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

Promoting Peace and Democracy after Nonviolent Action Campaigns

Promoting Peace and Democracy after Nonviolent Action Campaigns

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

By: Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.

The ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 was brought about using the tools of nonviolent action, including massive protests and nationwide strikes. Yet the transition that followed showed that initiating change through nonviolent action is no guarantee of a peaceful, smooth path to democracy. This report, based on data on 72 political transitions that occurred between 1945 and 2019, provides key insights into the kinds of mobilization, in terms of tactics and actors, that tend to be most effective in carrying transitions to a democratic outcome.

Type: Peaceworks

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In the Struggle for Peace, Four Lessons From a Leader

In the Struggle for Peace, Four Lessons From a Leader

Thursday, May 5, 2022

By: Jonathan Pinckney, Ph.D.

Recent years of declining democracy and rising authoritarianism and violent conflict form what President Biden and others call the “defining challenge of our time.” Biden, like millions of people, see nonviolent struggles for freedom, such as those led by the Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as humanity’s best way to meet this challenge. Last week, though few may have realized it, the world lost a man who, over the last fifty years, helped us to understand and act on that insight: Dr. Peter Ackerman.

Type: Blog

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Sowing the Seeds of Nonviolent Action in Sudan

Sowing the Seeds of Nonviolent Action in Sudan

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

By: Marija Marovic;  Zahra Hayder

From 2013 to 2018, Sudanese civil society actors carved out a variety of civic spaces that laid the foundation for Sudan’s 2018–2019 December Revolution. This report assesses the factors that gave rise to this remarkable mobilization—in particular how civil society development ultimately enabled the Sudanese opposition to sustain a decentralized, nationwide, and robust nonviolent campaign characterized by widespread mass participation, unity of leadership and purpose, and a commitment to nonviolent discipline—and what it will take to keep the country’s democratic transition on track.

Type: Special Report

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