This course, centered around the Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (SNAP) Guide, seeks to illustrate how the most strategic and effective methods from Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding can reinforce one another. 

SNAP Training in Africa
SNAP Training in Africa (Photo Courtesy of Nick Zaremba)

Course Overview

In 1971, feminist nonviolent activist Barbara Deming wrote about “revolution and equilibrium,” asserting that activists needed “two hands of nonviolence”—one hand with a palm facing out to say “stop the injustice!” and another offered as a handshake. Building just, inclusive, and peaceful societies requires people who are willing to take on a wide variety of approaches, including direct action, relationship building, volunteer mobilization, dialogue, and negotiation. However, some scholars and practitioners view these approaches as separate or incompatible. Grassroots activists know how to engage in nonviolent action, but they may have less experience facilitating a delicate meeting featuring diverse groups and opinions. Peacebuilders can excel at dialogue or negotiation, but they may get stuck when one group has more power than another, making it difficult to reach a just resolution. Each approach has its own history, community of practice, literature, and education and training programs.

This course seeks to reduce this separation and illustrate how the most strategic and effective methods from both fields can reinforce one another to advance justice, promote human rights, and build sustainable peace. It is for activists looking to bring together diverse coalitions, mobilize constituencies, and shift power, and for peacebuilders trying to address power asymmetries and build societal awareness of key issues to open dialogue and gain leverage in negotiations.

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Agenda

Chapter 1 - Introduction to Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding

This chapter reviews foundational concepts of nonviolent action and peacebuilding and discusses how they can reinforce one another or be “synergized.”

Chapter 2 - Power and Conflict Transformation

This chapter introduces the concept of power and how righting power imbalances can transform violent conflict. It then leads participants through an exercise to help them craft their collective values, vision, and mission statements, which will guide them in their work.

Chapter 3 - Strategic Planning and Conflict Assessment

This chapter discusses the importance of conflict assessment and gives participants the opportunity to practice using conflict assessment tools from the nonviolent action and peacebuilding fields to see how they can complement one another. It then uses this assessment to translate participants’ values, vision, and mission statements into SMARTT goals.

Chapter 4 - Nonviolent Action Tactics and Peacebuilding Approaches

This chapter provides a deeper dive into the broad range of nonviolent action tactics and peacebuilding approaches using a series of case study examples.

Chapter 5 - Planning for Action

This chapter utilizes a series of timeline and planning activities for participants to develop specific action plans based off their SMARTT goals.

Instructor and Course Guides

Instructor

  • Maria J. Stephan, former Director of the program on Nonviolent Action, U.S. Institute of Peace

Guest Expert

  • Nadine Bloch, Training Director, Beautiful Trouble
  • Alysha G. Cieniewicz, Program Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Miranda Rivers, Program Specialist, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Lisa Schirch, Senior Research Fellow, Toda Peace Institute
  • Tabatha Thompson, Senior Program Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace

Related Publications

New Evidence: How Religion Aids Peaceful Change

New Evidence: How Religion Aids Peaceful Change

Thursday, September 30, 2021

By: Miranda Rivers; Jason Klocek, Ph.D.; Sandra Tombe

The pullback in 2021 of international military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa’s Sahel region not only shows the limits of such foreign interventions. It forces policymakers to more urgently examine other ways to support the sustainable social changes that can stabilize violence-stricken nations. New USIP research sharpens an insight about one powerful method to achieve such changes—nonviolent, citizens’ movements that improve governance and justice. Effectively, the research shows, religion helps more often than we may think. Of more than 180 nonviolent campaigns for major political change since World War II, a majority have involved religion in some way.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Religion; Nonviolent Action

Precarity and Power: Reflections on Women and Youth in Nonviolent Action

Precarity and Power: Reflections on Women and Youth in Nonviolent Action

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

By: Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.; Miranda Rivers

Examples abound of women and youth on the front lines of recent nonviolent action campaigns—from Alaa Salah leading demonstrators in Sudan in 2019 to the thousands of young people marching against the coup in Myanmar in early 2021. Yet significant social, cultural, and economic barriers can prevent both women and youth from participating in nonviolent action. This report, based in part on firsthand reports from activists in seven diverse countries, sheds light on these barriers and makes concrete recommendations for maximizing the impact of women and youth in nonviolent action.

Type: Peaceworks

Nonviolent Action

Comment—et quand—le pouvoir populaire peut faire avancer la paix dans un contexte de guerre civile

Comment—et quand—le pouvoir populaire peut faire avancer la paix dans un contexte de guerre civile

Thursday, August 19, 2021

By: Luke Abbs; Marina G. Petrova

Malgré une brève accalmie due aux restrictions liées à la COVID-19, ces dernières années ont été témoins de l'une des plus grandes vagues de résistance non-violente mondiale de l'histoire récente, 2019 étant largement surnommée “l'année de la protestation.” Ces mouvements – du Myanmar à la Colombie en passant par l'Inde – sont largement axés sur la lutte contre l'autoritarisme ou la réparation des injustices sociales. Moins annoncé et discuté est le rôle de l'action non-violente dans les contextes de guerres civiles et des processus de paix. La non-violence stratégique peut également favoriser la paix dans ces contextes, mais le timing et les tactiques sont la clé du succès.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

¿Cómo y cuándo puede el poder popular promover la paz durante guerras civiles?

¿Cómo y cuándo puede el poder popular promover la paz durante guerras civiles?

Thursday, August 19, 2021

By: Luke Abbs; Marina G. Petrova

A pesar de una breve pausa debida a las restricciones de la COVID-19, en los últimos años hemos visto una de las mayores olas de resistencia no violenta a nivel mundial y 2019 fue catalogado como "el año de la protesta". Estos movimientos – desde Myanmar hasta Colombia y la India – se centran en gran medida en la lucha contra el autoritarismo o en subsanar injusticias sociales. Menos difundido y discutido es el papel de la acción no violenta en medio de las guerras civiles y los procesos de paz. La no violencia estratégica puede fomentar la paz también en estos contextos, pero el momento y la táctica son la clave del éxito.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

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