This micro-course explores the history and dynamics of nonviolent movements. It presents the categories of specific methods of nonviolent action and some of the key theories that inform civil resistance strategies and campaigns.

Liberian women rally against their country’s civil war, a campaign documented by the film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” (Pewee Flomoku)
Liberian women rally against their country’s civil war, a campaign documented by the film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” (Pewee Flomoku)

Course Overview

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the importance of nonviolent action;
  • Define nonviolent civil resistance and how is it distinct from other forms of social and political action; and
  • Identify the principles and theories of power inform the practice of nonviolent action.


Section 1 - Introduction to Nonviolent Action

Meet the course presenters and get a broad overview of what nonviolent action is and why it is important.

Section 2 - Definitions and Historical Context

Explains what nonviolent civil resistance is and how it differs from other forms of social and political action.

Section 3 - Stories from the Field

Examines how different campaigns and movements have waged nonviolent action and what accounts for their achievements and challenges.

Section 4 - Theory and Practice

Examines how power informs how nonviolent action is utilized and identifies principles and steps that should be kept in mind when practicing nonviolent action methods.

Section 5 - Quiz

Assesses your understanding and retention of key terms, concepts, and ideas presented in this course.

Section 6 - Scenario

Allows you to apply the knowledge you've gained throughout the course to a fictional conflict scenario.

Section 7 - Reflections

Allows you to share what you have learned and read what others have learned from this course and how these skills and knowledge will impact the work we do.

Featured Scenario: Protests in Quisada

The students declared a non-violent movement, and began by protesting in front of government buildings and a month later also started staging sit-ins in the midst of critical city intersections. This nonviolent movement is in danger of fading away without achieving its goals. Utilizing the knowledge gained throughout this course, you will determine how to best address this situation. In this course we present a scenario in which you can apply the theories and concepts covered in this course to a fictional situation. A scenario is comprised of situation examples and you are asked to determine the best solution to each situation.

Instructors and Guest Experts


  • Maria Stephan, Director, United States Institute of Peace
  • Daryn Cambridge, Professional Development Portfolio Manager (EPIC), Training Resources Group, Inc.
  • Althea Middleton-Detzner, Director, PeaceTech Labs

Guest Experts

  • John Lewis, U.S. Congressman, Georgia
  • Erica Chenoweth, Associate Professor, Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver

Related Publications

Coronavirus Poses Yet Another Challenge to the Afghan Peace Process

Coronavirus Poses Yet Another Challenge to the Afghan Peace Process

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

By: Scott Smith

The Afghan peace process has been at a stalemate for weeks, as President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban remain far apart on the logistics of prisoner releases. Intra-Afghan talks that were tentatively scheduled for March 10 have not got off the ground. Meanwhile, the disputed presidential election has led to two rival camps claiming the legitimacy to govern. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s effort this week to bring the parties together failed and led the U.S. to reduce aid to Afghanistan. Amid all this uncertainty, Afghanistan is beginning to see the signs of a coronavirus outbreak, which could devastate the country given its poor health infrastructure and pollution problems. USIP’s Scott Smith explains how the coronavirus could further exacerbates an already complex situation.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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Taliban Fragmentation: Fact, Fiction, and Future

Taliban Fragmentation: Fact, Fiction, and Future

Monday, March 23, 2020

By: Andrew Watkins

For years, the U.S. military pursued a "divide and defeat" strategy against the Afghan Taliban, attempting to exploit the supposedly fragmented nature of the group. Drawing on the academic literature on insurgency, civil war, and negotiated peace, this report finds that the Taliban is a far more cohesive organization than a fragmented one. Moreover, Taliban cohesion may bode well for enforcing the terms of its February 29 agreement with the United States, and any eventual settlement arising from intra-Afghan negotiations.

Type: Peaceworks

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Afghanistan: Can This Be a Real Peace Process?

Afghanistan: Can This Be a Real Peace Process?

Monday, March 23, 2020

By: Sharif Shah Safi

Like every Afghan, I’m watching with fear and hope to see what will emerge from last month’s agreement between the United States and the Taliban. My hope is that it can help end more than 40 years of war. My fear is that the current process may not result in a just and dignified peace where all Afghans are considered equal citizens, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. I fear that the Taliban’s rigid interpretations of Islamic laws will undermine our country’s gains of the past 18 years: an open media, women’s presence in public spheres, and more.

Type: Blog

Gender; Peace Processes; Youth

Understanding Resistance to Inclusive Peace Processes

Understanding Resistance to Inclusive Peace Processes

Monday, March 23, 2020

By: Esra Cuhadar

Current peace processes are designed to be more inclusive of women, civil society, youth, opposition political parties, and other frequently marginalized communities. Implementation of inclusive peace processes, however, has not progressed smoothly—and are frequently met with resistance. Based on an examination of instances of resistance in thirty peace and transition negotiations since 1990, this report enhances practitioners’ understanding of who resists, against whose participation, using what tactics, and with what motives.

Type: Peaceworks

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