Civil society around the world has demonstrated the ability to bring about change without violence. Critical to civil society’s success is preparing communities to undertake safe and strategic nonviolent action (NVA) movements. Previous research on NVA has focused on three broad methodologies: protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and intervention. This Report contributes to the knowledge on NVA by highlighting key strategic functions and outcomes of education and training–a fourth and critical methodology for movements around the world.


  • The three nonviolent methodologies identified in seminal works are protest and persuasion, noncooperation, and intervention. Somewhat overlooked is a focus on organization or capacity building, which includes education and training.
  • Education and training fulfill a critical strategic function in capacity building by helping build certain key components of successful movements: planning, unity, and discipline.
  • Historical examples from Germany, the Philippines, Serbia, and the United States demonstrate this instrumental role.
  • The education and training methodology and philosophy developed during the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s became a model for the campaigns and movements that followed.
  • The Yellow Revolution in the Philippines to restore democracy in the mid-1980s was built on education that enabled the powerless to strategically address the regime’s power and on training to effectively challenge authority.
  • The nuclear power industry in the United States and Germany was stymied by a determined transnational grassroots movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Critical to its success were strategic planning, nonviolent action, consensus decision making, and legal processes.
  • The Serbian civil protest group Otpor! grew from a handful of students into an eighty thousand–person movement that proved instrumental in overthrowing a dictatorship and helping establish a democracy. Training was key.
  • Although policy-relevant research on civil resistance is expanding as the number of popular movements increases, the strategic value of education and training in such movements remains relatively understudied.
  • Four historical examples of successful nonviolent movements suggest five general and actionable strategic functions of education and training.

About the Brief

This report highlights key strategic functions and outcomes of education and training in nonviolent civil resistance movements around the world. Funded by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), it draws on findings from research, trainer and participant interviews, and the author’s experience with nonviolent civil movements.

About the Author

Nadine Bloch is training director for Beautiful Trouble, an organization that advances creative activism. Her work focuses on nonviolence education and civil resistance. The author thanks Maria Stephan and Amun Nadeem at USIP for support of this project.

Related Publications

Colombia War-Crime Prisoners Face Past, Plan Future

Colombia War-Crime Prisoners Face Past, Plan Future

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

By: Aubrey Cox; Maria Antonia Montes

The prisoners would be arriving soon and Adriana Combita, like a young teacher preparing to greet a new class, was nervous. This was not the first time that Combita, 26, had led a peacebuilding training with soldiers convicted of war-related crimes. But these were senior officers, commanders with master’s degrees, military officials who had lived abroad.

Education & Training; Human Rights

How the Catholic Church Can Bolster Alternatives to Violence

How the Catholic Church Can Bolster Alternatives to Violence

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

By: Maria J. Stephan

The Catholic Church, with its 2.1 billion adherents worldwide, has been pivotal in some of the most significant nonviolent struggles in modern history. Many will recall the iconic image of Filipino religious sisters confronting military forces and a kleptocratic dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in prayerful resistance during the 1986 “people power” revolution. Today, Filipino religious leaders, facing another violent dictator, Rodrigo Duterte, once again are the leading face of nonviolent resistance. The Vatican is discussing these and other examples of powerful nonviolent movements as it rethinks its long-held doctrine of “just war.”

Religion; Nonviolent Action

View All Publications