciones también tienen mayor relevancia para los actores internacionales que ayudan a los estados a reconstruir la paz y la gobernanza democrática luego de un conflicto violento prolongado.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

Four Takeaways on the Intersection of Nonviolent Action and Peace Processes

Four Takeaways on the Intersection of Nonviolent Action and Peace Processes

Thursday, May 13, 2021

By: Jonathan Pinckney; Miranda Rivers; Tabatha Thompson; Adam Gallagher

How can nonviolent action and peacebuilding work together? And how can they be brought together to promote positive long-term political change? Although mass nonviolent action movements are taking place at an increasingly rapid rate, they are succeeding in achieving their goals less frequently, and where initially peaceful demonstrations have been met by state violence from Myanmar to Colombia, better understanding these questions is crucial.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action; Peace Processes

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

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