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.

Course Instructors

Instructors and Course Guides

  • Lisa Schirch, Senior Research Fellow, Toda Peace Institute
  • Nadine Bloch, Training Director, Beautiful Trouble
  • Tabatha Thompson, Program Officer, United States Institute of Peace
  • Miranda Rivers, Program Assistant, United States Institute of Peace
  • Alysha G. Cieniewicz, Course Design and Facilitation Specialist, United States Institute of Peace

Related Publications

Nonviolent Action in Myanmar: Challenges and Lessons for Civil Society and Donors

Nonviolent Action in Myanmar: Challenges and Lessons for Civil Society and Donors

Friday, September 18, 2020

By: La Ring; Khin Sandar Nyunt; Nist Pianchupat; Shaazka Beyerle

The National League for Democracy’s decisive victory in Myanmar’s 2015 elections inspired hopes of a full transition from military rule and an opening of civil space. Neither has materialized, and the groups working to advance social, political, and economic change in Myanmar continue to face significant challenges. Focusing on three cases of organized nonviolent action in Kachin, Mandalay, and Yangon, this report explores the divide that has opened between civil society and the NLD government and the rifts emerging within civil society itself.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

Curbing Corruption after Conflict: Anticorruption Mobilization in Guatemala

Curbing Corruption after Conflict: Anticorruption Mobilization in Guatemala

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

By: Walter Flores; Miranda Rivers

This report analyzes the fight against corruption in Guatemala by social movements over the past five years, homing in on their major successes and challenges in working to advance transparency, accountability, and good governance. The lessons drawn from these efforts can be applicable for other movements around the world operating in similar contexts. The work also has a larger bearing for international actors helping states build peace and democratic governance following prolonged violent conflict.

Type: Special Report

Nonviolent Action

Mali’s Coup: Harbinger of Hope or Uncertainty

Mali’s Coup: Harbinger of Hope or Uncertainty

Thursday, September 10, 2020

By: Anushka Bose; Jonathan Pinckney

Last year was one of the most dramatic years of nonviolent action in recent memory, with millions taking to the streets to push for greater economic equality, democratic representation, and social justice. Some of the most dramatic uprisings took place in Africa, where longstanding repressive political regimes were forced from power in Sudan and Algeria, and protests over fuel prices in Zimbabwe led to a government crackdown. The recent almost entirely bloodless coup Mali, in which soldiers abducted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and forced him to resign capped a similar uprising, but is complicated by the role of the military in the president’s ouster and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

Mediating Mass Movements

Mediating Mass Movements

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

By: Maria J. Stephan

People power is a defining feature of our time. In 2019, movements in Sudan and Algeria forced entrenched military dictators from power. In Hong Kong, millions of citizens have taken to the streets to demand democratic self-rule. Chile, Colombia, Lebanon and Iraq faced popular uprisings by citizens railing against corruption, government incompetence and dysfunctional political and economic systems. These protests are happening at a time of resurgent authoritarianism, marked by a 13-year global decline in civil and political rights and an erosion of the rule of law. Widening inequality, rampant corruption, and the fraying of social contracts between governments and their citizens are at the roots of many of these conflicts.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

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