What is the Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (SNAP) action guide?

The Synergizing Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding (SNAP) guide provides a strategic framework for activists, peacebuilders, and organizers working to transform violent conflict and advance a just peace. It demonstrates how nonviolent action and peacebuilding approaches can be used together synergistically to mobilize communities, address power imbalances and conflict drivers, and support inclusive, participatory peace processes.

The guide, also available in Spanish and Arabic, is for trainers, facilitators, and other practitioners serving the many organizers, activists, mediators, negotiators, and peacebuilders who want to learn more about how to integrate nonviolent action and peacebuilding strategies in their work.


The impetus behind SNAP comes from case study research that highlights how grassroots activists, organizers, and peacebuilders engaged in nonviolent action and peacebuilding can use approaches from both fields together to strategically plan and more effectively prevent violence, address grievances, and advance justice. While scholars such as Adam Curle,1 John Paul Lederach,2 Lisa Schirch,3 Veronique Dudouet4 and Anthony Wanis-St. John5 have explored synergies between the two fields for decades, the SNAP guide is one of the first to offer practical modules and exercises meant to help practitioners operationalize the combined approach at the grassroots.

It is also intended to provide organizations that support field-based peacebuilding, human rights, and conflict transformation with new tools and frameworks to guide their work. The guide provides users with the opportunity to explore the synergy between nonviolent action and peacebuilding approaches to develop the capacity and skills necessary to assess conflict, build coalitions, mobilize constituencies, balance power, and consolidate gains as they work to address injustices and build inclusive peace processes.

As a student and a budding activist, it helps me to understand more about nonviolent action, tactics that can be used, and how peacebuilding can be woven throughout.

Program Description

Boycotts or negotiations? Pressure or engagement? Which approaches, and in what sequence, are most effective for building a just and sustainable peace?

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 and able to use a wide variety of approaches, including direct action, relationship building, volunteer mobilization, dialogue, and negotiation. However, these activities are sometimes seen as separate or incompatible.

Grassroots activists may know how to engage in protests and other forms of nonviolent direct action, but they may have less experience facilitating a delicate meeting featuring diverse groups and opinions. Peacebuilders may 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.

The SNAP action guide seeks to build bridges between peacebuilding and nonviolent action practitioners 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.

Interested in learning more about the guide or strategic planning and skills-building workshops based on the guide? Contact snap@usip.org.

  1. Adam Curle, Making Peace (London: Tavistock, 1971)
  2. John Paul Lederach, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 1997).
  3. Lisa Schirch, Little Book of Strategic Peacebuilding: A Vision and Framework for Peace with Justice(New York: Good Books, 2005).
  4. Veronique Dudouet, “Powering to Peace: Integrated Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding Strategies,” International Center on Nonviolent Conflict Special Report Series 1 (April 2017).
  5. Anthony Wanis-St. John and Noah Rosen, “Negotiating Civil Resistance,” Peaceworks, no. 129 (July 2017).

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Only a few months ago Nicaragua was a spectator to the turmoil in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that has led to a massive exodus of families seeking refuge by traveling north. Sadly because of the current tumult in Nicaragua, a new refugee crisis could be on the way. To prevent further escalation and increase the chances of achieving a just peace, the opposition and the Catholic Church should loudly and strategically embrace nonviolent discipline.

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Connecting Civil Resistance and Conflict Resolution

In 2011, the world watched millions of Egyptians rally peacefully to force the resignation of their authoritarian president, Hosni Mubarak. “When Mubarak stepped down … we realized we actually had power,” recalled Abdallah Hendawy, a prominent activist. But, having won a victory in the streets, Egypt’s pro-democracy activists found they were ill-prepared for the negotiating table and the collaboration needed—among themselves and with Egypt’s politically powerful military—to consolidate their gains.

report cover

Negotiating Civil Resistance

Reviewing the literature on negotiation and civil resistance, this report examines the current divide between the two and digs deeper to identify the fundamental convergences. It builds on these findings to illustrate why negotiations and negotiation concepts are essential to the success of civil resistance campaigns. Using historical examples, it then examines the dynamics of negotiation in the context of these strategic domains. 

It was a great workshop, I particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to share with individuals from different types of organizations (activists, academics, practitioners) representing work around the world.

protested with fists in the air

Event Highlight

Combining Nonviolent Action and Peacebuilding

January 16, 2018

To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the U.S. Institute of Peace hosted a series of expert panels on Facebook focused on this combination of peacebuilding and nonviolent action.

A pro-Russia villager argues with Ukrainian soldiers after troops were being blocked by villagers at a checkpoint in Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 2, 2014

Event Highlight

‘People Power’ and Peacebuilding: Can They Collaborate?

July 26, 2017

After decades in which the fields of nonviolent action and conflict resolution have evolved separately, new reports underscore that they need to collaborate to prevent social conflicts from turning violent and to build more inclusive societies. On July 26, 2018, USIP and its partners reviewed this research and discussed how these distinct paths for seeking sustainable peace can be better combined.

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