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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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


  • 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

Digital Authoritarianism and Nonviolent Action: Challenging the Digital Counterrevolution

Digital Authoritarianism and Nonviolent Action: Challenging the Digital Counterrevolution

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

By: Matthew Cebul; Jonathan Pinckney

Nonviolent action campaigns are one of the most common ways citizens seek to peacefully change nonresponsive political systems. Yet recently developed and emergent technologies are transforming the nature of interactions between activists and authoritarian governments. This report examines the increasingly sophisticated set of tools—such as facial recognition and surveillance of social media platforms—authoritarian regimes are using to stifle nonviolent movements, and provides recommendations for how policymakers and activists can develop creative strategies for overcoming digital authoritarianism.

Type: Special Report

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Building a Peaceful Africa Through Arts, Culture and Heritage

Building a Peaceful Africa Through Arts, Culture and Heritage

Monday, July 26, 2021

By: Makila James

Across the continent, Africans are increasingly using the arts to reimagine their world and reclaim public space to reflect on what a more peaceful and prosperous Africa could look like. Indeed, the African Union (AU) has prioritized art for only the second time in its history with its 2021 theme, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.” Leaders are hopeful that by channeling this surge in artistic expression, they can help create conditions to deliver peace to conflict-prone regions of the continent and implement the goals of the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Type: Blog

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How—and When—People Power Can Advance Peace Amid Civil War

How—and When—People Power Can Advance Peace Amid Civil War

Thursday, July 15, 2021

By: Luke Abbs; Marina G. Petrova

Despite a brief lull due to COVID-19 restrictions, the past few years have witnessed one of the largest waves of global nonviolent resistance in recent history, with 2019 widely being dubbed “the year of the protest.” These movements — from Myanmar to Colombia to India — are largely focused on pushing back against authoritarianism or redressing social injustices. Less heralded and discussed is the role of nonviolent action amid civil wars and peace processes. Strategic nonviolence can foster peace in these contexts as well — but the timing and tactics are key to success.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

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SNAP: Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (Burmese)

SNAP: Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (Burmese)

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

By: Nadine Bloch; Lisa Schirch

ဤလမ်းညွှန်စာအုပ်သည် ပဋိပက္ခ အသွင်ပြောင်းလဲခြင်း သို့ ဦးတည်ရာတွင်နည်းလမ်းများအား မဟာဗျူဟာကျကျ ထိထိရောက်ရောက် အသုံးပြုနိုင် စေရန်ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေး တည်ဆောက်သူများ နှင့် အကြမ်းမဖက်လှုပ်ရှားမှု ဖော်ဆောင်သူများ အကြား ချိတ်ဆက်ရန် ကြိုးပမ်းခြင်းဖြစ်သည်။ ၎င်းသည် တရားမျှတမှုနှင့် ရေရှည်တည်မြဲသော ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးကိုမြှင့်တင်ရန်အ ပြန်အလှန်ပြောဆိုခြင်း၊ တိုက်ရိုက်လုပ်ဆောင်မှုများ နှင့် နည်းလမ်းများကို ပေါင်းစပ် အသုံးချနိုင်ကြောင်း ပြသခြင်းဖြစ်သည်။ ဤလမ်းညွှန်စာအုပ်သည် ၎င်းတို့၏လုပ်ငန်းခွင်တွင် အကြမ်းမဖက် လှုပ်ရှားမှုနှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေး တည်ဆောက်ခြင်း နည်းလမ်းများအား မည်သို့ ပေါင်းစပ်အသုံးပြုရမည်ကို လေ့လာလိုသည့် စီစဉ်သူများ ၊ စည်းရုံးရေးမှူးများ၊ တက်ကြွလှုပ်ရှားသူများ ၊ ကြားဝင် ဖျန်ဖြေသူများ၊ ကြားဝင် ညှိနှိုင်းသူများ နှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးတည်ဆောက်သူများအား ပံ့ပိုးပေးနေသော သင်တန်းဆရာများ ၊ ပံ့ပိုးပေးသူများ နှင့် အခြားလက်တွေ့ ကျင့်သုံးသူများအတွက်ဖြစ်သည်။

Type: Toolkit

Nonviolent Action

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