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

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

Mobilization, Negotiation, and Transition in Burkina Faso

Mobilization, Negotiation, and Transition in Burkina Faso

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

By: Eloïse Bertrand

In October 2014, a massive popular uprising unseated Burkina Faso’s long-time president, Blaise Compaoré, and drove a civilian-led transition that culminated in free and fair elections in November 2015. This report shows the importance of the national culture of dialogue and consensus and the benefit of a vast, resilient network across negotiating groups. Although violence in the country has since increased, lessons from Burkina Faso’s transition can inform the dynamics of popular mobilization, negotiations, and prospects for long-term peace and democracy in other settings.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

What Guatemala’s Anti-Corruption Movement Can Learn from the Past

What Guatemala’s Anti-Corruption Movement Can Learn from the Past

Thursday, January 21, 2021

By: Miranda Rivers; Carlos Mendoza

Guatemalans have once again risen up by the thousands to demand major changes in how their country is governed. Their demands are intended to usher in reforms that will improve quality of life for citizens reeling from the impacts of two deadly hurricanes, as well as health and economic crises that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The demonstrations are reminiscent of the 2015 protests that prompted the resignations of top officials, including the country’s president. However, that movement fell short of broader, structural change. This time around, protesters can draw on lessons learned from the past to achieve long-term reform and target Guatemala’s persistent systems of corruption.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action; Democracy & Governance

2021 Will See More Global Protest: Can It Remain Peaceful?

2021 Will See More Global Protest: Can It Remain Peaceful?

Thursday, January 21, 2021

By: Jonathan Pinckney; Emmanuel Davalillo Hidalgo

After years of steadily rising nonviolent action movements from 2009 to 2019, the eruption of the coronavirus 10 months ago forced an initial lull. But movements in virtually every region of the world soon rebounded—and while destructive riots periodically seized headlines, data show that public demonstrations in 2020 remained overwhelmingly peaceful. Evidence suggests that 2021 will continue to see high levels of mass mobilization. If anything, pandemic-driven economic recession and deepening inequalities are likely to spur increased demonstrations. It will be up to governments to respond in ways that can keep mass action peaceful and engage movements to redress their grievances.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

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