HANDBOOK FOR NONVIOLENT
PUBLISHED BY WAR RESISTERS’ INTERNATIONAL
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under
Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales.
The process of writing this Handbook was a collective effort, with different
layers of involvement. An international editorial committee did most of the
editorial work. The articles were worked out on the WRI Wiki
(http://wri-irg.org/wiki/index.php/Nonviolence_Handbook); the contents in
the Wiki will continue to be updated.
Eric Bachman, Roberta Bacic, Jungmin Choi, Ruben Dario Santamaria, Ippy,
Hilal Demir, Ruth Hiller, Jørgen Johansen, Brian Martin, Martin Smedjeback,
Andreas Speck, Majken Sorensen, Roel Stynen, Ferda Ülker, Stellan Vinthagen
Thank you to the following reviewers who helped in the process of producing
Hans Lammerant, Tali Lerner, Vicki Rover, Chesterfield Samba, Christine
Schweitzer, Vivien Sharples, Jill Sternberg,
1 ABOUT THIS HANDBOOK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
2 INTRODUCTION TO NONVIOLENCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
What is Nonviolence and Why Use it . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Nonviolence Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
You and Your Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
Historical Uses of Nonviolence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
Case Study: Nonviolence Training in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement . . . . . .21
Case Study: Otpor: People’s Power in Serbia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
3 GENDER AND NONVIOLENCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
What is Gender . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24
Why Should Peace Movements Deal with Issues of Gender Violence? . . . . . .25
An Example of Linking Peace and Gender Issues: New Profile in Israel . . . .26
4 TASKS AND TOOLS FOR ORGANISING AND FACILITATING TRAININGS . . . .27
Working Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29
Check-List for Organising a Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29
Check-List for Facilitating a Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
5 NONVIOLENT CAMPAIGNS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31
What Makes a Campaign Nonviolent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31
Planning Nonviolent Campaigns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34
Constructive Programme . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40
The Movement Action Plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43
Forms of Nonviolent Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46
Stages of Escalation for a Nonviolent Campaign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47
The Role of Media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49
Campaign Case Study Guide . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54
6 ORGANISING FOR EFFECTIVE NONVIOLENT ACTIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57
Sending the Protest Message – Making an Action Effective . . . . . . . . . . . . .57
Coping with the Stress and Strain of Taking a Stand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63
Humour and Nonviolent Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67
Working in Groups – Affinity Groups; Group Process; Decision Making . . . . .71
Check-List for Planning an Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .83
Roles In, Before and After an Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .86
Legal Support . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .87
7 STORIES AND STRATEGIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .93
Action and Solidarity Campaign with South Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94
Seabrook-Wyhl-Marckolsheim: Transnational Links in a Chain of Campaigns .96
International Antimilitarist Marches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .98
Chile: Gandhi’s Insights Gave People Courage to Defy Chile’s Dictatorship . .99
Israel: New Profile Learns from the Experience of Others . . . . . . . . . . . .104
Turkey: Building a Nonviolent Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108
Turkey: The applications of Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of Oppressed” . . . . . .108
Challenges and Successes of Working in Nonviolence in South Korea . . . . .110
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia: A Lesson of Resistance,
Dignity and Courage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .112
Bombspotting: Toward an European Campaign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .116
8 EXERCISES FOR WORKING IN NONVIOLENCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .119
Intellectual Property Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .119
Hassle Line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .120
Brainstorming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .121
Speak Out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122-122
A Gender Dialogue for Peacebuilders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .124
10/10 Strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125
The Tree . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .126-127
The Pillars of Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .128
Consequences of Fear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .129
Spectrum of Allies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .130-131
Tree and Wind Trust Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .132
Decision-Making . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .133
Role Playing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .134-135
Cross Spectrum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .136
Forum Theatre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .137
Tools for Grounding, Protecting and Blockading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .138-139
Spectrum/Barometer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .140
9 DO IT YOURSELF: CREATING A HANDBOOK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .141
10 GLOSSARY OF TERMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143-146
11 RESOURCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .147-151
Jail Support: MOC Spain Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .88
Action Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .90
ABOUT THIS HANDBOOK
AND HOW TO USE IT
ar Resisters’ International (WRI) produced this Handbook, drawing on
the experiences of groups in many countries and different generations
of activists. At the heart of every nonviolent campaign are the
resourcefulness and commitment of the activists involved and the quality of the
message with which they reach out — a message that may raise questions about
how things are, stir people out of resignation about what is happening or might
happen, attract allies, or demand a say in decisions that affect their/our lives.
One of the notions central to nonviolent campaigns is ‘empowerment’: a sense
of how you can make things happen, especially if you join with others.
There are many dramatic images of nonviolent action. Indeed, the ability to
dramatise an issue is one of the strengths of nonviolence; it tries to make people
see and act on what often passes unnoticed. However, this drama doesn’t just
happen. It gestates — in groups or cells of activists, in discussions, in training
sessions, in reflecting on previous experiences, in planning, in experimenting,
in making contacts. That is why this Handbook is grounded in what groups have
done and how they have done it. We are not attempting to present a definitive
model, but to suggest methods that have worked in various contexts and that
can be adapted by creative nonviolent activists in their own situations.
Thus, this printed Handbook is a selection of a wider range of material
available from War Resisters’ International or on the internet. It combines texts
introducing certain themes, experiences, and group exercises. The introductory
section outlines what we mean by nonviolence; the importance of nonviolence
training; issues for your group; and a few brief examples of historical nonvio-
lence. Section Three looks at one specific instance of oppression within our
movements: gender. Section Four outlines tasks and tools for organising and
facilitating trainings. Section Five describes nonviolent campaigns and actions,
including constructive programmes and the role of the media. Section Six offers
specific tips for effective organising at all stages. Section Seven provides sto-
ries and strategies from around the world.
Throughout the Handbook we describe some of the advantages of nonvio-
lence in action and give examples of how it works. If you are unfamiliar with
terms in the Handbook, see the glossary (Section Ten, p143).
Section Eight gives examples of exercises for working in nonviolence. These
group exercises aim either to deepen a group’s understanding of an issue and
of each other or to help the group be more effective in carrying out nonviolent
actions and campaigns. In general, the exercises need somebody to ‘facilitate’
them, that is to introduce them, explain what to do and why, and keep the
process moving, encouraging timid people to speak up and extroverts to listen,
especially in the ‘debriefing’ at the end. Notes about exercises are marked with
We hope that readers will copy parts of this Handbook and translate them
or hand out to their groups. If you do this, feel free to adapt what is written to
suit your needs. Section Nine offers advice — and therefore encouragement! —
for you to tailor what you find here or on the WRI Website to your own situation.
Section Eleven contains selected resources. If you find something in this
Handbook particularly interesting, you can also go to the WRI Website
(http://wri-irg.org/wiki/index.php/Nonviolence_Handbook) to find out more.
You will find longer versions of some articles, additional articles and exercises,
and plenty more resources. In WRI we try to share rather than provide
resources, meaning that others would love to read what you have learnt in your
experiences with nonviolent campaigns or training. So please contribute to the
WRI Website. And if you do translate part of the Handbook, please send your
translation to email@example.com so we can add it to the Website.
INTRODUCTION TO NONVIOLENCE
What is Nonviolence and Why Use It?
hy are you interested in a Handbook on nonviolent campaigns? Probably
because you want to make something happen, or perhaps because you
want to stop something from happening. Perhaps you sense that nonvi-
olence can offer an alternative to actions that generate hostility and ultimately
prove sterile, at least from the point of view of making social change. Perhaps
you just want to try something different or get some tips to improve the way
your group is already organising actions and campaigns.
In this Handbook, our basic, working definition of nonviolence is based on a
desire to end violence — be it physical violence or what’s been called ‘structural
violence’ (deprivation, social exclusion, and oppression) — without committing
further violence. This is not a definitive description, as other, more eloquent,
more philosophical, more time-specific (e.g., that meant a lot in a certain time
and place), and personal, rather poetic, definitions exist.
Nonviolence can imply much more than this basic definition, including a
desire to change power relations and social structures, an attitude of respect
for all humanity or all life, or even a philosophy of life or theory of social
action. We encourage you to explore these areas. Discovering the differences
in emphasis and sharing insights into nonviolence can be a rich experience in
the context of a group preparing to take nonviolent action together.
People have different reasons for adopting nonviolence. Some advocate it
because they see it as an effective technique for bringing about desired social
changes, others because they seek to practise nonviolence as a way of life.
There is a spectrum here, with many somewhere in between. Such differences
may surface during a campaign, but usually a statement of principles or guide-
lines specific to a particular campaign (see ‘Principles of Nonviolent Action’ p31
and ‘Nonviolent Guidelines’ p32) can accommodate people with attitudes
across this spectrum.
Certain differences in understanding, however, can be a source of friction
in a campaign and need to be brought into the open. For instance, some argue
that the methods of nonviolence should be deployed in order to wage a conflict
and win; others argue that a key nonviolent attitude is to seek a solution that
ACTION AT MILITARY BARRACKS IN BILBAO, BASQUE COUNTRY, DURING THE 2006 FOOTBALL WORLD CUP.
will include those who today are adversaries. What is essential when a differ-
ence such as this occurs is not that campaigners debate basic attitudes, but
that they reach agreements on the points that affect the campaign. This
particular example (when some seek to ‘win’ and others seek an inclusive
solution) would influence the demands and negotiating strategy the activists
engaging in the campaign draw up.
The question of damage to property can be divisive. Some nonviolent
activists seek to avoid damage to property while others believe that damaging
property is a cost worth inflicting on an opponent. In Section Five, we discuss
the value of campaign or action guidelines. Attitudes on a subject like property
damage might need to be debated in drawing up such guidelines. Such discus-
sion should not be delayed until an action is underway. For some people,
nonviolent action means avoiding hostile behaviour towards adversaries,
perhaps even ‘seeking that of good in everyone’, while other nonviolent
activists might seek to ‘shame’ an adversary, or to brand them as ‘war crimi-
nals’ or ‘torturers’, ‘racists’, or ‘corrupt’. The issue of shouting names or terms
of abuse might well be covered in the guidelines for an action, but the under-
lying differences and the possible combinations of attitudes can be discussed in
much greater depth by the kind of ‘affinity groups’ discussed in the section on
preparing for nonviolent action (see ‘Affinity Groups’, p71). Such groups aim to
be a ‘safe space’ for disclosing doubts, but also for mutual learning. Affinity
group members can take a phrase commonly associated with nonviolent action
“My first training experience was
for the 15th of May action in Israel
in 2003. I was a Chilean
conscientious objector who had
been involved in campaigning
against militarism for a number of
years. The training was truly
empowering to me, and I went
back home with the urge to share
what I had learned and that if we
wanted to be successful in our
actions, training ourselves was
going to be essential. The next
actions we did were not just with
all the group standing in front of
the military building but with a
higher level of risk because of the
higher level of confidence we had,
because we were prepare and
trained for it.”
How Does Nonviolence Work?
Nonviolence strengthens a campaign in three ways:
1. Among participants in a campaign. In fostering trust and solidarity among
participants, they (ideally) are put in touch with the sources of their own
power to act in the situation. Many people don’t realise how creative they
can be until they have support of others in trying something new.
2. In relation to a campaign’s adversary. Nonviolence aims either to inhibit the
violence of an adversary or to ensure that violent repression will ‘backfire’
politically against them. Beyond that, it seeks to undermine an oppressive
institution’s ‘pillars of power’ (see ‘Pillars of Power’ or ‘Spectrum of Allies’
Exercises, p128). Rather than treating employees of our opponents as inani
mate tools, nonviolence tries to create possibilities for them to rethink their
3. In relation to others not yet involved. Nonviolence changes the quality of
communication with bystanders or ‘outsiders’ — people not yet concerned
about the issue or not yet active about it, people who can be potential allies
See ‘Spectrum of Allies’ Exercise, p130.
— such as ‘speaking truth to power’ —
and each explain what it means for
her or him and what issues it raises,
sharing insights and deepening each
other’s understanding of what they
are trying to do together.
A common attitude of nonviolent
activists is that we want our activities
to be an expression of the future we
are trying to create: this might be
embodied in what Mohandas Gandhi
called constructive programme (see
“Constructive Programme’, p40), but
also in the idea of we/the movement
‘being peace’, that our behaviour
reflects the world we want. When we
use phrases such as ‘speaking truth to
power’, ‘affirming life’, or ‘respecting
diversity’, we are invoking fundamen-
tal values that themselves are a
source of strength for us and a point of
contact with those we want to reach.
NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION TRAINING IN SANTIAGO, CHILE.
PHOTO: ANDREAS SPECK
The pioneer of nonviolent scholarship was Gene Sharp, who has suggested four
mechanisms of change in those opposing a nonviolent struggle:
a) conversion: occasionally a campaign will persuade them to its point of view;
b) coercion: sometimes a campaign can coerce adversaries to back down
without convincing them of the activists’ views of right and wrong;
c) accommodation: when an adversary looks for some way to ‘accommodate’ a
campaign, to make a concession without granting everything a campaign
demands and without relinquishing power;
d) disintegration: a mechanism Sharp added after 1989 when Soviet-aligned
regimes had lost so much legitimacy and had so little capacity to renew
themselves that, in the face of a ‘people power’ challenge, they disintegrated.
, For more, see ‘Forms of Action’, p46.
Scholarship on nonviolence tends to look more at the ultimate success of a
movement, in particular the leverage it succeeded in exerting on those in
power. This Handbook, however, is more concerned with looking at processes
involved in building campaigns, in making issues alive and tangible, in designing
campaign strategies, and in preparing and evaluating action. What we write is
firmly grounded in the practice of social movements, and in particular our own
experiences with the peace, antimilitarist, anti-nuclear, and social justice
movements of various countries.
, See ‘Tasks and Tools for Organising and Facilitating Trainings’, p27, for
more on planning nonviolence trainings.
e don’t say that you need nonviolence training before you go out on the
street and hold up a placard or give out a leaflet. Not in most countries
anyway. However, the whole process we refer to as nonviolence
training — analysing issues, envisioning alternatives, drawing up demands,
developing campaign strategy, planning actions, preparing actions, evaluating
actions or campaigns — can increase the impact your group has on others, help
you to function better in action and cope better with the risks and problems it
poses, and expand your action horizons. Basically, nonviolence training helps to
create a safe space to test out and develop new ideas or to analyse and evaluate
Nonviolence training can help participants form a common understanding of
the use of nonviolence in campaigns and actions. It is a participatory educational
experience where we can learn new skills and unlearn destructive and oppres-
sive behaviours society has taught us. Nonviolence training can strengthen a
group, developing a community bond while people learn to work better together
and clarify their intentions. Nonviolence training can help us understand and
develop the power of nonviolence. It gives an opportunity to share concerns,
fears, and feelings and to discuss the role of oppression in our society and our
groups. Individually, training helps build self-confidence and clarify our personal
interactions. The goal of nonviolence training is empowering the participants to
engage more effectively in collective action. The process includes various
exercises and training methods, some of which are included in this Handbook
in Section Eight.
Nonviolence training can prepare people for participation in nonviolent
direct action, teach strategy development techniques and the skills needed to
engage in the strategy, and work on group process and issues of oppression.
Nonviolence trainings are often used to prepare people for specific actions, to
learn about the scenario, to develop a plan and practice it, to understand the
legal issues, and more. They are an opportunity for a group to build solidarity
and to develop affinity groups. Through role playing (see ‘Role Playing’
Exercise, p134), people can learn what they might expect from police, offi-
cials, other people in the action, and themselves. It can help people decide if
they are prepared to participate in the action.
Nonviolence trainings can range from several hours to several months,
depending on factors such as the campaign’s needs and timeline, the goals for
the training, and the experience and availability of the participants and trainers.
Role of Trainers
A nonviolence trainer is someone who can facilitate a group through a learning
process. A trainer must be knowledgeable regarding the topics of the training,
but should not be a know-it-all. A trainer’s goal is to guide the participants to
develop their own ideas, not to tell people what to think and do.
We realise that not all groups and communities who want nonviolence train-
ing have local trainers. But when people understand what skills are needed to
conduct a training, they may realise they have already developed some of those
skills and used them in different contexts. You can create a training team of co-
facilitators who together can bring their skills and experience. If possible, the
training team should reflect the participants, consisting of women and men and
people of various ages and ethnic backgrounds.
I Good group process skills and an awareness of group dynamics. It is the role
of the trainer to make sure everyone participates and feels able to share
insights and experiences.
I An understanding of nonviolent actions and campaigns. If no one has
experience, the trainer needs to use case studies and exercises to help the
I To learn how and when to use the right exercises, being sensitive to the
needs and styles of groups.
Potential Topics for Nonviolence Training
I History and philosophy of nonviolence and practice of nonviolent action.
I Overcoming oppression, ethnic/racial, and gender dynamics (See Section
Three and Resources in Section Eleven).
I Campaign strategy development (see Section Five).
I Consensus decision-making and quick decision-making (see ‘Working in
Groups’, p71, and ‘Decision-Making’ Exercise, p133).
I What an affinity group is and roles within the group (see ‘Affinity Groups’,
p71, and ‘Roles In, Before, and After an Action, p86).
I Skills such as legal and media work (see ‘Legal Support’, p87, and ‘The Role
of Media’, p49).
You and Your Group
Strengthening a Group
The first point is how much importance people attach to the way the group
itself functions and its attitudes. This itself can be a never-ending source of con-
flict! There are balances to be struck, such as between those impatient with dis-
cussion who urgently want to be out ‘there’ and ‘doing’, and those who want more
clarity, be it about goals, about being prepared to argue a case in public, about
who the group should try to reach and the forms of action it should consider, or
about how the group organises itself and functions. Somehow a new group has to
do its best to find its own way and overall direction, some happy medium between
people pulling in different directions. If the group has a lot of energy and initia-
tive, sub-groups may take up particular themes. If the group involves people with
conflicting political philosophies or attitudes, that needs to be acknowledged and
made a source of strength rather than a block on creativity.
Whether your group is large and open or small and limited by affinity (see
‘Affinity Groups’, p71) you want new people to feel welcome, and you want
everyone to feel able to contribute. This raises issues of cultural diversity, of
oppressive behaviour, of class, race and gender dynamics, and of power within
the group. Dealing with these issues can itself be a source of tension, although
not dealing with them can be even worse. You’ll need to find ways to tackle
these questions in a supportive atmosphere. Section Three on gender offers
In general, it is useful for a group that plans to stay together to organise
some special sessions in addition to the usual meetings, or to set aside a slot in
his Handbook is written for groups, perhaps a group that has come togeth-
er for a specific cause or with a specific theme, perhaps a group based on
friendship or affinity in what you feel about the world, perhaps even a
group formed for one occasion. Even an individual stand usually requires on
some group support. The campaigns section of the Handbook (Section Five) is
more useful for groups who plan to stay together for the long-term, while the
section on preparing for action (Section Four) might be more appropriate for
those joining together for a specific event.
Strong groups of people who stay together, who work well together and
strengthen each other, give a movement strength. Groups come together in
many different ways, and those that are most effective and enjoyable tend to
have something distinctive, some mark of their own creativity, some character-
istic that makes them flourish. This arises from the special combinations that
happen within a group and the particular balance the group arrives at between
the various desires and talents of its members.
This section offers some perspectives that you might think about as a mem-
ber of the group, some of which the group will discuss and make a conscious
decision on, some of which will evolve.
the regular meetings for something a bit different. At times, this might have a
practical focus, such as skill-sharing, campaign development, or even a more
detailed look at a particular campaign topic. At times, this might be more
group-directed, such as activities that build rapport (banner-making, singing)
or ways to improve group functioning.
A nonviolent action group will also at some point benefit from considering some
of the issues attached to the term nonviolence — including forms of nonvio-
lence and their repercussions, values, attitudes, and goals. Any issue that
touches on group members’ deeply held convictions must be handled with
respect for differences, aiming less to establish a group position than to share
perceptions and perspectives. Simply understanding each other better will
deepen what you’re trying to do together.
Take the question of nonviolence itself. A commitment to nonviolence can
be a unifying factor for a group, but is not necessarily so; there are often divi-
sions, especially between those prepared to use nonviolence for specific pur-
poses and those who hold it as a far-reaching philosophy. We suggest that some
issues might be dealt with by a collective declaration of principles (see
‘Principles of Nonviolent Action’, p31, and ‘Nonviolence Guidelines’, p32), but
even a group that expresses a commitment to nonviolent action will have dif-
ferent preconceptions about other aspects, both positive and negative of non-
violence. A good discussion around the issues might be stimulating, even inspir-
ing, but a not-so-good one can exacerbate tensions and frustration.
A relatively safe way of exploring differences is a ‘barometer’ of values,
also known as a ‘spectrum’ exercise. Someone develops a set of questions to
explore different attitudes, actions, and factors. The questions are posed to
the group, and people move on two axes: one, it is or isn’t nonviolent, and two,
I would or wouldn’t do it myself. This can later develop into ‘I would or would
not want to be part of a group doing this’.
See ‘Spectrum/Barometer’ Exercise, p140.
A question like ‘what is your group trying to achieve’? can have one simple
answer, but each person in the group may have additional goals. Many differ-
ent lines of thought or feeling can lead people to be involved in a group.
Something as simple as a paired introductions exercise can be a good start in
giving people space to explain what brought them.
In general, this Handbook does not much explore the perspective from
which you engage in action, beyond a fairly loose idea of social transformation.
Such perspectives will vary greatly from group to group and in different con-
texts. The point is not to establish uniformity, but to understand and even
appreciate people’s different ways of looking at things. In particular, if your
, For more on contexts, see ‘Sending the Protest Message’, p57, and
‘Coping with the Stress and Strain of Taking a Stand’, p63.
What Do You Want?
As an activist, you need to think about what you want from a group. Do you
want a group that attracts a wide range of people? Do you want a group with
people who share a lot of attitudes and convictions and that will make a strong
statement of those? Is there a way of combining the two? For instance, could
you be part of an affinity group promoting nonviolence in the context of a
Until your group starts to take action, you don’t know how much impact you
could have. Groups usually don’t sense the possibilities they can open until they
actually go public. Just 14 women took part in the first demonstration of Las
Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires; some other powerful movements
began even smaller. Some simple, small actions have had far greater conse-
quences than anyone could imagine. However, you also have to recognise that
plenty of actions have much smaller consequences. A nonviolent action group
needs to be aware of its full repertoire of action, have a strong sense of pur-
pose, and be capable of analysing the context it is working in. This Handbook
therefore includes material about preparing for action, about building up a
campaign and about evaluating what you’ve done.
group is considering something risky, you need to take the time to prepare
properly, understanding the distinct attitudes each of you brings to the action
and your preferences for how to respond to the risk.
How you understand the context in which you act affects your choice of
methods. Commentators sometimes distinguish between ‘conventional’ and
‘unconventional’ forms of action. However, context can change all that. In a
closed society, simply ‘saying the unsayable’ or ‘breaking the silence’ by quite
conventional means can have an enormous, perhaps explosive, perhaps catalyt-
ic, impact. However, in other contexts, ‘non-conventional’ action — such as
civil disobedience or strikes — might have become contained or normalised.
Either because non-participants ignore it as ‘oh, it’s just them doing their thing
again’, or because the participants themselves have gotten stuck in a routinised
form of action. Some social movement theorists (see Doug McAdam, Sidney
Tarrow, and Charles Tilly, Dynamics of Contention, Cambridge University Press,
2001, pp7-9) have suggested that ‘transgressive’ and ‘contained’ action is a
more useful distinction than ‘conventional’/’non-conventional’ action because
it acknowledges the different impact various forms of action can have in differ-
ent contexts. Some of the differences within your group (for instance, in atti-
tudes to illegal activity) might stem from different analyses of the context for
Historical Uses of Nonviolence
ook at the history of your country and you will find episodes of nonviolent
action: demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, or other forms of popular non-
cooperation. The causes will vary — for the rights of workers and peasants,
freedom for slaves, the right to vote for women or people without property, for
racial equality, for gender equality, for freedom from occupation. In short, the
causes encompass a range of forms of injustice and domination. However, not
until the twentieth century — and in particular the campaigns of Mohandas
Gandhi in South Africa and India — did movements discuss nonviolent action as
a conscious strategy for social transformation.
Gandhi was convinced that nonviolence had a particular power, both in its
effect on the people who undertook action and on those at whom the action
was directed. He saw that social solidarity can overcome efforts to dominate,
exploit, or otherwise oppress a population. He also believed that it was not
enough just to oppose an adversary, blaming them for everything, but that peo-
ple must look at their own responsibilities and behaviour. Freedom and justice
are not just to be demanded but to be practised and to be the basis on which
a movement constructs itself. Gandhi wrote streams of articles developing his
ideas about nonviolence. He was not the first to observe that those who rule
depend on the cooperation of those they rule, but he made this central to his
strategies of civil resistance: ‘the first principle of nonviolence’, he once
wrote, ‘is non-cooperation with everything humiliating’. Gandhi was not the
most systematic thinker about nonviolence — he preferred to talk about his
experience as ‘experiments with Truth’ — but he insisted on certain fundamen-
tals. One was the need for campaigns to maintain a nonviolent discipline.
Another was the central importance of constructive activity addressing prob-
lems among the population (for more, see ‘Constructive Programme’, p40). For
Gandhi in the context of colonised India, this constructive programme expand-
ed to include reducing inter-religious hostility, tackling discrimination along
gender or caste lines, countering illiteracy and ignorance on sanitation, and
promoting self-sufficiency in food and clothing production.
Most participants in the campaigns Gandhi initiated shared only some of his
principles; they were prepared to use nonviolence to free India from British
colonialism, but few had Gandhi’s utter commitment to nonviolence as a way
of life. Indeed, most conventional political leaders gave only symbolic impor-
tance to the constructive programme. This pattern has frequently been repeat-
ed: nonviolent action has been effective when used by broad movements where
most participants accept nonviolence in practical terms as the appropriate
strategy for their situation but only a minority express a philosophical commit-
ment. The example of the Indian independence struggle had a huge influence
on subsequent movements against colonialism, especially in Africa; people in a
wide range of contexts began to study what makes nonviolence effective and
how it can be used even more successfully. Sixty years after Gandhi’s death,
nonviolent activists are still ‘experimenting with truth’, and a field studying
what makes nonviolence effective has grown.
What Works Where
The style of nonviolence varies a lot according to context. Since the term ‘peo-
ple power’ was coined when the Marcos regime in the Philippines was brought
down in 1986, and especially since the downfall of Miloševic in Serbia in 2000,
some observers have talked of an ‘action template’, meaning popular nonviolent
action overthrowing a corrupt and authoritarian regime that was attempting to
win elections by fraud. Of course, there are similarities between the downfall of
Miloševic and ‘people power’ episodes elsewhere. Indeed, some of the Serbs who
used nonviolence so creatively against Miloševic have now become involved in
training other movements. However, in each situation, the movements have to
do their own analysis of what is appropriate and what will work.
Many people are sceptical about the power of nonviolence against
entrenched and brutal regimes. In such situations any resistance is likely to be
difficult. Nonviolence does not offer a ‘quick fix’ in these situations — and nei-
ther does armed struggle. Some idealistic movements have turned to armed
struggle only to find themselves increasingly separated from the population,
depending on extortion and kidnapping to maintain themselves, and in short,
degenerating into armed bands. Nonviolence aims to work differently. By
expanding the social spaces that a movement can occupy, and by giving voice
to what the regime requires should not be said, processes of fundamental
change can be set in motion. Nonviolent action in the face of torture, ‘disap-
pearances’, and death squads in various parts of Latin America in the 1970s and
1980s aimed to rebuild a social solidarity that could overcome fear.
In the former Soviet bloc, many were cautious about resistance, not wishing
to provoke repression or Soviet military intervention. In 1970, four strikers in
Gdansk, Poland, were shot dead; so when Solidarnosc was formed in 1980,
Gdansk strikers avoided street confrontations, locking themselves inside their
shipyard instead. They aspired to a different society, but now limited their
demands to an essential first step: the recognition of free trade unions. It was
a limited objective behind which all Polish workers could unite. Polish intellec-
tuals described this as ‘the self-limiting revolution’. Despite such caution,
Solidarnosc’s mobilising power scared the regime into imposing martial law and
imprisoning many activists. But within a few years, the time came to go beyond
these self-imposed limits, to make other demands, and to risk more provocative
forms of nonviolent action, not just in Poland but throughout the Soviet bloc.
Most readers of this Handbook live in societies that have more ‘freedom of
speech’ than under Soviet Communism or Latin American military dictatorships,
but where activists complain of social ‘apathy’ that occurs as the public is bom-
barded with images trying to get us to buy more. Violence in our societies is
most likely to be hidden away or accepted as ‘the status quo’, the way things
are; it includes the many forms of state violence right up to weapons of mass
destruction, the violence of social deprivation and environmental devastation,
and the violence of remote puppetmasters pulling strings across the globe.
In these situations, social movements have a wide choice of actions, and bound-
aries that are continually changing — actions that broke new ground yesterday
have become merely routine today. Even the disruptive has become contained.
The Role of Pacifists
We in the WRI embrace nonviolence as a matter of principle. We recognise that
this commitment makes us a minority and requires us to work with people who
do not necessarily share our pacifist principles. We want to look beyond rheto-
ric or short-term shock tactics to develop forms of active nonviolence that chal-
lenge systems of oppression and seek to construct alternatives. This means
defining goals that make sense to a spectrum of people broader than just paci-
fists or antimilitarists as well as using methods and forms of organisation that
are attractive to people who do not necessarily have a pacifist philosophy.
Because pacifists refuse to resort to violence to achieve our goals, we need
to invest our creative energy in trying to develop nonviolent alternatives.
Historically, pacifists have played a vital, innovative role in social movements,
developing nonviolent methods of action both at the level of tactics and in
forms of organising. For instance, the first U.S. ‘freedom rides’ against racial
segregation in the 1940s were a pacifist initiative, as was the British nonviolent
direct action against weapons in the 1950s. The creative use of nonviolence of
these groups opened spaces for a much more widespread use of nonviolence by
the mass movements that followed. Later came the introduction of nonviolence
training, initially preparing people for the kind of violence that they might
meet in nonviolent protests. Subsequently nonviolence training has played an
essential role in promoting more participatory forms of movement organisation.
Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. became such towering figures within their
own movements that some people have the impression that successful nonvio-
lence depends on ‘charismatic’ leadership. For us in WRI, however, nonviolent
action is a source of social empowerment that strengthens the capacities of all
participants without depending on superhuman leaders. Therefore we have
advocated more participatory forms of decision-making, promoted adopting
forms of organisation based on affinity groups (see p71), and expanded nonvi-
olence training (see p27) to include tools for participatory strategy assessment
Sometimes, it seems that nonviolence just happens, that thousands of people
converge to do something. But usually this takes organisation, especially if the
action is not simply reacting to some event publicised in all the mass media but
a step in a campaign, an effort to set an agenda for social change. The image
from outside might be of a more of less unified set of people. However, closer
in, you see that the movement consists of various networks that each reach out
through particular constituencies, of distinct organisations with their own
themes and emphases, of several inter-connected campaigns taking up aspects
of an issue. Nonviolent attitudes, methods of organisation, and forms of action
strengthen the ability of these diverse elements to act in concert and to win
n 1942, radical pacifists formed the Nonviolent Action Committee of the
Fellowship of Reconciliation, which trained teams to provide leadership in
antiracist and antimilitarist work. Out of that grew the Congress of Racial
Equality (CORE), which in 1945 became the first organisation to develop nonvi-
olence trainings in preparation for involvement in the civil rights movement.
For 10 years, beginning in 1947, CORE ran month-long training workshops in
Washington, DC. Participants learned theories and skills in nonviolence and
organising, with the goal of ending segregation in the capital area.
Early in the civil rights movement, the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference based its preparation for nonviolent action campaigns (such as the
1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott) on African-American religious traditions. At mass
meetings held in local churches, Martin Luther King Jr. and others lectured on non-
violence. Singing and prayer strengthened community spirit and the nonviolent
discipline. As civil disobedience became a crucial part of the civil rights move-
ment, training included role plays and signing a pledge to remain nonviolent.
It took extensive trainings to prepare civil rights workers for the violence
they would encounter in the South. Participants in the Mississippi Freedom
Summer of 1964 began with a two-week training. The Poor People’s Campaign
of 1968 held training programs for marchers, marshals, and support people.
, Excerpted from Decades of Nonviolence Training: Practicing Nonviolence
by Joanne Sheehan from the Nonviolent Activist, July-August 1998.
WHITE SOUTHERNERS POUR SUGAR, KETCHUP, AND MUSTARD OVER THE HEADS OF CIVIL RIGHTS
DEMONSTRATORS DURING A LUNCH COUNTER SIT-IN IN JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, USA, JUNE 12, 1963.
PHOTO: WIDE WORLD
Case Study: Nonviolence Training During the U.S.
Civil Rights Movements
Case Study: Otpor: People’s Power in Serbia
OTPOR DRUMMERS LIVEN UP A DEMO IN BELGARDE, SERBIA
ithin two years of its founding in 1998, the Serbian youth group Otpor
(Resist) played a central role in bringing down Slobodan Miloševic. Initially
their campaign aimed to change attitudes towards resisting Miloševic, for
instance by using nonviolent ‘guerilla’ tactics of communication (graffiti, street
theatre, etc.), often using humour to attract interest and to reduce fear.
Increasingly, they put pressure on the divided democratic opposition and found
points of unity to counter Miloševic and to undermine ‘the pillars of his power’.
Nonviolence training workshops played an important role in spreading an
understanding of how they could weaken the regime. When Miloševic did try to
steal the elections, they were in a position to expose him and ultimately to stop
him. When crowds surrounded the parliament building, the police were unwill-
ing to disperse them. The most famous image is of a bulldozer driving into the
parliament; by that time, the police made no effort to prevent this. The next
day Miloševic resigned.
Otpor had played a vital role in achieving a necessary step in democratising
Serbia — removing Miloševic — but subsequent progress towards democracy has
I Bringing Down a Dictator, DVD, 60 minutes, a production of York
Zimmerman Inc., Washington, D.C., USA
I Albert Cevallos, Whither the Bulldozer?: Nonviolent Revolution and the
Transition to Democracy in Serbia (US Institute of Peace special report No 72
— downloadable from http://www.usip.org)
I The Website for the Centre for Applied NonViolent Action. Strategies includes
articles by Otpor activists and others on their strategy and tactics:
GENDER AND NONVIOLENCE
“Wars will cease when men refuse to fight — and women refuse to
~ Jesse Wallace Hughan, founder of War Resisters League
t may seem simple and obvious that we want both men and women involved
in our struggles against war and injustice. However, if we want to fully utilise
people’s talents, energy, and insights, we need to apply gender awareness to
how we organise ourselves, how we design our campaigns, and how we conduct
our trainings for action.
Why? Because gender, our societies’ definitions of male and female roles, of
masculinity and femininity, influences all of us. And the social traditions that
have constructed masculinity as dominant, aggressive, and controlling and fem-
ininity as weak, submissive, and serving have deeply affected each of us.
Gender awareness helps us to make sure that in our nonviolent actions and
campaigns, we don’t perpetuate the same injustices we are trying to stop.
In antimilitarist campaigns, gender awareness and gender-based analysis
are also valuable tools for creating an effective strategy. Gender is an element
in every conflict. It may not be the cause of a conflict, but different ideas of
masculinity and femininity are at the heart of why and how people fight.
Military systems are built to function on certain ideas and assumptions about
male and female roles. If we want to create nonviolent structures and systems
for resolving conflict, we will need to create new assumptions and expectations
In this section, we include concepts and exercises to help you to incorpo-
rate gender awareness in your trainings and to examine your campaigns and
nonviolent actions through a gender lens.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS: NONVIOLENCE TRAINING AND GENDER, CHIANG MAI, THAILAND.
PHOTO: JOANNE SHEEHAN
What is Gender?
ender is a social construction of ideas that defines the roles, belief systems
and attitudes, images, values, and expectations of men and women. It con-
tributes heavily to power relationships, not only between men and women,
but also within each group; this results in many social problems. Different cultures
have different ideas about gender, about what is suitable for men and women to
do and to be. Gender not only changes from culture to culture, it also may
change over time, or it may change within a culture during a crisis situation.
What is the Difference Between Gender and Sex?
Sex refers to natural biological differences between men and women. While
many of these differences are clear and fixed, even some biological differences
exist across a spectrum. Gender, however, is very much constructed by the cul-
tural ideals, belief systems, images, and expectations about masculinity and
femininity in a given society.
How is Gender Related to Power and Justice?
In many cultures, men’s experiences and perspectives are seen as the norm.
Heterosexual masculine behaviour, however that may be defined, is taken as
the standard. The exercise of power, especially in public, is seen as masculine.
In most cultures, men are assumed to be the leaders of family, community, and
society while women are assumed to be followers and supporters. Such assump-
tions can mean that women and girls have little say in decisions that affect
their lives. It can also mean that men who do not follow traditional roles face
public criticism. However, because gender is a socially constructed idea, it is
possible to challenge and change oppressive notions about male and female
roles. This is what we call gender justice.
We are affected by social constructs about gender from the moment we are
born. Masculinity is injected into boys’ mentality in many ways. There are
social pressures on them to deny their feelings, to act strong physically, and to
prove their worth by dominating or competing with others. Control or power
over others and violence may be seen as signs of masculinity. Such socialisation
undermines the human dignity of everyone. Men and boys are often brutalised
to prepare them for military service. War itself is gender violence against men,
as men and boys are forced to kill.
Girls are often socialised to deny their intellects, to be good listeners, to be
proper and obedient, and to prove their worth by placing the needs of others first.
Passivity and silently accepting injustice may be seen as signs of femininity. Such
socialisation undermines human dignity and fosters victimisation. Protection of
women and girls is used in propaganda to incite or justify war. War itself is gender
violence against women, as sexual violence is used as a weapon of war.
Why Should Peace Movements Deal with Gender Violence?
A gender perspective gives important insights into the work for peace and jus-
tice. Ideas about masculinity and femininity lie at the roots of violence and are
used to support armed conflicts. The level of violence against women and girls
in peacetime is an important indicator about how just and peaceful a society
really is. Peace and justice organisations that want to end the violence of war
will be more effective if they understand the full spectrum of violence in their
society and challenge it.
Survivors of gender violence during war know that reconciliation is impossi-
ble without gender justice. The silence around sexual violence against men and
boys during war must also be broken. Peace movements cannot ignore issues
related to gender and war, such as the increased militarisation of women, the
skills and leadership that women and girls could bring to peace-building, and
how gender expectations encourage men to fight.
Why is a Gender Perspective Important in Our Work?
People who work for social change often assume that we are free from inter-
nalised assumptions about gender and thus do not need to learn and change
ourselves. Creating awareness and changing ourselves and the dynamics within
How Does Gender Affect Each of Us?
our organisations on gender issues is an important personal and organisational
transformation that in itself acts to dismantle structural violence in the society.
It is difficult to work on gender issues because it is about everyone of us,
and we cannot avoid it. Because we are directly affected, we often face fear
when the issue is raised. We don’t know how to deal with it or don’t want to,
and we are afraid of more conflict and division. Often it is easier to say that
this is not our priority. To encourage ourselves, we can look for examples where
other groups and movements have begun to raise these questions.
An Example of Linking Peace and Gender Issues:
New Profile in Israel
ow does a peace group interweave gender awareness into its peace work?
This can be done through its organisational identity and structures, its
training and orientation of members, and its development of program
New Profile, the Israeli peace organisation, describes itself as ‘a group of
feminist women and men who are convinced that we need not live in a soldiers’
state’. Such a clear identification publicises the connections between gender
and peace from the very beginning, for anyone who comes in contact with the
organisation. New Profile breaks traditional organisational patterns by rotating
leadership roles and all paid functions and tries to avoid having a hierarchy of
activities. The group’s many training and educational programs for new mem-
bers and the public — workshops, seminars, youth groups, and conferences —
always include an analysis of how gender and militarism are connected in Israeli
culture and society. It also conductS whole-day study circles that look more
deeply at the connections. One such study day in 2007, for example, used pho-
tographs of female soldiers from the army’s archives to look at the the military
recruitment of women in Israel and the general militarisation of the whole soci-
ety. With such opportunities for study and discussion, New Profile members
bring a deeper gender awareness to their problem analysis of militarism and
their strategic action planning. New Profile’s Small Arms and Light Weapons
project not only looked into the problems and structure of the Israeli arms
trade, but also investigated how small arms affected individual’s lives and how
New Profile could help redefine the term ‘security’ in Israeli culture.
I Adapted from materials created by the International Fellowship of
Reconciliation’s Women Peacemakers Program
(http://www.ifor.org/WPP/index.html) and expanded in the training manual
of the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice
I For more on New Profile, see article on p101.
TASKS AND TOOLS
FOR ORGANISING AND
lanning and facilitating nonviolence training requires a range of tasks that
a number of people should share. First, campaign organisers need to be
aware of when and what training is needed. Does the group need training
in strategic campaign development or gender sensitivity? Is training needed to
prepare a new group of people to participate in nonviolent actions or for an
experienced group to achieve new skills? Do affinity groups need training in
Once a decision is made to have a training, trainers are needed. As stated
in ‘Nonviolence Training’ (p13), if trainers are not available, create a team of
co-facilitators to do the training. This section has check-lists to help organise,
plan, and facilitate trainings.
Organisers and trainers need to talk together before working on their own
tasks. A lack of clarity and assumptions made by trainers or organisers can
result in an ineffective training. A training can be an important opportunity to
test plans, to find weaknesses in the group, or to bring more people into the
process. A trainer must be open to those goals.
If the trainers are part of the group, they need to be clear about their role
as trainers. While they understand the context, the group, the campaign, the
action scenario, etc. better than an outside facilitator, trainers deeply involved
in the work can have difficulty stepping into a different role; clarifying roles
should help in that process.
, The ‘Nonviolent Campaigns’ (p31) and ‘Organising for Effective
Nonviolent Actions’ (p57) sections include information that can help
trainers and organisers understand what they need to do and what
they may need to train for.
WOMEN ACTIVISTS AND TRAINERS PARTICPATE IN GENDER-SPECIFIC NONVIOLENCE AND EMPOWERMENT
TRAINING, HELD OUTSIDE THE UK’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS FACTORY – AWE ALDERMASTON, UK.
PHOTO: JUDITH BARON
Check-List for Organising a Training
1) Make sure that the space where the training will occur has enough room for
people to do role plays and exercises, to sit in a circle, and that it is
accessible to those coming.
2) Make sure there is a wall board or paper to write on.
3) Food and beverages are important; make sure someone is responsible for it
or that participants are asked to bring something to share.
4) Outreach should include a clear description of the training and the need for
full participation, its length, etc.
1) Several of the organisers and all the trainers should meet well in advance to
plan the training. Depending on the situation, the organisers may need to go
back to the group for further decision-making. The trainers’ questions may
help the organisers understand what more they need to do to prepare the
group for the training.
2) Discuss how much time is needed to accomplish the goals of the training. Can
it be done in one day (how many hours) or a weekend? Can the training be
done in steps, following the process of campaign development? Do you need
a series of trainings to plan a campaign? Some groups take a holiday week to
plan and prepare for a campaign. If people are travelling to an action, how
can you plan for training?
3) Trainers need information about the participants: are they people coming
together just for this action or do they meet regularly? What level of
experience do they have? Have they done trainings before? Have they done
nonviolent actions and what kinds?
4) Discuss the group’s approach to nonviolence and training. Does it have
nonviolence guidelines? (See p32.)
5) Ask the campaign organisers to present specific information at the training
(e.g., scenario plans, campaign background). Be clear how much time they
have for this task.
6) Identify what handouts are needed; use maps and pictures if appropriate.
7) Be clear who is responsible for bringing supplies (markers, paper, tape,
photocopies of handouts, copies of the handbook, equipment for films, etc.)
and arrangements for food or other physical needs.
Check-List for Facilitating a Training
1) Facilitators should realise that it may take as long to prepare for as to
actually present/facilitate the training. It is important that co-facilitators
work together to build the agenda and are clear who is responsible for what
and how they will work together.
2) Be realistic about the amount of time allotted for each section. Don’t give
in to the pressure to do the training quickly if it can’t be done.
3) Start the training with introductions. Break the ice with introductory
exercises. If the group members know each other well, ask a question so
people learn something new about each other.
4) If trainers don’t have enough information about people’s experiences, use
non-competitive ways to ask. Set a tone, explaining that the trainers need
the information but that it is not an exercise in identifying who is ‘better’.
5) Early in the training, have exercises that will encourage participation, such
as a simple hassle line (see p120).
6) Balance activity in pairs or trios with activity in larger groups.
7) Mix discussion with moving exercises; provide regular breaks.
8) Keep track of time, and mark possible cuts if you get behind schedule. But
don’t cut the last items as they may be some of the most important, such as
the scenario role play.
9) Always leave time for evaluation, and use different forms of evaluation.
Write on wall charts ‘what went well’ (+) and ‘what could have been better’
(>). Ask a series of questions to solicit comments; use a go around or a
brainstorm method. Written evaluation forms are very helpful for long
CAMPAIGN DEVELOPMENT TRAINING, TIBLISI, GEORGIA.
PHOTO: ANDREAS SPECK
What Makes a Campaign Nonviolent
The following list identifies specific principles particular to nonviolence.
While some of these may be found in campaigns that do not identify as being
nonviolent, the combination of these principles makes a campaign nonviolent.
Principles of Nonviolent Action
These Principles were developed through a collaborative process, involving
nonviolence trainers in the United States and the editorial committee of this
Handbook. We encourage you to use this, or another set of principles, to stim-
ulate discussion within your group. Use the ‘Spectrum/Barometer’ Exercise
(p140) to help your group understand where members stand in relation to non-
violence principles. If there are large differences, you will need to discuss how
hether or not it includes a clear commitment to nonviolence, most of
the basic steps in campaigns are the same: research and collect infor-
mation, educate and train, develop a strategy. What, then, is unique
about a ‘nonviolent campaign’? It’s certainly more than simply not being
Many organisations and campaigns committed to nonviolence have
statements of their nonviolent principles that explain their perspectives. WRI’s
Statement of Principles describes what we mean when we say we embrace non-
‘Nonviolence can combine active resistance, including civil disobedience,
with dialogue; it can combine non-cooperation-withdrawal of support from a
system of oppression-with constructive work to build alternatives. As a way of
engaging in conflict, sometimes nonviolence attempts to bring reconciliation
with it: strengthening the social fabric, empowering those at the bottom of
society, and including people from different sides in seeking a solution.
Even when such aims cannot immediately be achieved, our nonviolence
holds us firm in our determination not to destroy other people’.
that will affect your nonviolent campaign. The use of Nonviolent Guidelines
may be the best way to define your agreements as a group (at least for the pur-
poses of your campaign).
I We acknowledge the value of each person. This is fundamental: recognising
the dignity and humanity of oneself and others. We refuse to mistreat our
opponent as an enemy.
I We recognise that we all have part of the truth; no one has all of it. No
one is all ‘right’ or all ‘wrong’. Our campaign information gathering, educa-
tions, and actions should reflect this.
I Our actions emphasise openness to promote communication and democratic
processes. We work for processes that express ‘power with’ not ‘power
over’ others. Empowering all involved in a campaign is important. We promote
democratic structures (internally and externally) to maximise self-
I Our means (behaviours and actions) are consistent with our ends (of affirming
life, opposing oppression and seeking justice, valuing every person). Our
strategy must be based on this principle, we cannot justify a ‘victory’
obtained through violent or deceitful methods.
I We are willing to undergo suffering rather than inflict it. Refusing to inflict
suffering is based on the value of each person and is a strategy that draws
attention to our commitment and our cause. We will not violently fight
back if attacked. We recognise jail may be a consequence of our actions;
filling the jails may be a strategy.
I We commit to prepare ourselves for nonviolent action according to the
guidelines agreed. If necessary, we will attempt to arrange orientation sessions
or workshops in nonviolence to better understand and practice this
, Find Martin Luther King, Jr’s principles of nonviolence at:
Going back to the Code of Discipline laid down by Gandhi in the 1930′s, many
campaigns have developed ‘nonviolence guidelines’ to which all participants
are asked to agree. ‘Nonviolence guidelines’ are not the same as nonviolent
principles. They are agreements on how participants in an action will behave.
They may be stated in very practical terms (‘We will not carry any weapons’)
or may be in more philosophical terms (‘We will gather together in a manner
that reflects the world we choose to create’).
Agreeing on what we mean by ‘nonviolence’ or why we choose nonviolence
should not be assumed. Even in a small and apparently homogeneous group,
discussion will bring up different interpretations and varied levels of commit-
ment to nonviolence. Nonviolence guidelines make clear what is expected and
set a nonviolent spirit for the action. In the midst of an action, it is easy for a
crowd’s tone to move in the direction of verbal abuse and even violence.
Government infiltrators may attempt to discredit a group by urging people to act
violently. Nonviolent agreements, and nonviolence training, can make it possible
for a large number of people to participate in a campaign nonviolently, even if
they have little experience in this area. No matter how committed the organ-
isers are to the principles of nonviolent action and how well the campaign strat-
egy is organised, it is crucial that the participants in demonstrations and civil
disobedience actions to reflect the principles of nonviolence for it to be an
effective nonviolent campaign.
Examples of nonviolence guidelines
I Faslane 365:
I Lakenheath Action Group:
I School of the Americas Watch:
I Principles of the Students’ Union of the University of Prishtina, 1997:
SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS WATCH DEMONSTRATION, FORT BENNING, USA. PHOTO: JOANNE SHEEHAN
Planning Nonviolent Campaigns
emonstrations alone do not end a particular war or correct a deep-rooted
injustice. Faced with the horrors of the world, it’s easy to do the nonvi-
olent equivalent of lashing out — jumping into action or activity without
stepping back or looking ahead. Too often groups go directly from recognising
a problem to picking a tactic. Or we suffer from the ‘paralysis of analysis’,
educating ourselves and others, but never getting to action, and therefore
never reaching our goals. The power of a nonviolent campaign comes in
creatively combining tactics, strategic thinking, and participants’ commitment.
Influencing change on a specific issue usually requires a campaign, that is a
connected series of activities and actions carried out over a period of time to
achieve specific, stated goals. Campaigns are started by a group of people with
a common concern. The participants develop a common understanding and
vision, identify goals, and begin the process of research, education, and train-
ing that strengthens and expands the number of participants who engage in the
activities and action.
A campaign has goals on different levels. First is a specific campaign
demand or stated goal. Most campaigns challenge the policies of people at the
top of some hierarchy. To reach this goal, we need to bring a new factor into
their decision-making—be that persuading them with new information, convinc-
ing those on whose support they depend, or warning them of the resistance
they will face. We do not treat them as enemies, but as adversaries—people
who have to be stopped or moved in order for us to end a specific injustice.
A campaign also has internal goals such as building the capacity of and num-
ber of participants. A nonviolent campaign takes people through processes of
empowerment. This involves personal empowerment (people discovering and
exercising their own power against oppression, exclusion, and violence, and for
participation, peace, and human rights) and builds collective power. Groups
learn how to be organisers and become political strategists in the process.
Campaigns should also communicate something of the vision of what we
want, leading to further campaigns that challenge existing power structures.
Multiple campaigns can move us towards the social empowerment that leads to
the social transformation we are working for. In our training and planning we
need to consider all aspects of this nonviolent social empowerment process:
personal empowerment, community power, people power.
To develop an effective nonviolent strategy we need to develop strategic
Developing effective strategies
Creative campaigns hold the key to exploring the potential of nonviolence. And
when groups are excited about the power and possibilities of a nonviolent
campaign, they are more likely to develop an effective campaign strategy. The
exercises suggested below can help produce that enthusiasm and excitement;
they also offer suggestions on making campaigns effective as well as an
understanding of how change happens.
name and describe the problem or situation
analyse why it exists
create a vision of what the group wants, including clear goals and
develop a strategy to reach those goals.
These steps are explained below.
Name and Describe the problem
For many who face problems in their daily lives, describing and analysing prob-
lems is a natural part of the process of living. But others need to be more inten-
tional about it. These steps are intended to help people move together in a
non-hierarchical, inclusive process to a deeper understanding of effective non-
Naming and describing the problem or situation may seem too simple a first
step for some, but if it is not done collectively, people may have different
assumptions, different descriptions, and therefore different messages and
goals. And we can’t analyse without clarity about what we are analysing. Going
through this process together strengthens the participation of the individuals
while developing collective action.
Exercises: A group can choose either ‘The Tree’ (p126) or ‘The Pillars
of Power’ (p128) exercise to use throughout the strategic thinking and
planning process, depending on which seems more suitable to their
issue and their style.
If you are working for social change in your community, you may want to
undertake a group process to prepare an effective strategy for moving towards
this change. A group process draws on the resources already in the group and
can generate enthusiasm and commitment.
To begin, you may want to have the group share its own knowledge of cam-
paigns, using either the ‘10/10 Strategies’ (p125) exercise or discussing how
change happens by asking participants what effective campaigns they know
about and what made them effective. Create a check-list from the responses.
Case studies (see ‘Campaign Case Study Guide’, p54) are another way of learn-
ing from what has been done in the past. They do not offer blueprints, but show
the determination, resourcefulness, and patience of successful nonviolent cam-
paigns. See the Resources section (Section Eleven) for films and books that
describe nonviolent campaigns or use some of the stories told in this Handbook
or in the Weblinks.
If your group has a great amount of knowledge, you have limited time, or
another factor makes this type of historical review not feasible, you can move
right into developing your own process for a successful strategy for change. In
order to develop effective strategies, a useful process is to:
Analyse why the problem exists
To transform a problem situation, we need to understand why it exists and who
potentially supports and opposes it. We need to analyse the power structure to
find entry points for resistance, constructive work, etc. An analysis should con-
sider the following questions:
I Do we understand the context and the root causes of the problem?
I Who benefits and who suffers from it and how?
I Who holds the power, and who has the power to create change? (Who forms
part of the structures underpinning this? Who opposes this?)
I Is there a difference between male and female roles? (See also Section
Three, ‘Gender and Nonviolence’.)
I What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for a campaign
to change this? (SWOT analysis)
I What theories do we bring to this analysis?
I How does our commitment to nonviolent social change affect our analysis?
Exercises: Continue to use either ‘The Tree’ (p126) or ‘The Pillars’
(p128). To look more deeply at those who support and oppose the
structure, use the ‘Spectrum of Allies’ (p130) exercise, which helps us
identify and analyse the players and our allies and opponents and helps
in making strategic decisions regarding who we want to move.
Create a Vision of What We Want
To move forward, a campaign needs a vision of what it wants. Otherwise actions
can simply be reactions, protests easy to disregard. A vision is likely to include
ambitious long-term goals. It is worth asking groups to discuss their vision of big
questions: world peace, economic justice, the society we want. The challenge
then, however, is to identify the first steps in those journeys: the short — and
medium-range goals that lead towards these long-term goals. Campaigns face
dilemmas in setting goals. To get the maximum possible support, a campaign
might choose a short-term goal as a ‘lowest common denominator’ — that is, a
point upon which a wide range of people can agree. However, if this does not
have deeper implications, if it does not suggest further steps for social trans-
formation, then any change that results is likely to be shallow and unsatisfac-
tory. On the other hand, utopian goals that seem unrealistic are not likely to
mobilise people unless there are more attainable intermediate objectives.
When the ultimate goals are revolutionary, campaigns need to identify limited,
but more acceptable, stepping stones.
Questions to consider while developing goals:
I Are the goals realistic; can they be achieved in a certain period of time?
I Will people believe they can achieve this goal?
I Does the goal match the group’s purpose and capacity?
I Are the goals measurable; will we know when we have achieved them?
I Are the goals relevant to people’s lives; will they be moved to participate?
I Will people feel empowered by the ‘victory’?
Exercises: Envision a Healthy Tree — Use the questions in ‘The Tree’
exercise (p126). Can we answer the above questions positively? ‘The
Pillars of Power’ (p128) — What are the short — and medium-range goals
that weaken the pillars? What do we aim to do with the underlying
principles? Can we answer the above questions positively? (For more
information on messages, also see ‘Messaging’ in ‘The Role of Media’,
p49, and ‘Sending the Protest Message’, p57.)
Develop a Strategy
Components of a Campaign
The following questions can help you and your group in the process of developing
a campaign strategy. You and your group need to do this work on an ongoing
basis, not just at the beginning of a campaign. This Handbook includes many
resources to help you through the process.
Is there a common understanding of the problem or situation that exists? Have
we analysed why it exists? Does the analysis include the social, economic, and
political structures? Do we have a common understanding of what it means to
have a nonviolent campaign? Do we have an agreed upon decision-making
Have the organisers discussed and agreed to nonviolent principles? Are there
nonviolence guidelines? Are these clearly stated for all to understand? (See
‘Principles of Nonviolent Action,’ p31, and ‘Nonviolence Guidelines’, p32)
Research and Information Gathering
What do we know, and what do we need to know? Are we searching for the truth
or just trying to ‘prove our side’? Who can gather the information we need? Who
can guide us and provide sources? Research includes finding out how others
think about the issue. Listening Projects Community Surveys
(see http://www.listeningproject.info) are one way to do that. Listening
Once you have described and analysed the problem, a vision of what you want,
and goals to move you towards that, you need to develop a strategy — a plan
— to get there. Strategy development is not done in one meeting or by one
person. It is a process of decision-making, organising, mobilising, and
developing creative strategies.
What follows are the basic components of a nonviolent campaign. The
‘Stories and Strategies’ (Section Eight) describe how many of these components
were used in campaigns.
Projects help activists look more deeply at an issue, gathering information on
which to base future strategy while developing a connection between those
being interviewed and those listening. Listening projects have been done in
Cambodia, Croatia, Cambodia, South Africa, and the United States.
Is the information understandable for the people we are trying to reach? A role
of nonviolent activists is to put the research in a form that can be widely used
in a campaign, or facilitate people through that process. Are we using popular
education and conscientisation processes? Have we developed good education-
al materials, considering the different constituencies and allies we want to
reach? What other educational processes can we use (e.g., street theatre)? How
are we using the media to raise awareness?
Do we need training to learn the skills to develop strategy and organise (e.g.,
group process, strategic planning, media work)? Are we providing training to
prepare people for nonviolent action? Is training available to everyone? Do our
trainings address issues of oppression and how we deal with them both in a soci-
etal context and within our groups and relationships? (See Section Four, as well
as the ‘Speak Out’, p122, and ‘A Gender Dialogue for Peacebuilders’, p124,
Who are our allies; who might become allies or supporters if we communicate
with them more? How do we reach out and build cooperative relationships with
groups with whom we want to work in coalition? (Use the ‘Spectrum of Allies’,
p130, Exercise to identify potential allies.)
Have we clearly identified who we need to negotiate with? How will we com-
municate with them? Are we clear what we want? Are we clear that our aims
are not to humiliate our opponent but to work for a peaceful solution?
Constructive Work/Alternative Institutions
Gandhi saw constructive programmes (see ‘Constructive Programme’, p40) as
the beginning of building a new society, even in the shell of the old. A key ele-
ment of social change, it is designed to meet the needs of a population (e.g.,
economic equality, communal unity, developing local industries) and to devel-
op community. Constructive work is often missing in campaigns in the West and
emphasised in the East. While we say ‘no’ to an injustice, how do we say ‘yes’?
How do we begin building the vision of what we are working towards?
Alternative institutions may be temporary creations, such as setting up
alternative transportation while boycotting a segregated/apartheid bus system.
Legislative and Electoral Action
Is legislative or electoral action part of the campaign, either as an education-
al tactic or a goal? How will we put pressure on politicians? How do we exer-
cise our power? How will people participate in that action? What are our plans
if our goals are not met?
How can we best demonstrate our concerns? Have we considered the many
methods of nonviolent action? (See ‘Forms of Action’, p46.) Are we clear about
the objectives of the demonstration and how they will help us reach our goals?
How will we involve the public? Will our actions make sense to the local
Nonviolent Direct Action/Civil Disobedience/Civil Resistance
In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, ‘You may
well ask, “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn’t negotiation a
better path?” You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is
the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a
crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly
refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatise the
issue that it can no longer be ignored.’
Exercise: write this quote on a wall chart. Ask the group to identify the
crisis, the creative tension, the community, and how they can
dramatise the issue in their campaign. See also ‘Stages of Escalation’,
‘As a way of engaging in conflict, sometimes nonviolence attempts to bring rec-
onciliation with it: strengthening the social fabric, empowering those at the
bottom of society, and including people from different sides in seeking a solu-
tion’. (WRI Statement of Principles) Have we been working for a win-win,
rather than a win-lose situation? Is the reconciliation public or private? (In some
successful nonviolent campaigns in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement white busi-
nessmen asked that restaurant integration be done without a public statement
to avoid a negative reaction, while in other cases a public event demonstrated
the desegregation of a system.)
Have we done all we can to build support for our action? Will it encourage more
community involvement or will it be counter-productive? How will it advance
our cause rather than be an end in itself? Are our objectives clear? Will it put
the kind of pressure on our adversaries that will influence them to move? Who
will it pressure?
When we reach our goals, let’s take time to recognise what we have done and
celebrate our achievements. Sometimes we reach beyond our goals, or accom-
plish other goals, and don’t take the time to understand that. Collective eval-
uation is vital; by documenting our successes and failures and sharing with oth-
ers we have sources to learn from when we take steps towards our next goal.
If key activists are tired or burnt out, they may not see what is being achieved.
Some compulsive types may also not accept that a campaign is stuck and may
need some help to see that the best part of banging your head against a brick
wall is when you stop.
We have a lot to consider when developing strategic nonviolent campaigns. We
need to learn to think strategically, to develop our understanding of the power
of nonviolence, and to go through the steps that can move us effectively to our
goals. This should strengthen and empower our community along the way. It’s
important to evaluate our campaign, not just at the end, but as we go through
it. Unless we do so, we may be making mistakes that we will not recognise until
it is too late. We should listen to everyone involved. Keeping a record of our
meetings, our decisions, and our work becomes the basis of our own case study.
Whether we were successful or not, we can learn from our experiences. And it’s
crucial so we can share our strategies and stories.
, See ‘Action Evaluation’, p90 and ‘Campaign Case Study Guide’, p54.
ccording to Gandhi, nonviolent social change requires building a new soci-
ety in the shell of the old, which he termed constructive programme.
‘Nonviolence for Gandhi was more than just a technique of struggle or a
strategy for resisting military aggression,’ Robert Burrowes explains in his 1995
study, The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach. Rather, ‘it
was intimately related to the wider struggle for social justice, economic self-
reliance, and ecological harmony as well as the quest for self-realization.’ As
Burrowes describes it: ‘For the individual, [constructive programme] meant
increased power-from-within through the development of personal identity,
self-reliance, and fearlessness. For the community, it meant the creation of a
new set of political, social, and economic relations’. In cases where political
revolutions have taken place but the population was not organised to exercise
self-determination, creating a new society has been extremely difficult, and a
new dictatorship usurping power has too often resulted.
Gandhi posited three elements needed for social transformation: personal
transformation, political action, and constructive programme. He saw them as
PHOTO: PAZ CARIBE SINCELEJO
intertwined, all equally necessary to achieve social change. The core elements
that Gandhi saw as necessary for transforming and liberating India involved pro-
grammes to embody equality, liberate education, promote economic self-
reliance, and create a clean environment. Equality meant creating ashrams,
political campaigns, and cooperative enterprises across social divides. They
would cut through communal lines (Hindu/Muslim/Sikh, etc.), gender inequal-
ity, and caste distinctions — especially ‘untouchability’ — and include members
of the ‘hill tribes’ and people suffering from leprosy. Gandhi began education
projects: literacy campaigns to promote basic reading and math skills, political
education, knowledge about health, and nonviolence training for students. His
economic self-reliance campaigns involved, most famously, spinning homemade
cloth, which was done throughout India. A constructive programme that was
often done collectively, it was also a campaign of non-cooperation with Indians’
systematic dependency on the British for cloth. Economic self-reliance also
involved diversifying crops, creating village industries, and developing labour
unions. Environmental efforts involved the whole community in village sanita-
tion, which meant, for Hindus, overtly flouting caste norms.
The process of working on constructive programme has fundamental bene-
fits, the first of which is providing immediate assistance to those in greatest
need. As people come together in community, not individual, action, they build
constituencies for social change. Gandhi saw constructive programme as train-
ing for civil disobedience, which often included non-cooperation. Constructive
work provides opportunities to develop the skills needed to build a new society.
YOUTH BUILDING BOXES FROM SINCELEJO, COLOMBIA.
Examples of Constructive Programmes
ince the year 2000, Sincelejo, a small Caribbean town in Colombia, has
been the second largest city receiving displaced people from the
Colombian conflict. The youth in this town have faced forced recruitment
by the state army, the rebel groups, and the paramilitary. Many of them have
joined these forces because of economic reasons, to support their families. The
conscientious objection group from Sincelejo started creating alternatives
against forced recruitment, first by giving workshops on peace culture, nonvi-
olence, and conscientious objection. Then, as they realised that economics
were a main reason why the youth in Sincelejo were recruited, they started
creating economic alternatives by forming their own small enterprises. The
group now produces cartons and boxes, organic vegetables, margarine, t-shirts,
and bakery goods which bring an income to them and their families. The main
aims of these effort are:
to prevent the recruitment of youth
to form a support network to prevent forced recruitment
to form youngsters in nonviolent methods for resolving conflicts
to come up with economic strategies to support the basic needs of their
Far-sighted as is Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt movement in
Kenya, not even she could see in 1976 where a simple constructive activity such
as tree-planting would lead. She first proposed this to the Kenyan National
Council of Women as an activity to carry out in cooperation with the govern-
ment forestry commission that provided the seeds. Through this, she argued,
women could address some of the economic problems urgently affecting their
lives. She had no idea that the expansion of this network would lead in the
1990s to the Green Belt Movement being in the forefront of national campaigns
against corruption and for multi-party democracy, in which she herself was
beaten and jailed, or that later that she would be a leading spokeswoman in
the world campaign to write off ‘third world’ debt.
The nonviolence movement in the West has not emphasised constructive
programme, but has focused more on protest, yet examples of constructive pro-
grammes in the United States include community land trusts for permanently
affordable housing, worker-owned cooperatives, battered women’s shelters
and rape crisis centres, an amplified interest in alternative public schools,
urban gardens, local food production without pesticides, the viral spread of
free and open-source software and art, and affordable renewable energy.
Constructive programme is more than constructing new things. Many aspects of
Gandhi’s programme focused on moving toward equality. In the United States
that means serious anti-oppression work, as well as dealing with economic
inequalities. While there is poverty in the United States and a growing gap
between the rich and the poor, constructive programmes need to support
reducing materialistic consumption.
Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan (MAP)
I charts: http://www.nonviolence.org.au/downloads/moyer_charts.pdf
, See over for ‘eight stages’ diagram
he Movement Action Plan provides activists with a practical, how-to-do-
it analytic tool for evaluating and organising social movements that are
focused on national and international issues, such as nuclear energy
and weapons, non-intervention in Central America, civil and human rights,
AIDS, democracy and freedom, apartheid, or ecological responsibility.
MAP describes eight stages through which social movements normally
progress over a period of years and decades. For each state, MAP describes the
role of the public, powerholders, and the movement. It provides organizers
with a map of the long road of successful movements, which helps them guide
their movement along the way.
Most social movements are not just in one stage. Movements usually have
many demands for policy changes, and their efforts for each demand are in a
For each of the movement’s major demands or goals, MAP enables activists
to evaluate the movement and identify which stage it is in; identify successes
already achieved; develop effective strategies, tactics, and programmes;
establish short and long-term goals; and avoid common pitfalls.
Social movements do not fit neatly into MAP’s eight stages or move through
them in a linear way. Social movements are more dynamic. Movements have a
number of different demands, and the effort for each demand is in a different
MAP stage. When movements achieve one demand, they focus on achieving
other demands that are at earlier stages.
Finally, MAP is only a theoretical model, built from past experience. Real-
life social movements will neither fit exactly nor move through the stages
linearly, smoothly, or precisely in the manner outlined.
The purpose of MAP is to give activists hope and empowerment, increase
the effectiveness of social movements, and reduce the discouragement that
often contributes to individual burnout, dropout, and the winding down of
Forms of Nonviolent Action
ene Sharp researched and catalogued 198 methods of nonviolent action
which he first published in 1973 in The Politics of Nonviolent Action.
These methods are broken into three broad classifications: Protest and
Persuasion, Non-cooperation, and Nonviolent Intervention. These are further
grouped into sections. The full list is available at http://www.aeinstein.org.
1. Protest and Persuasion
I Demonstrations — Many people express what they want by walking together
in the street, for example, the demonstrations against war on Iraq on the
15th of February 2003. The biggest anti-war demonstration ever, it occurred
in more than 600 cities around the world. In London alone, two million people
I Protest lists — Signing your name to a list to express dissent with a certain
policy, for instance a protest against Swedish weapon exports to United
States and Great Britain during the Iraq war.
I Boycott — To refuse to buy merchandise or a service to show dissatisfaction
with the seller or government, for example, the boycott of South African
products during the apartheid regime. Individuals and organisations first
started to boycott South African merchandise; after a while, entire countries
boycotted South Africa.
I Strike — To refuse to work. For example during the first Intifada, the
Palestinian resistance that started in 1987, most Palestinians refused to work
for Israelis. Israel lost a lot of money without access to cheap Palestinian
labour, and the economy stagnated.
I Political non-cooperation — The refusal to do military service or to perform
an extradition. War Resisters International is one of the organisations that
supports those who want to refuse to do military service.
I Refusal to cooperate — For example during the Second World War,
Norwegian teachers refused to follow the Nazi curriculum for schools. They
were sent to concentration camps because of their disobedience, but most
of them were released when the Nazis understood that they wouldn’t give in.
I Blockades — To place your body in the way of something. For example,
Israelis and international volunteers block Israeli bulldozers that are about to
demolish Palestinian homes.
I Preventive Presence — To protect endangered persons in conflict areas, for
example, peace observers in Mexico, Israel-Palestine, or Colombia.
I Plowshares Actions — To openly disarm weapons and to be willing to take
your sentence, for example, the disarming of Trident nuclear submarines in
Stages of Escalation in a Nonviolent Campaign
hen we develop and carry out a nonviolent campaign for social change,
we need to go beyond publicising and protesting injustices, refusing to
cooperate with oppressors, and intervening nonviolently. We need to
implement constructive programmes as well, in which we actually live the
change that is our goal.
The interrelationship between confrontational action and constructive
action at different stages of a campaign is displayed in the chart ‘Stages of
Escalation of a Nonviolent Campaign’ (see p47). This chart is based upon
Theodor Ebert’s book Nonviolent Rebellion — Alternatives to Civil War. The
early stages of a nonviolent campaign emphasise bringing an issue into the public
sphere. A well-organised campaign will use public protest actions and will also
present possible alternatives (constructive action) to draw attention to the
issues and to encourage change.
If this does not achieve the desired results, the campaign may move to
‘stage 2’. In this stage, the campaign increases public pressure by staging legal
forms of non-cooperation (strikes, consumer boycotts, slow-downs, etc.) as
well as legal innovative activities (fair trade initiatives, alternative economy
structures, nonviolent intervention, etc.). The goal at this stage is to raise the
stakes (societal costs) and minimise the rewards for those committing or ben-
efiting from the injustices. At the same time the campaign will most likely be
continuing its actions from the first stage.
This might be sufficient to reach the desired goals. But if not, the partici-
pants have the possibility of using nonviolent actions that require much more
risk from the activists and which also present a much more powerful statement
to the public. The third stage of escalation would use nonviolent civil disobedi-
ence both as a protest (sit-ins, blockades, strikes, refusal to go to war) but also
as civil usurpation, carrying out actions that exercise authority or implement a
structure without a legal right to do so. Examples of this are providing sanctuary
to prevent the deportation of refugees, nonviolent intervention, reverse
strikes, or building an environmentally sound village on the construction site of
an environmentally destructive factory.
As nonviolent campaigns develop, their strategies will escalate from one
stage to the next, but they will continue to use actions from previous stages.
This does not imply that there is a inflexible linear escalation. However, it is
useful to show the interrelationship of these stages and types of actions. A
campaign may consciously decide to move from one stage to another (up or
down) as it chooses the most effective actions for the situation. Throughout a
campaign it is important to make the effort to engage in dialogue with one’s
opponents, trying to find solutions that include all parties. At certain times, for
example, this dialogue may start more easily if the campaign temporarily
reduces its public pressure. A campaign may also decide that is more effective
to increase its work on constructive action and to hold back on confrontational
actions, or vice versa.
Carrying out a successful campaign requires an ongoing evaluation of the
campaign’s activities and their effectiveness. Your group can use the framework
of this chart to track a campaign’s implementation of constructive as well as
confrontational actions over time to evaluate how they work together to
achieve your goals.
Stages of Escalation of Nonviolent Campaigns
Bring the issue
into the public
that are directed
How it Works
that help to con-
struct a just
order in society)
Presenting alter- Publicising /
natives (teach-in Convincing
Legal actions that Legal non- Legal innovative Raising the stakes
deal with the activities (fair (costs) and min-
cooperation: trade, free imising the
issue schools, alterna- rewards for those
(strike, consumer tive economy, committing
boycott, go slow) ethical invest- injustice
Illegal actions Civil usurpation: Redirecting power
that deal with (sanctuary move-
the issue ment, pirate
, Adapted and translated from German into English by Eric Bachman. This
is a direct translation of the Chart of escalation of nonviolent actions on
page 37 of Gewaltfreier Aufstand — Alternative zum Bürgerkrieg
(Nonviolent Rebellion — Alternatives to Civil War) by Theodor Elbert,
Waldkircher Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 1978, ISBN 3-870885-030-1.
The Role of Media
hy should we use the media in our campaigns? Perhaps this is a strange
way to begin this section of the Handbook, but it is an important ques-
tion for groups to ask themselves before beginning a relationship with
mainstream or alternative media outlets. The media is pervasive in modern
life, especially in the western world, where images and sounds — TV, radio, the
web, billboards — bombard us everywhere we go.
But attempting to use the media for our campaign work is like picking up a
double-edged sword: the media can both support and destroy good campaigns.
It should be approached with caution and also with a good understanding of
what you want out of the relationship. This section can help you identify what
you want from the media and why and suggests some strategies for success in
getting your message out to as wide an audience as possible.
I Gain new members/participants for action or event.
I Apply critical pressure on a specific issue through showing widespread
I Make more visible an issue or way of working that you criticise.
I Send messages to your opponents.
INDYMEDIA PRESS CENTRE IN GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN.
PHOTO: SIMO HELLSTEN
Think about what you want to get out of using the media. Discuss it in your
group and be clear about your aims, which could be to:
Spend time as a group working out your ‘key messages’. Preferably, you will not
have more than three for one action or campaign. Define them as carefully and
concisely as possible. Write them down and make sure everyone in your group
knows what they are and is happy or at least can live with them. Remember:
these are your public messages, so write them in clear and easily digestible lan-
guage that everyone (both in and outside of your group) can understand.
Think about how your target group(s) might receive these key messages.
Can the messages be changed to be more attractive and still stay on focus?
Defining and agreeing upon your messages is useful because it can enable and
empower more people in your group to communicate with the media. It will
make your communications more consistent, reinforce your position, and keep
you focused. Make sure that all your communications with the media include
one or more of these key messages. Role play encounters with journalists to
practice your key messages and how to interact with the media in an effective
way (see ‘Role Play’ Exercise, p134).
Types of Communication
There are many different ways of engaging with the media. Common for all the
different ways presented below is the importance of thinking like a journalist.
Ask yourself: What is newsworthy? What is interesting for others to read? What
is the news? At the same time keep your focus on your key messages!
Note that media in different countries function differently. Find out how it
works in your country and make appropriate changes. Ask a journalist or an
activist with media experience in your country to give you hints about what to
A good press release will get picked up. Try to piggy-back on bigger news sto-
ries if you can relate them to your campaign activity. For example, if a govern-
ment or celebrity makes a statement about your general field, write a short
press release the same day with your group’s response. You can also use this
opportunity to flag an event or action you have planned or a particular cam-
paign strand you have underway (example: a petition you are running). Write
clearly and concisely, give your piece a snappy, topical, and clever headline,
and know how to get it to journalists (maintain an email/fax/phone database).
Always include the date and contact details for a spokesperson or media con-
tact from your group. Target press releases to local and thematical press. For
example: ‘Woman from Oxford arrested in nuclear weapons protest’ to an
Oxford paper or ‘Swedish priest arrested in nuclear weapons protest’ to a
Swedish Church/Christian paper. Your group’s media person should collect
information for the targeted press releases from everyone in the action group:
e.g., name (correct spelling), age, occupation, origin, quote about the action.
If quotes, facts, and background are included in a press release, you have done
much of the journalistic work and media can easily publish it.
Spokesperson/Designated Media Person
Make sure you always have an identifiable contact point for the media. Get that
group member an email address and a mobile phone. Make sure she or he is
always well-briefed and can watch the media for developments in your field so
as to respond adequately to new information. If there is a risk of arrest, the
media person should be non-arrestable in order to be accessible for the media
while others are arrested. Ideally you should have more than one media person.
Building good relationships with individual journalists is possible. Remember, if
they are interested in your issue, you will probably get results if you help by
supplying good quality, accurate information and doing them the odd favour,
such as giving them key information that you have not given to other journal-
ists. After all, most journalists love a scoop. However, be careful too: some
journalists will misquote and misrepresent you (deliberately or otherwise). This
is most likely with tabloid press and more right-wing press, but not exclusively.
Make sure your press releases are sent to national and international press agen-
cies. Sometimes stories not picked up by media outlets you have contacted
directly are picked up later because the story appears on the wires. Call agen-
cies and media after you have sent a press release. Ask if they have received
the press release and if they will do a piece on it. Make sure they know who
you are and how you can be contacted if they want more information later.
One good way to communicate your messages to the general public is to have
one or two people in your group who buy the main newspapers every day and
who then write letters about the content of the papers which relates to their
field. You can get a lot of letters published this way, especially with
local/regional media. Such visibility helps to make your campaign seem bigger,
stronger, and more engaged than it may actually be. Don’t always have the
same people write the letters — after a while the editors will notice!
Your Website is an important tool for communicating your messages; journalists
will visit it for background. Make sure your site is always updated. Consider cre-
ating a separate section — a ‘media centre’ — for your press releases, with high
quality images (which you own and do not mind others using or reprinting) and
succinct background information. Obviously, it should also include direct con-
tact details for your media person (phone, email). A blog (a website written by
individual members or the group) is a new way to spread information about an
action. Don’t write things that you don’t want to media to print, if you want to
use the blog for the media or it is public.
Writing for/Engaging with Alternative Media
Alternative media in its many forms can be your friend in gaining support. But
it is not generally read or viewed by a huge audience. And you will probably
have to do a lot of the writing yourself! Sites in the global indymedia network
can help you communicate about your campaign to a generally sympathetic
audience, but this is unlikely to ‘apply critical pressure’ or ‘mainstream an
unpopular issue/way of working’. It may however, gain you a few new activists
and, in some cases send messages to your opponents (the police and some com-
panies are monitoring bits of the alternative media around the clock). The
alternative media can also provide a space for disparate campaigns to identify
opportunities for working together and to explore ideas about what works and
what doesn’t based on collective experience.
Planning a Media Campaign
So, we have some idea of the practical methods of communicating our
messages, but to get the most out of your effort, invest some time planning a
‘media campaign’. This means figuring out how to communicate both effectively
and strategically and with the consent of the rest of the group. Media cam-
paigns are best suited for short-term projects or by breaking down your
campaign into bite-sized pieces. To get the most from this process, you must
integrate your media campaign into a complete campaign strategy and define
your key messages clearly (see ‘Messaging’, p50).
For example, imagine a group which aims to expose and undermine a
particular arms company. Say the group is planning to work for the next six
months to get some of the company’s suppliers to stop working with them. The
group may be considering writing to those suppliers, lobbying their workers,
blockading their depots, and so on. A good media campaign should be able to
sell the group’s activities as positive — and and the company’s as negative.
First, consider the obvious criticisms of your group’s strategy. For example: ‘the
trade is legal’, ‘you are disrupting ordinary workers’, or ‘your tactics are
threatening’. Before you ever send a single press release, work out responses
to such criticisms. One way to do this is to prepare a basic ‘question and
answer’ sheet for any group members who will be dealing with the media. This
briefing sheet should include your key messages at the top.
If the campaign has key events over the six-month period, plot these out
and work out what information you should send to the media and when.
Consider sending advance notice of events a couple of weeks beforehand and
more detailed/confirmed information three of four days before (or at a time
that meets local media deadlines — for example, in Britain, most weekly news-
papers go to press on Thursday, so send information on Tuesday
night/Wednesday morning). Send information about what happened at the
event on the day itself. Plot these releases out over the six months of the cam-
paign. Likewise, if there are key government or industry events, reports being
released, international bodies meeting, etc., plot these dates and work out
how you can respond to them. Be prepared! Make sure you have a decent num-
ber of high-resolution images that sell your campaign. Take good photos at
events and actions and make them available to journalists on request or for
download from your Website.
Work out which media are likely to be sympathetic to the campaign and its
tactics but also have a big and broad readership. Invest energy in cultivating
your relationship with these. Regional media (press, radio, TV) are often keen
for content and are more likely to publish/broadcast you. Make sure you
include the local/regional media in any communications.
Summary of General Tips
FOOD NOT BOMBS ACTION IN MOSCOW, RUSSIA.
PHOTO: ANDREAS SPECK
Try to build good relationships with journalists; you can help each other. But
remember: journalists can’t always be trusted. Always release to agencies, as
you never know where in the world something will be picked up. Always have a
group member on hand to deal with media enquiries. Keep press releases short
and simple. Be prepared for tough questions. Stay on message. Go for local
angles. Ask other campaigners, share knowledge, read manuals, or attend free
or low-cost training courses.
Campaign Case Study Guide
t is important to document campaigns so people can learn from them. Just
as we have learned from the nonviolent campaigns of people throughout
time and around the world, documenting our own struggles and stories may
help people in other times and places. This guide, created for WRI’s Nonviolent
Social Empowerment case studies, can be used by an individual or group to
determine the information needed to construct a case study of a campaign.
This guide can also be used to remind us of what we need to consider in organ-
ising a campaign.
I Nature of the campaign/movement: What was/is the issue? When did it
I Geographical and (brief) historical context
I Participants: Who (analysis of class, race/ethnic, gender, religious group, age,
sexuality, ability, other) did this change at different phases of the movement?
Were there (have there been) distinct phases?
Were there particular moments of expansion?
What were the peaks?
What were other key events?
Was there a public profile of wanting to avoid violence?
Was this issue raised? Was there any decision how?
Was there a declared public policy of nonviolence?
If so, what was meant by nonviolence?
Was there consensus around this? What kind of diversity was there around
I What measures were taken to implement a policy of nonviolence?
I Was the campaign seen as shifting the values of society more towards
I Were there particular sources of inspiration for types of action or ways of
I What use was made of official channels, lobbying, electoral processes, or
constitutional mechanisms, and with what impact?
I How did you try to use mainstream media?
I What role or influence did it have?
I How did you try to develop or use your own public media or alternative
media? With what impact?
I Did your movement try to establish alternatives? What happened?
I What kind of means did you use to build a movement culture or sense of
connectedness? To what effect?
I Did you use withdrawal of cooperation as a tactic? At what stage? With what
I Did you try to directly disrupt or obstruct an activity you were campaigning
against? At what stage? With what focus? With what participation? With what
I How did you use conventional means of protest? How did you combine them
with other methods?
Goals and Outcomes
What were the campaign/movement’s initial goals?
How has its goals evolved? Why?
Was it an aim to empower participants? In what way?
How were the goals framed, e.g., with what type of slogan?
Did the campaign/movement have the flexibility to revise goals, e.g., to
respond to particular events or to build on success?
How did the campaign/movement expect change from the institution
holding power or those who ‘benefit’ from being dominant (e.g., to be
converted, to accommodate some demands, to be coerced into accepting
demands, to disintegrate/dissolve)?
To what extent were short-, medium-, and long-term goals achieved?
What were side effects(both positive and negative)?
Did the adversary make any mistakes that significantly helped the
I Did the campaign/movement agree on a formal structure?
I What informal structures played an important role?
I Was the campaign/movement concerned with having a participatory
structure of organisation and decision-making?
I How did the campaign/movement link with other groups/movements?
I What importance did it give to coalition-building? With what criteria for
I How did the movement address the needs of activists to learn, to grow, to
rest, to sustain their commitment?
I How did the movement address the possible contradiction between the needs
of security and the desire for participation?
I What kind of repression did the movement expect to face? What provision did
it make to support the people most affected?
I Did the movement have a clear timeframe and concept of strategic
I How did the movement develop its resources (human, social, economic)?
All the previous questions have some link with empowerment, but this concluding
section returns to this theme with more focus. Answers need to encompass the
dimensions of power within, power-with, and power-in-relation to.
I Who was empowered? to be or do what (to join in, to share responsibility, to
take initiative, to maintain their activism)?
I What contributed to this sense of empowerment (e.g., training, group
confidence, achieving strategic goals)?
I How did the experience of different phases of a movement affect the sense
I What about people involved who did not feel empowered? Why didn’t they
(due to external or internal factors)?
I How were strategies of empowerment discussed or constructed on the
personal, group, and social levels?
I Was any participant/group disempowered and how? How did this affect the
ORGANISING FOR EFFECTIVE
Sending the Protest Message — Making an Action
Jørgen Johansen and Brian Martin
Actions need to be designed with the context in mind. What is appropriate in
one situation could be completely counterproductive in another. Laws, media,
police, culture, religion, civil society, and many other factors are very differ-
ent in Burkina Faso, Germany, Nepal, Indonesia, and China.
In India in 1930, Gandhi chose to build a campaign around salt, a potent sym-
bol for Indians because of the British salt laws. What could protesters use as a
hat makes a protest action effective? Organisers have lots of potential
choices: what, when, where, how, and who. Looking at how audiences
are likely to respond to messages can give you guidance.
Heads of government are coming to town. Let’s organise a protest! We’ll
have a massive rally and march. Those who want can blockade the venue. We’ll
make our concerns about inequality, exploitation, and aggression known far and
But wait a second. Will this sort of protest be effective? Is it going to change
people’s viewpoints, mobilise support, and help bring about a better society?
Or, instead, will it enforce prejudices, alienate potential supporters, and suck
energy away from more effective initiatives? And anyway what does it mean to
These questions have no simple answers. Actions have many different
impacts. Many are hard to measure and some are entirely overlooked. Weighing
the pros and cons is difficult: it’s an emotional as well as a rational matter.
DEMONSTRATION IN QUITO, ECUADOR.
PHOTO: ACCIÓN ECOLÓGICA ECUADOR
potent symbol in Swaziland or Sweden today? Actions must be designed with a
deep knowledge of the local conditions. As a general rule, success stories should
never be copied, but they can function as inspirations and as useful cases from
which to learn.
Open-ended hunger strikes are regarded very differently in a Christian cul-
ture than in a Hindu society. For atheists and Christians sacrificing your life
means a lot, whereas a Hindi anticipates thousands more lives to come — an
important difference! In a country where an activist risks torture, lengthy
imprisonment, or the death penalty, civil disobedience is a different matter than
where the likely outcome is a fine or a few weeks in a decent prison. It is wise
for activists to act differently in countries with strict censorship and state-run
media than where free and oppositional media regularly cover demonstrations.
There are two main types of actions: (1) oppose and (2) promote. The first
focuses on what organisers disagree with and the second on the alternative
organisers are offering. Within each of these are many options. In most cases,
it’s much easier to create a positive image when an alternative can be
constructed. To say ‘no’! is common and easy but will often be regarded as
unhelpful or as blocking progress. To present alternatives is more demanding
but often rewarded by being seen as constructive.
Within each of these main categories there is again a choice: direct action
or indirect action. Direct action means activists themselves doing something
about the problem/conflict. It could be to close a city street to change it into
a space for pedestrians. Or it could be to squat in a house and turn it into a cul-
tural centre. When activists in Genetix Snowball destroy genetically modified
plants from fields in Britain, they are not only demanding that these fields
should be made illegal but are removing the plants themselves. These types of
actions are often illegal and risky. The point is that the activists themselves are
making the change directly: they are taking direct action. Indirect actions
involve asking someone else, such as politicians or business executives, to
respond to a demand or deal with an unjust situation. Note that in a dictator-
ship, making requests can be a form of direct action, because it is an exercise
of free speech.
For both direct and indirect actions there is a need to develop more types
of actions. Creativity, fantasy, and experiments are crucial. Just as arms pro-
ducers come up with more sophisticated weapons every year, activists need to
develop new forms of action. Good examples should be tested, documented,
and adapted for use at other times, places, and circumstances.
DIRECT ACTION CAN BE LEGAL OR ILLEGAL (CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE), AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE CAN BE
EITHER SYMBOLIC/INDIRECT OR DIRECT ACTION.
IMAGE: WAR RESISTERS LEAGUE’S ORGANIZER’S MANUAL BY ED HEDEMANN
On many issues there are three main groups: activists, opponents, and third
parties. When a group wants to challenge a repressive government, the
activists are those involved in protests. The opponents are the government and
its agencies, such as the police and the army. The third parties are those not
directly involved in the struggle: the general public and most people in other
countries. People can move from being a third party to being an activist, and
the other way around, as a consequence of actions. One goal is to engage more
people. In most cases the media are carriers of information/propaganda and
messages from the event to wider audiences.
For analysing where people stand, see ‘Spectrum of Allies’ Exercise,
p130; for more on the media, see ‘The Role of the Media’, p49.
Alignment Between Methods/Medium and Audience
As well as looking at who the audiences are, it’s helpful to look at the interac-
tion between activist methods and audiences. Media guru Marshall McLuhan
said ‘The medium is the message’. For example, television encourages a cer-
tain way of viewing the world, irrespective of what’s on the screen. Personal
conversation encourages a different perspective.
In activism, too, the medium — namely the method of action — is the mes-
sage. According to a perspective in psychology called correspondent inference
theory, audiences make assumptions about someone’s motivations according to
the consequences of their actions. When activists threaten or use violence-for
example, bombings, assassinations, or hijackings — many observers believe the
goal of the activists is to destroy society. The method, namely destruction, is
assumed to reflect the goal. For example, after 9/11, many people in the
United States thought al Qaeda’s goal was to destroy U.S. society. This was the
wrong message. Very few U.S. citizens knew that Osama bin Laden’s key goals
concerned U.S. government policies in the Muslim world.
The same thing applies on a much smaller scale. If a worker on a picket-line
spits on a manager, the message is one of contempt and disrespect, which can
distract audiences from the message that the pay is too low or working condi-
tions are unsafe.
Actions are more powerful when the method used — the medium — aligns
with the message. In the U.S. civil rights movement, well-dressed blacks
entered white-only restaurants and sat politely and quietly at lunch counters,
not responding to abuse and police provocation. Their presence and respectful
demeanour sent a powerful message that was aligned with their short-term goal
(equal access to the restaurant), as well as the long-term goal of racial equality.
On the other hand, the abuse by white patrons and aggressive action by police,
directed only at blacks in the restaurant, sent the message that segregation
was a system of racism, exclusion, and aggression. These powerful messages
helped discredit segregation among audiences in the rest of the United States
and the world.
Dealing with Attack
Protesters often come under attack: they may be slandered, harassed, beaten,
arrested, imprisoned, even killed. Their communications may be intercepted,
their offices raided, and their equipment confiscated or destroyed. These
attacks are hurtful and expensive, damaging to morale, and can discourage par-
ticipation. But with the right preparation and tactics, and good luck, some
attacks can be made to backfire on the attackers. It’s not easy and doesn’t hap-
pen often, but it can be very powerful.
Perpetrators and their supporters regularly use five methods to inhibit outrage
from their attacks:
I cover up the attack
I devalue the target
I reinterpret what happened (including lying, minimising effects, and blaming
I use official channels to give an appearance of justice
I intimidate and bribe targets and their supporters.
I Police, in assaulting protesters, often try to do it away from witnesses and
I Police, politicians, and commentators denigrate protesters as being
unprincipled, foul-mouthed, ill-behaved brats, rent-a-crowd (professional
protesters), thugs, scum, criminals, or terrorists.
I They claim that police were doing their duty, that protesters were violent
and disturbing the peace, and indeed that it was the police who came under
I When protesters make formal complaints or go to court, seldom are there
any serious consequences for abusive police. Meanwhile, the whole process
takes so long that most people lose interest while activists are tied up in
technicalities and distracted from activism.
I In many cases protesters don’t speak out for fear of police reprisals; in a
court action they may accept a settlement to resolve the matter, often with
a silencing clause attached.
Each of the five methods can be challenged.
, For more information about how to deal with the psychological conseque-
nces, see ‘Coping with the Stress and Strain of Taking a Stand’, p63.
For example, after police assault protesters, the police and their supporters
may use every one of these five methods.
In deciding on what, when, and how to protest, it’s useful to think of audiences
Actions need to be designed with the context in mind. What is appropriate in
one situation could be completely counterproductive in another.
There are two main types of actions: (1) oppose and (2) promote. The first
focuses on what disagreeing with an action/policy/etc. and the other on an
How do audiences and activist methods interact? Opponents, third parties, and
activists themselves are important audiences.
How do activist methods align with activist goals? If there is close alignment,
the right message will more likely be received.
How will an attack be perceived? It’s vital to be prepared to counter the methods
of cover-up, devaluation, reinterpretation, official channels, intimidation, and
Postscript: documentation, evaluation and dissemination
For actions to become more effective, activists need to learn from past expe-
riences. They need to document and evaluate what they are doing and make
this information available for others. (See ‘Action Evaluation’, p90.) Just as
students at war colleges learn about historical battles from lectures and text-
books, activists must build a similar system for coming generations to learn
from the history of social movements. This requires serious, critical evaluations
of planning, actions, and outcomes. It is just as important to study mistakes as
to celebrate victories. These evaluations must be made available for other
activists, taking into account different languages and contexts. It is a large
task. There are many actions from which to learn!
, This is a shorter version of an article published in Gandhi Marg, Vol. 29,
No. 4, January-March 2008, pp. 503-519. You can access the full article at:
NONVIOLENT ACTION IN SANTIAGO, CHILE
PHOTO: ARCHIVES OF ROBERTA BACIC
Roberta Bacic with thanks to Clem McCartney
eople protest for many reasons, but often it is because we are confronted
with a situation to which we must respond and take a stand. The reality
we face — be that our own or that of others — pushes us to act, react,
challenge, or change what we experience and see. We forget to seriously
consider the possible consequences of any such choice. Positive consequences
are often empowering. Negative consequences can be disempowering. We need
to think about both in advance to prepare for the next steps, but also so we are
not surprised by them and suffer even more stress.
Consequences of Taking a Stand
In taking a stand, we may put ourselves into situations that will push us to our
limits and put ourselves at risk. If this happens, negative experiences will
almost be inevitable; fear will most likely surface as a response. In situations
of insecurity and anguish, those feelings will merge: fear of being arrested, fear
of being denounced, fear of being tortured, fear of being caught in an illegal
meeting, fear of being betrayed, fear of again not achieving our goal, fear of
the unknown (what happens if I am arrested?) and also of the known, be it a
Coping with the Stress and Strain of Taking a
specific threat by phone or being aware of what has happened to others. We
need to know what can be done to avoid those consequences or to cope with
them when they arise. Three main elements can help us to function: confidence
and solidarity with our fellow protesters, good training, and emotional prepa-
ration and debriefing.
Some of the Consequences We Need to Prepare For
1. Dealing with the Consequences of Fear
When we think of traumatic consequences, we immediately think of the phys-
ical consequences, such as being manhandled, arrested, beaten, or having our
human rights violated. This risk is greater in some societies than others; people
protesting in very militaristic and authoritarian states are particularly coura-
geous. But all of us will normally feel at least some anxiety and fear and at
least be aware of the risk of physical pain or discomfort. These fears may
immobilise us. But ignoring them is not good. If we are not prepared, our
natural reactions in the situation may actually lead to greater hurt. For exam-
ple, we may have an urge to run, but if we start running, we lose our discipline;
those opposing us may be tempted to attack at that moment. Being prepared,
rationally, emotionally, and practically, is therefore important. Training in fear
control is very helpful. (See ‘Consequences of Fear’ Exercise, p129.)
2. The Strength of Coming Out in Public
We need to be aware that we are choosing to stand outside conventional opinion.
It is not so difficult to share our feelings in private with those who share our
views, although we may worry about being betrayed. Coming out in public is
more difficult. We are taking a stand not only against the state but also against
common social attitudes. The very reason that we need to protest is to
challenge those conventions, but knowing that does not make it easy. We are
exposing ourselves. We think of Women in Black in Israel who simply stood as a
silent witness to what they could not accept in their society. Now that form of
witness has been used in Serbia, Colombia, and elsewhere. Solidarity with our
colleagues is very important in such situations, as is creating space to air and
deal with our feelings. Even those who appear confident may have worries with
which they need to acknowledge and deal. (A ‘Hassle Line’ Exercise, p119, is
helpful to practice.)
3. Preparing Ourselves to Deal with Distress
Other risks and consequences may be more subtle, but for that very reason can
be more distressing. We may face disrespect and humiliation or be mocked and
goaded by bystanders or state forces. Again Women in Black come to mind; they
were spat at and abused by a hostile public, yet remained silent and non-reac-
tive. This can be emotionally distressing. Role playing (see Exercise, p134) a
situation in advance helps us to prepare emotionally and to understand more
fully the motivations (and fear) of our opponents. Solidarity and confidence in
our fellow protesters is again important and is partly built up by such
rehearsals. Less emotionally distressing, because it is less immediate, is bad
publicity. The press, who may libel us with all kinds of inaccuracies, may chal-
lenge our good faith and motivations. Preparing ourselves for such humiliation
makes it easier to cope with it when it comes.
4. Putting Yourself in the Position of the Other
We may even seek out humiliation as part of the statement we are trying to
make, as when protesters try to put themselves into the situation of people
they are defending. Many groups have done street theatre playing the parts of
prisoners and guards at Guantánamo Bay; unanticipated feelings rose to the
surface, which participants sometimes found difficult to control. For instance,
the ‘prisoners’ may begin to feel violated while the ‘guards’ find themselves
either entering into the experience too enthusiastically or feeling a sense of
revulsion. Either way, participants may feel defiled and polluted. To deal with
such possibilities they need to be prepared for such reactions in themselves and
be debriefed sensitively afterwards. Another example is protests over factory
farming when volunteers use their own bodies to model slabs of meat. The
reaction may be to feel really enthusiastic and liberated by taking a stand or
alternatively troubled at the situation they have put themselves into.
Sometimes we have few problems before and during the protest, but a real
blow comes later if we seem to have had no impact. The huge protests against
the war in Iraq on 15 February 2003 did not stop the war. Our worst fears were
realised. Not surprisingly, many people were disillusioned and disempowered.
Naturally they asked, ‘Was it worth doing’? They may not want to take part in
the future in other actions on this or other issues, feeling it worthless. What
can be done to address this disillusionment? We need opportunities to reflect
together on what has happened and what we can learn from the experience
(See ‘Action Evaluation’, p90.) We need to adjust our expectations. Protests
are important to show our strength, but they alone will not stop a war.
6. Dealing with Success
As well as worrying that a situation may turn out worse than anticipated, we
might have, paradoxically, difficulty coping with what might on the surface
seem positive or successful. Examples are if security forces act more humanely
than we anticipated or authorities engage with us and seem willing to consider
our demands. Such outcomes can have an unsettling effect if we have steeled
ourselves for confrontation. What happens to all the adrenaline that has been
built up in our bodies? What do these developments do to our analysis? Are we
wrong in our analysis? Should we trust the system more? Or are we being duped
by sweet words? Our movement may achieve more solidarity when we are faced
with harsh opposition and may fracture when that does not materialise.
5. Dealing with Disillusionment
Therefore, we need to be ready to know what responses might be most effec-
tive and test out what is possible. Then, when and if it happens, we are more
able to collectively assess the situation and act appropriately.
7. When Levels of Aggression Rise
Many of us have been shocked at the aggression that arises during a nonviolent
protest — and not only from those opposed to the protest. We may find a wave
of aggression rising in ourselves when we are treated roughly by authorities.
Even if we do not react, such a feeling can make us very uncomfortable and
doubtful. Or other protesters may start to riot, and we have to be able to find
an appropriate response. Do we join in, leave, or hold our ground, continuing
the protest nonviolently as planned? Such situations leave little time to think,
so possibilities need to be considered in advance. We need to have our clear
alternatives so that quiet decisions can be made. (See ‘Decision-Making’ and
‘Role Playing’ Exercises p133 and p134.)
In the North, we might protest in states and cultures that claim to be liberal
and democratic. Or we might be in an authoritarian regime. But we should not
assume that protest is easier in liberal democracies, as some such states can be
very harsh in their treatment of protest.
Other factors may determine the potential of protest and its limits. The
society may be closed or open. In a closed society the risks are greater because
dissidents can disappear, and there is little possibility of any accountability. It
may have a functioning judicial system, independent of the government, that
can act as a check on human rights abuses. The culture of a society is also a
significant factor as it may value conformity and respect for authority. Or a
society may feel weak and vulnerable to the pressures of modernity or the
influence of other states; in such situations, any form of protest may be seen
as disloyal and destructive.
While protest is more difficult in some situations than others, all the issues
discussed here may arise in any context, albeit with varying intensity.
, For more on contexts, see also ‘Sending the Protest Message’, p57.
If we prepare for the mixture of emotions and reactions that may result from
our protest, build solidarity with our colleagues, and analyse and debrief
ourselves on the consequences of our actions, then we are better placed to
continue the struggle for a better society, even though we may know that that
will not be achieved in our lifetime, if at all.
However, if we do not prepare well and deal well with the consequences,
we may end up not helping anyone, even ourselves. We may get discouraged
and decide to give up or take up other types of strategies that may be count-
er-productive, such as mainstream politics and the use of force. Or we may get
into a pattern of protesting for its own sake, without any strategic sense. As
such, we may appear superficially to be still engaged in the struggle and others
may admire our persistence, but we have lost a purpose for all the energy we
expend. Our ineffectiveness and purposefulness may discourage others from
engaging. If — as I believe — we have a duty to protest, we also have a duty to
prepare ourselves well: to identify the risks to our physical and emotional well-
being and to take steps to ensure that we can overcome these risks and continue
the struggle in a positive and effective manner, keeping true to our ideals. Last,
but not least, let’s keep trying, have some fun while we do it, and by that, give
peace a chance. We are not the first ones to do it, nor will be the last ones.
Humour and Nonviolent Actions
How to Start?
If humour doesn’t come to you easily, don’t despair — it can be learned. Watch
your opponent: If there is a contradiction between what they say and what they
do, might this be the basis for a good joke? The closer you stick to the truth
about what your opponent is saying and doing, the better the humour will work.
Almost all dictators say that what they are doing is ‘for the good of the peo-
ple’. That kind of statement might be contradicted by their actions.
Using Humour Wisely
I Don’t overdo it — humour should be used with moderation and works best if
complemented with a serious message.
I Choose the object of your humour carefully!
e usually use nonviolent action about serious problems. Thinking about
an action in humorous terms may therefore seem a strange way to deal
with an issue and not your first choice. However, humour and serious-
ness may be much more closely related than at first they appear. Almost all
good humour thrives on contradictions and absurdity; nonviolent action often
tries to point out the contradiction between the world as it is and the world as
we want it to be. Humour is powerful because it turns the world as we know it
upside down and escapes the logic and reasoning that is an inevitable part of
the rest of our lives.
CLOWNING AROUND DURING FREEDOM TO PROTEST DEMONSTRATION, LONDON, UK.
If you are making a political action, you want a political message, and you
want to stick to the point. How people look, their ways of speaking, or their
sexuality are not good subjects. Making jokes about such things is usually not
the way to reach out to other people and also takes attention away from the
political point you want to make. At the end of this section are two examples
of actions that stick to the political points and don’t get sidetracked.
Why Use Humour?
Using humour in your actions can be useful in a number of ways. First, it should
be fun for those who participate in the action. Humour has a potential to
prevent and counter activist burnout, although it is not a magic solution.
Using humour is also a way to increase the chance of getting attention from
media, potential supporters, and bystanders. Journalists who know that they
will get good images and a lively story are more likely to show up when you
announce that something is going to happen.
If you are part of a small movement that wants to expand, humour will show
potential members that although you work on a serious issue, you are still capable
of enjoying life.
The Power of Humour
Examples of Humorous Actions
Two examples can illustrate some of the points above. We don’t recommend
that you copy them directly, as your context is likely to be very different. But
they can show how powerful humour can be:
In Norway in 1983, a small group of total objectors organised in the group
‘Campaign against Conscription’, (KMV in Norwegian) refused both military and
alternative service. They wanted to create public debate and change the law
that gave them 16 months in prison. The state refused to call it ‘prison’ and
instead said the objectors would ‘serve their service in an institution under the
administration of the prison authorities’. To avoid having political prisoners,
Humour is a powerful way to relate to your opponent, as the ‘absurdity’ of your
actions will change both the relationship and the logic of rational argumenta-
tion. Both the police and the opponent may have difficulty responding to good,
humorous actions. They can provide a perfect opportunity for creating a
‘dilemma action’, meaning that no matter what your opponents do, they have
lost and are likely to appear weaker in the eyes of both bystanders and the
people on ‘their’ side. But be prepared for harsh reactions if you humiliate
anybody. When you make it difficult for your opponents to find an ‘appropri-
ate’ reaction (adequate from their point of view), frustration might cause a
there were officially no trials, no prisoners, and no punishment. The cases of
the total objectors went through the courts only to identify the objector, and
the result was always the same: 16 months in prison. Sometimes the prosecu-
tor never showed up because the result was clear anyway. KMV exploited this
in one of their actions:
One of the activists dressed up as the prosecutor and overplayed his role,
demanding that the total objector get an even longer prison term because of
his profession (he was a lawyer). During the procedure in the court, nobody
noticed anything wrong in spite of the ‘prosecutor’s’ exaggerations. One week
later KMV sent their secret video recording of the case to the media, with the
result leaving most of the Norwegian public laughing.
This example clearly illustrates the power of turning things upside down. A
friend of the accused playing the prosecutor and demanding a stronger punish-
ment than what the law can give parodies the court. In this action, KMV
activists satirised the absurdity of having a court case with nothing to discuss;
they succeeded in getting attention from both media and ‘ordinary people’. In
addition to turning the roles upside down, the parody of the court also exposed
the contradiction between what the Norwegian state said and what it did. If
the politicians call Norway a democracy and claim that it has no political
prisoners, why are people sent to prison for their beliefs? And why is that
imprisonment not even called a prison sentence, but an administrative term for
serving alternative service? This is an absurd situation. Through dramatising it
in a humorous frame, KMV cut through all rational explanations and made
people understand that this did not make sense.
However, this case also makes the important point that the activist using
humour should be aware of the context it is used in. If you want to avoid long
prison terms, imitating this kind of action is not recommended.
In a second example, we move from democratic Norway to dictatorial
Serbia in the year 2000, before the fall of Slobodan Miloševic. To support agri-
culture, Miloševic placed boxes in shops and public places and asked people to
donate one dinar (Serbian currency) for sowing and planting crops. In response,
the youth movement Otpor arranged its own collection called ‘Dinar za Smenu’.
Smenu in Serbian is a word with many meanings; it can mean change, resigna-
tion, dismissal, pension, or purge. This action, consisting of a big barrel with a
photo of Miloševic, was repeated several times in different places in Serbia.
After donated a dinar, people would get a stick they could use to hit the barrel.
On one occasion, a sign suggested that if people did not have any money
because of Miloševic’s politics, they should bang the barrel twice. When the
police removed the barrel, an Otpor press release said that the police had
arrested the barrel and that the action was a huge success. They claimed they
had collected enough money for Miloševic’s retirement, and that the police
would give the money to Miloševic.
This is an example of a dilemma action, because Otpor left both Miloševic
and the police with no space for reaction. If the police did not take away the
barrel, they lost face. When they did do something, Otpor continued the joke
by calling it an arrest of a barrel and saying that the police would give Miloševic
the money for his retirement. No matter what the regime did, it lost.
, You can find Majken’s dissertation on humour and nonviolence on the
Website of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies, Coventry
Working in Groups
challenge for any nonviolent movement is how to prepare its actions. Since
the 1976 occupation of the Seabrook nuclear power site, in New Hampshire,
USA, (see ‘Seabrook-Wyhl-Marckolsheim’, p96) a number of Western nonvi-
olent campaigns have favoured using an affinity group model of action coupled
with consensus decision-making. This section introduces that style.
‘Affinity groups’ are autonomous groups of 5 to 15 persons. An affinity group in
this sense is a group of people who not only have an affinity for each other, but
who know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and support each other as they
participate (or intend to participate) in a nonviolent campaign together. Affinity
groups and spokescouncils (see p71) challenge top-down, power-over decision-
making and organising and empower those involved to take creative direct action.
They allow people to act together in a decentralised and non-hierarchical way by
giving decision-making power to the affinity group. Affinity groups have been used
constructively in mass anti-globalisation actions in the USA (Seattle 1997), anti-
nuclear protests in Europe and North America (beginning in the 1970s), and other
large and small nonviolent protest actions in many countries.
With Whom Does One Create an Affinity Group?
The simple answer is: with people you know and who have similar opinions about
the issue(s) in question and the methods of action to use to address it. They
could be people you meet at an educational seminar, work with, socialise with,
or live with. The point to stress, however, is that you have something in com-
mon other than the issue bringing you together and that you have mutual trust.
An important aspect of being part of an affinity group is to learn each other’s
standpoints regarding the campaign or issue and your preferred methods of
action. This can involve sharing time together, discussing the issues and methods
of action, or doing some form of activist-related training together (like attend-
ing a workshop) or working out how to deal with an opponent’s or the police’s
tactics (e.g., counter-demonstrations, misinformation campaigns, agents provo-
cateurs). You should develop a shared idea of what you want individually and col-
lectively from the action/campaign, how it will conceivably go, what support you
will need from others, and what you can offer others. It helps if you have agree-
ment on certain basic things about the action: how active, how spiritual, how
nonviolent, how deep a relationship, how willing to risk arrest, when you might
want to bail-out, your overall political perspective, your action methods, etc.
Working in groups, whether in our own families, at workshops, or in continuing
organisations, is one of the most basic social activities and is a large part of
work for social change. Therefore, it is important that groups working for
change develop effective, satisfying, democratic methods of doing necessary
tasks, both for their own use and to share with others.
Eliminating authoritarian and hierarchical structures is a form of democra-
tising groups, but it does not mean rejecting all structures. A good group needs
to facilitate creativity, community, and effectiveness, in a combination that
encourages nonviolence to flourish in ourselves and our society. Good group
functioning is a product of cooperative structures and the intelligent, respon-
sible participation of the group’s members.
Even if it is an informal group and everyone is relaxed, a group agreement
about ground rules is wise. A group contract or a set of rules for the workshop
or group, to which everyone agrees, is a very useful guide for the process of a
group. It can be referred to if difficulties should arise. And it can, of course, be
adapted or changed. The group decides what to include. For example, a group
might agree to start meetings on time, to encourage equal participation, to
make decisions with consensus, to take turns facilitating group work, to have
only one person speaking at a time, to speak for yourself only, to respect
confidentiality, not to bar any question or treat it as stupid, not to allow put-
downs, to only volunteer yourself, etc. Many people are now familiar with these
ground rules, so a facilitator might draw up a suggested list that the group can
adapt. It is important to have active agreement from everyone in the group to
make a ‘contract’ with each other.
One issue that might require clarification is the meaning of ‘confidentiality’
for this group. Does it mean not sharing anything from the workshop, or does it
mean that broad themes and what was done can be shared but that no quotes
are given or attributed directly to anyone, or does it mean only not repeating
personal stories of group members? The longer the workshop or the more
intense or personal the issue, the less experienced people are in group work,
or the more sensitive the topic, the more time you may need to spend on clar-
ifying and agreeing to ground rules. Do remember that if the group’s situation
changes, it may review the ‘contract’ and decide change the ‘rules’. This is an
important difference between rules that are imposed upon a group and rules
that a group contracts together to follow of their own free will.
, See also ‘Principles of Nonviolence’, p30.
Facilitating Group Meetings
, For more detailed information about group facilitation, see ‘Meeting
Facilitation — The No-Magic Method’ by Berit Lakey
the information in Section Four, ‘Tasks and Tools for Organising and
Facilitating Trainings’ (p27).
Special Roles in a Group Meeting
Taking turns at the various roles in a group helps individuals experience differ-
ent facets of the group’s behaviour and strengthens an affinity group. In addi-
tion to the meeting facilitator (who helps the group through its agenda), other
roles support the work of the group. These special roles become very useful if
the group is larger or if it wants to pay special attention to improving the group
process on specific issues.
Affinity groups often decide to use facilitators to help the group meet its needs.
Members of the group often take turns playing this role. A facilitator accepts
responsibility to help the group accomplish a common task, for example, mov-
ing through the agenda in the time available and making necessary decisions
and plans. A facilitator does not make decisions for the group, but suggests
ways that will help the group move forward. He or she works in such a way that
allows the others to be aware that they are in charge, that their business is
being conducted, and that each person has a role to play.
It is important to emphasise that the facilitator’s responsibility is to the
group and its work, rather than to the individuals within the group.
Furthermore, a person with a high stake in the issues will have more difficulty
functioning as a good facilitator.
I A co-facilitator to aid the facilitator.
I A note-taker who records decisions and makes sure everyone has a copy so
that they know what decisions the group has taken.
I A time-keeper to help keep the group informed about how well it is
following its time plan and progressing towards completing its agenda.
Other roles may be useful at times, especially if the group has recurring
problems. For instance, a ‘process watcher’ might observe patterns of partici-
pation in meetings and have suggestions on improving the dynamics or may
raise issues about oppressive behaviour, power games, or discrimination (race,
gender, class, age) in the group. A ‘vibes watcher’ might pay special attention
to emotional undercurrents, non-verbal communication (including conflict
behaviour), or energy levels in the group, making suggestions about improving
the group atmosphere before something becomes a problem.
, Adapted from Tri-denting It Handbook, Third edition, available at
Roles in an Affinity Group During an Action
During a nonviolent action, an affinity group decides which roles the action
requires and people choose what they will do. Support roles are vital to an
action’s success and to the participants’ safety. The roles listed in this
Handbook (see ‘Roles In, Before, and After an Action’, p86) are common but
shouldn’t be regarded as a blueprint for all actions. Different actions will need
different roles. Each group should think about tasks it will need and how to
ensure they’re done early in the planning. Sometimes people can take on more
than one role, e.g. a legal observer might also be a first-aider, police liaison,
or even media contact. The key is to make sure that all necessary roles are cov-
ered, that all understand the extent of their commitments before beginning,
and that no one takes on tasks (support or otherwise) that they are unable to
carry out. (Source: http://www.scotland4peace.org/Peace%20Education/
Within nonviolent movements, and especially during nonviolent (direct)
actions, decision-making requires special attention. Nonviolence is more than
the absence of violence; it is closely linked to issues of power, to the methods
of decision-making. To avoid new forms of dominance within a group, its dis-
cussion and decision-making processes need to be participatory and empower-
ing. Consensus decision-making aims to encourage all to participate and
express their opinions, trying to find support for decisions in the group by
involving all of its members. It is likely that group members will much more
strongly support a decision made with the consensus process. Consensus can be
Consensus Decision-Making is a Process
Consensus is a process for group decision-making by which an entire group of
people can come to a common agreement. It is based upon listening and
respect and participation by everyone. The goal is to find a decision to which
all of the group’s members consent; everyone in the group is willing to support
the final decision. Be clear, however, that full consent does not necessarily
mean that everyone must be completely satisfied with the final outcome: in
fact total satisfaction or unanimous agreement is rather rare.
Majority decisions can lead to a power struggle between different factions
within a group who compete rather than respect each other’s opinions. They
use their brilliance to undermine each other. In contrast, the consensus process
taps into the creativity, insights, experience, and perspectives of the whole
group. The differences between people stimulate deeper inquiry and greater
used in many different group situations and is especially useful when a group is
preparing to carry out nonviolent actions with each other. Some groups adopt
a system where first they try to reach consensus, but if they cannot within a
reasonable time limit, then they will vote. However, this is not usually neces-
sary in small affinity groups.
Participating in actions at the Women’s Peace Camp in Greenham Common
in England in the 1980s, the U.S. feminist writer and nonviolence trainer
Starhawk found herself in culture shock. ‘In contrast to our [U.S.] West coast
style of consensus, involving facilitators, agendas, plans, and formal processes,
their meetings seemed to have no structure at all. . . . I found a delicious sense
of freedom and an electricity in discussions unhampered by formalities. The
consensus process I had known and practised seemed, in retrospect, overly con-
trolled and controlling. . . . At the same time, the Greenham-style process also
has drawbacks. The group’s preference for action rather than talk produces an
inherent bias toward more extreme and militant actions. With no facilitation,
louder and more vocal women tend to dominate discussions. Women who have
fears, concerns or alternative plans often felt unheard. Each group needs to
develop a decision-making process that fits its unique circumstances. The bal-
ance between planning and spontaneity, between formal processes and infor-
mal free-for alls, is always alive, dynamic, and changing. No one way will work
for every group’ (Starhawk, Truth or Dare : Encounters with Power, Authority
and Mystery. [Harper Collins 1987]).
What follows is mainly concerned with consensus decision-making, but it is
important to heed Starhawk’s warnings about when not to use consensus: a)
When there is no group mind (e.g., when members don’t value the group’s
bonding over their individual desires, consensus becomes an exercise in frustra-
tion); b) When there are no good choices (e.g., if the group has to choose
between being shot and hung); c) When they can see the whites of your eyes
(‘appointing a temporary leader might be wisest’); d) When the issue is trivial
(‘flip a coin’); e) When the group has insufficient information.
So how does cooperative decision-making work? The opinions, ideas, and
reservations of all participants are listened to and discussed. Differing opinions
are brought out and noted. No ideas are lost and each member’s input is valued
as part of the solution. This open and respectful discussion is vital in enabling
the group to reach a decision on the basis of which — in nonviolent action —
people will put themselves and their bodies ‘on the line’.
Consensus can be exciting because the members of the group actively look
for ways to create a common agreement. It can also often be difficult, because
everyone needs to overcome the attitude that ‘my idea is the best solution’.
Consensus not only works to achieve better solutions, but also to promote the
growth of community and trust within the group. Consensus is an ongoing
process and not simply a different method of voting.
Positions Within a Consensus
Since the goal is not a unanimous decision, consensus must have a place for
members of the group who do not totally embrace a proposal. Participants in a
decision-making process are more willing to support an idea to which they
might have some reservations or objections if the group actively accepts and
hears their concerns. If a person is given only the choice of support, non-sup-
port, or standing aside, it leaves much less room for being part of the consensus.
Within a group consensus five positions might exist:
I This is a great idea and I support it completely. (Full agreement)
I I have some reservations, but will support it. (Support)
I I have serious reservations, but can accept it. (Acceptance)
I I have objections, but I can live with this. (Tolerance)
I I cannot do this, but will not stop the group from doing this. (Standing aside)
Of course, if a large number of persons do not support or accept the deci-
sion or stand aside, then the consensus is weak and will probably end up with
In any case, the group should encourage people to express their reserva-
tions and objections and should try to address these opinions. This can be done
by modifying the proposal or perhaps by offering reassurance or clarification on
certain points. At the same time, individuals who do not totally agree with the
item under discussion should examine their opinion to see if they could either
support, accept, or tolerate the proposed decision or if they might perhaps
even stand aside.
It is possible for individual group members to have strong objections or
disagreements but at the same time participate in and consent to the decision
that a large number of the groups members can support. This is a key aware-
ness and is an important part of coming to consensus. There is a big difference
between disagreement with others in the group and blocking consensus.
Disagreement is part of the discussion process.
I This is a totally unacceptable or immoral or inhumane decision. I cannot
support this in any way, and I cannot allow the group to proceed with this
I I am completely opposed to this and can no longer work together with this
group. (Withdrawing from the group)
If a person has strong objections, and especially if she or he decides to block
a consensus, it is important to carefully and clearly express the specifics about
the objection and the reasons for blocking consensus. In fact, the person should
feel obliged to make a better suggestion, one that may be accepted by all. This
will help others to understand the objection and may lead to a clarification of
the differences. In any case, it is very important that a person review objec-
tions and concerns to see if she or he can withdraw the block and just stand
aside for this decision, allowing the group to accept the decision.
Minuting a Consensus Decision
After coming to a consensus decision, it can be useful to ask everyone who did
not take the position of ‘full agreement’ to express his/her concerns, reserva-
tions, or objections. Recording these concerns, reservations or objections in
the minutes, together with the decision itself, demonstrates clearly that the
An individual’s decision to block a consensus should not be lightly taken. If you
block a decision that has strong support by the rest of the group, you are essen-
tially saying to the group that this decision is so seriously wrong that you do not
want to permit it to proceed. If, after discussion, the group comes close to a
common agreement, but one or more individuals have such a very strong
objection that they cannot be part of the consensus, then they have one of the
group values the diversity of opinions and encourages everyone to be aware of
these concerns in future discussions or follow-up to the decision. Groups that
take minority opinions seriously in this way usually enjoy increased cohesive-
ness in their activities and actions.
If the Group Cannot Come to a Consensual Agreement
If the group cannot come to consensus, maybe the group does not have enough
information to make a decision. Perhaps more discussion time is needed? Should
the decision be postponed? Does the group want to ask for a new proposal?
Would it help for a smaller committee to draw up some alternative proposals?
Important Aspects When Using Consensus
There are many different formats and ways of building consensus, and a wide
range of experience shows that it can work. However, a few conditions must be
met for consensus building to be possible:
I Common goal or interest: All members of the group need to be united in a
common goal or common interest, whether it is an action, living communally,
or greening the neighbourhood. It helps to clearly establish what this overall
group goal is and to write it down. In situations when consensus seems
difficult to achieve, it helps to come back to this common goal and to
remember what the group is all about. Consensus requires commitment,
patience, and willingness to put the common goal or interest first.
I Commitment to consensus building: The stronger the commitment to using
consensus, the better it works. It can be very damaging to a group’s process
if some individuals want to return to majority voting and are just waiting for
the chance to say ‘I told you it wouldn’t work’.
I Sufficient time: It takes time to learn to work in this way. As a group become
more proficient in the process, the time needed for consensus decision-
making will decrease. If the group has divergent strong opinions, more time
might be needed to reach a consensus.
I Clear process: Make sure that the group is clear about the process it will use
for tackling any given issue. Agree beforehand on processes and guidelines.
In most cases, this will include having one or more facilitators to help the
group move through the process.
Processes for Finding Consensus
I Subjects for discussion need to be well prepared. The issue to be decided
should be clearly stated.
I Different opinions need to be openly expressed. Everyone should be given a
chance to state his or her opinion or concern.
I Agreed-upon norms may limit the number of times a person asks to speak and
or the amount of time a person speaks, to ensure that each participant has
a chance to be fully heard.
I Discussions involve active listening and information sharing. Multiple
concerns and information are shared until the sense of the group is clear.
I Dissenters’ perspectives are not only listened to but are embraced and
actively included in the discussion.
I Differences are resolved by discussion. Facilitators aid this by identifying
areas of agreement and pointing out disagreements to encourage deeper
I Facilitators help the consensus process by articulating the sense of the
discussion, by asking if there are other concerns, by asking for polls of the
positions in the group, and by proposing a summary of the consensus decision.
I Ideas and solutions are shared with the group and do not belong to an
individual. The group as a whole is responsible for the decision, and the
decision belongs to the group.
Practical Steps to Reaching Consensus
There are lots of consensus models (see flowchart on p80). The following basic
procedure is taken from Peace News, a magazine for peace activists, June 1988:
Especially with controversial issues, it may be helpful to take a straw poll
of the group’s consensus positions at different times during the discussion. A
straw poll of consensus positions is just a test of the positions in the group, not
the final call for consensus positions. One easy way to do a quick straw poll is
ask for a show of hands with 5 fingers showing full agreement, 4 fingers show-
ing support, 3 fingers showing acceptance, 2 fingers showing tolerance, 1 fin-
ger showing standing aside, and a fist showing blocking.
1. The problem, or decision to be made, is defined and named. It helps to do
this in a way that separates the problems/questions from personalities.
2. Brainstorm possible solutions. Write them all down, even the crazy ones.
Keep the energy up for quick, top-of-the head suggestions.
3. Create space for questions or clarification on the situation.
4. Discuss the options written down. Modify some, eliminate others, and
develop a short list. Which are the favourites?
5. State the proposal or choice of proposals so that everybody is clear.
(Sometimes it might be useful to break into small sub-groups to write up
each proposal clearly and succinctly.)
6. Discuss the pros and cons of each proposal, and make sure everybody has a
chance to contribute.
7. If there is a major objection, return to step 6. (This is the time-consuming
bit.) Sometimes you may need to return to step 4.
8. If there are no major objections, state the decisions and test for agreement.
9. Acknowledge minor objections and incorporate friendly amendments.
11. Check for consensus.
Gather and share all relevant
What are the key questions?
Is this the right time/place/group?
Take one question at a time
Voice first thoughts, reactions, ideas
Try to incorporate all viewpoints
Look at good points and drawbacks
Take into account any concerns. The
proposal often changes completely at
A major objection is a fundamental
disagreement with the core of the
proposal, not just a general dislike.
For an exercise in practising consensus, see ‘Decision-Making’, p133.
Consensus in Large Groups: The Spokescouncil
The model of consensus decision-making described above works well within one
group. However, bigger nonviolent actions require the cooperation of several
affinity groups; one method to do so is to use a spokescouncil. The spokescouncil
is a tool for making consensus decisions in large groups. In a spokescouncil,
spokespersons from smaller groups come together to make shared decisions.
Each group is represented by their ‘spoke’. The group communicates to the
larger meeting through him or her, allowing hundreds of people to be repre-
sented in a smaller group discussion. What the spoke is empowered to do is up
to her or his affinity group. Spokes may need to consult with their groups before
discussing or agreeing on certain subjects.
Here is an outline process for using the spokescouncil method. (Note: steps
1 and 2 can also take place in advance within the individual small affinity
1. Whole group (all participants of all affinity groups): Introduce the issue and
give all the necessary information.
2. Explain both the consensus and the spokescouncil process.
3. Form small groups (the affinity groups). These could be a random selection
of people at the meeting, existing affinity groups, or groups based on where
people live or on a shared language.
4. The small groups discuss the issue, gather ideas, discuss pros and cons, and
come up with one or more proposals.
5. Each small group selects a spoke (a person from the group who will
represent the group’s view at the spokescouncil). Small groups decide
whether the spoke is a messenger for the group (e.g., relays information
between the small group and the spokescouncil) or whether the spoke can
make decisions on the group’s behalf at the spokescouncil.
6. Spokes from all groups come together in the spokescouncil. They in turn
present the view of their small groups. The spokes then have a discussion to
try to incorporate the various proposals into one workable idea. During this
process, the spokes may need to call time out to refer with their groups for
clarification or to see whether a modified proposal would be acceptable to
them. The spoke is supposed to speak on behalf of the small group, not to
present his or her personal point of view.
7. Once the spokescouncil has come up with one or more possible proposals,
the spokes meet with their groups and check for agreement and objections.
Groups can also suggest further modifications to the proposals.
8. Spokes meet back at the spokescouncil and check whether the groups agree.
If not all groups agree, the discussion cycle continues, alternating between
time for the small groups to meet and spokescouncil meetings.
9. Small groups can and often do change their spoke to give different small
group members the chance to act as spokes for the group.
For an exercise in using a spokescouncil, see ‘Decision-Making’, p133).
Experiences and Problems
During the past 30 years the model of affinity groups and consensus decision-
making has been used in a wide range of small and large-scale nonviolent
actions, such as anti-nuclear power actions in the 1970s (Seabrook, New
Hampshire, USA; Torness, Scotland), many anti-nuclear energy and disarma-
ment actions in Germany in the 1980s and the 1990s, and anti-globalisation
actions in 1999 (Seattle, Washington, USA). Some of the largest actions using
the affinity group/spokescouncil/consensus decision-making model have grown
to 2000 or more participants (e.g., 1996 in Seabrook, USA, the 1997 protest
against nuclear waste transports in Wendland, Germany; see
20des%20SprechenInnenrates). Many of these experiences point to a changed
political environment, especially a growth of decentralised participation in
nonviolent actions and campaigns. This has consequences for the way groups
now organise for large-scale actions.
Very few affinity groups work long-term. For example, the German anti-
nuclear campaign ‘’X-thousands in the way’ has few ongoing affinity groups,
though they still exist and form the core of the action. Most activists join the
actions of this campaign as individuals or in small groups, forming affinity groups
only upon arrival at the action. Therefore, one or two days of preparation are
needed before each action to create a community ready and able to act. And
even this community is little more than an expanded core of participants. Most
activists join spontaneously and without much preparation, and the action has
to be planned in a way that makes this possible (Jochen Stay, Preconditions and
Social-Political Factors for Mass Civil Disobedience, The Broken Rifle, No 69,
March 2006: http://wri-irg.org/pdf/br69-en.pdf). This structure is more appro-
priate when one of the aims is to integrate a large number of new activists. The
action is generally more low-risk and publicly announced.
Another option is to base larger actions on the autonomy of individual affinity
groups, which plan and carry out a variety of small-scale actions simultaneously
on their own. The ‘large-scale’ is then achieved through the number of paral-
lel actions. This structure is more suited to high-risk actions or when a higher
level of repression can be expected.
Although the affinity group/spokescouncil structure has been successfully
used for various campaigns and actions, it could still be further developed.
Groups that do not yet have experience with this structure could practise its
use. There is also a need for further experience and evaluation when using it
with even larger groups of people.
Check-List for Planning an Action
Preparation for Action
There are times when you will prepare a one-time action, perhaps as your
contribution to someone else’s campaign, or as a stand-alone event in itself. At
other times your action will be part of your wider campaign strategy, with each
and every action being a step towards your overall campaign aims. Here we
provide a check-list to bear in mind while planning an action.
Before the Action
I What is the analysis of the situation?
I What structure will the group use? Who makes the decisions and how?
I What is the strategic goal (i.e., who are we trying to influence, and what do
we want them to do)?
I What is the political objective (what is the action or event)?
I How does this event communicate the group’s goals before, during, and after
I How does the group define its commitment to nonviolence? (Are there non-
violence guidelines or stated principles?) (See p30 and p31.)
I What will the scenario be? (including place and time)
I Who will provide overall coordination of the event?
I When and how do you expect the action to end?
, See ‘Developing Effective Strategies’ and ‘Components of a Campaign’ for
more ideas and exercises, p34.
I Will the group be trying to work with other groups or communities? If so,
what groups and who will make the contacts? (See the ‘Spectrum of Allies’
I Will the group have a flyer, explaining to the public what it is doing? If so,
who will prepare it?
I What publicity will you do? Will you try to reach other people to join you? If
so, who will do it?
I What kind of media work will you do? Will you send out a press release ahead
of time? Will there be spokespeople during the event, ready to talk to the
press? Will there be a media kit with ‘talking points’? Will you need a media
sub-committee? (See ‘The Role of Media’, p49.)
I What opportunities do participants in
the action have to prepare? Are there
orientation sessions? affinity group
development? nonviolence training?
skills training? legal briefing?
I Are the participants empowered to
make decisions about the scenario?
How is that done? Is the group process
clear to all?
I Is it clear that many roles are needed
for an effective action, not just those
doing the ‘direct action’?
I Are the logistics regarding the time and place well planned?
I Have all the materials been prepared and is there a distribution plan?
During the Action
After the Action
I If people were arrested, is there legal and jail support? (See ‘Legal Support’,
p87 and ‘Jail Support’, p88.)
I Is follow-up media work being done, spreading info on the action to
mainstream and alternative media?
I Has the group evaluated the action? (See ‘Action Evaluation,’ p90.)
I Does the group plan to document the action (creating a case study)? (See
‘Campaign Case Study Guide’, p54.)
I What are the group’s next steps? Will this action lead to the development of
a campaign? If part of a campaign, how does it change the situation?
I Is there a communication system between those in various roles such as
police liaison, legal observers, media spokesperson, medical team, people
risking arrest, support people, and demonstrators? (See ‘Roles In, Before, and
After an Action’, p86.)
I Who is documenting the action with photographs and video?
I Is the decision-making process clear?
Roles In, Before, and After an Action
very action requires a range of different tasks, some very visible (e.g., the
people blocking a street, the press spokesperson), other less visible, more
in the background. Each of these tasks is equally important, as all together
make an action possible.
Before an Action
Coordinator, Campaigner, or Organiser
Scouting the site or route
Outreach and organising
Logistics and support
Prop, sign, and banner making, painters, graphic artists, etc.
Media outreach (ending out media advisory and media releases)
Media kit preparers
During an Action
I People risking arrest (committing civil disobedience)
I Direct support people
I Police liaison
I Deployment team/diversion
I Media spokesperson
I Media outreach
I Communication team
I Still photographer
I Medic/EMT/Medical team
I Legal observer(s)
I Jail support contact person
After an Action
Legal support (See ‘Legal Support’, p87.)
Documentarian/historian/archivist (See ‘Campaign Case Study Guide’, p54.)
Letter-writers to decision-makers and newspaper editorial boards
, Adapted from: Rant Collective: www.rantcollective.net
egal systems are different in every country. However, for actions in which
participants will likely be arrested, it is always useful to have a ‘legal sup-
port team’. This advice on forming such a team in Britain is adapted from
the first section of a much longer briefing by the Activist Legal Project at
Legal support may be in the background of an action, but it is vital. You may
be the last home after the action, often spending hours hanging around police
stations waiting for activists to be released. You won’t share the glamour or get
photographed, but without legal support some actions aren’t possible. Perhaps
if you weren’t there, half of those at the ‘front-end’ of the action wouldn’t
The Aims of Legal Support
I To make sure everyone going on the action is prepared for arrest
I To liaise with police and solicitors to ensure that arrested activists have
appropriate support whilst in custody
I To ensure that, once released, activists have the emotional and practical sup-
port they need
LEGAL OBSERVER AT PROTEST AGAINST ISRAELI MILITARY TRANSPORTS THROUGH RAF BRIZE NORTON,
UK, DURING 2006 LEBANON WAR.
Legal Support Group Roles
The number of people involved in the legal support group will depend upon the
size of the action and the number of arrests expected. A number of essential
roles have to be fulfilled:
I Preparing a written legal briefing for the action, including information on
arrest procedure, what happens at the police station, likely offences, likely
outcomes, bail, and first court hearing
I Preparing and distributing ‘bustcards’ to people going on the action (these
contain phone numbers in case of arrest)
I Staffing a phone line (the legal support number), waiting for calls from
detainees at police stations
I Coordination: preparing and updating a definitive list of who has been arrested,
including their contacts details, and whether they have been released
I Police station support: giving support at the police station(s) to arrestees,
liaising with solicitors at the police station(s), and meeting detainees on
their release from custody
I Logistics:organising vehicles, drivers, and possibly accommodation to collect
and house people released from police custody
I Organising a defendants’ meeting after the action
Unlike legal observers, who do risk arrest by joining activists on the ground, the
Legal Support Group should at no stage jeopardise their position with regard to
arrest. You are no use to anyone on the inside of a police cell!
, For more information on setting up a legal support for a big mass action,
see ‘Setting Up a Legal Team’ on the U.S.-based Website:
For further legal information and workshops contact: Legal Activist
Jail Support: MOC Spain Experience
Movement of Conscientious Objection in the Basque Country (KEM-MOC)
Supporting Bixente emotionally is important during his time before his trial, in
court itself, and in prison. One suggestion is hiring a bus so that everybody who
wants can go to court and witness the trial. Other suggestions are visiting Bixente
in prison and encouraging others to write letters. The idea is that he should not
feel alone and should have continual contact with supportive friends. This sup-
port should also extend to those close to him, such as his parents.
(Movimiento de Objeción de
Conciencia) in helping people in
prison is based on the civil disobedience
campaign against obligatory military
service (the campaign of insumisión,
1971-2002) in which thousands of
insumisos were jailed. During this peri-
od, various ways of supporting prisoners
were suggested and tried. One of the
most valued, without a doubt, were the
Let’s imagine a concrete case to
illustrate how these groups function.
Bixente Desobediente is an insumiso
who will have to serve a sentence of 2
years, 4 months, and 1 day. He needs to
convene a meeting with people close to
him (family, friends) plus someone from
the movement. The first meeting is
attended by his girlfriend, his sister, SYMBOLIC JAIL ESCAPE. PHOTO: SIMO HELLSTEN
three friends from the neighbourhood,
a university pal, a cousin, a guy he met
at an anti-militarism discussion group, and a neighbour. This group reviews his
decision to be an insumiso, discussing his motives and the consequences it
could bring. As not all of those attending understand concepts like civil disobe-
dience, nonviolence, direct action, and antimilitarism, the group looks at these
too. In the following meetings, they establish goals. After much brainstorming
and discussion, they come up with the following objectives:
Both before his trial and in prison, Bixente will need material support. Before
his trial, he goes into hiding to avoid arrest and pre-trial detention, so people
need to bring his things from his previous residence to his current location so
that he is not caught. In prison, he needs books and paper to continue his stud-
ies. This is also work of the support group.
The MOC, the movement to which Bixente belongs, is in charge of the political
work. However, the support group can collaborate with this work, joining in
protest actions organised by MOC, especially those connected with his trial and
imprisonment. At the same time, the support group can reach out politically in
the places that Bixente is known (such as his neighbourhood and university) to
maximise the benefit provided by the disobedience of Bixente and other pris-
oners. The support group can also put together an email list to inform people
about his case and a Website with information about Bixente’s case, antimili-
tarism, war tax resistance to military spending, peace education, and related
links. Every now and then, Bixente can write a letter that can be circulated.
The support group should coordinate with the MOC (for instance, having a mem-
ber attend MOC meetings) and check that its actions are in line with the MOC’s
Support groups are a great help, not only for the prisoner, but also for the
MOC. They share the work and serve as entry points for people to join the
movement. Coordination between the political group, the support group, and
with the prisoner is essential. Stable, frequent communication is important.
The political criteria come from the political movement, not from the prison;
however, visits to the prison by members of both groups is important for devel-
oping and coordinating the political work.
valuation allows us to learn from our experiences. Usually people infor-
mally evaluate an event, be it through personal reflections, talking with
friends, or meeting with a group of core organisers (‘leaders’). What we
propose here, however, is a structure for feeding back lessons from an event.
Rather than leaving evaluation to chance or confining it to an elite, it should
be set up as a planned and collective activity that values the input of people
who have played different roles, who bring different kinds of experience, and
who have different levels of commitment. Preferably everyone who participated
in an action or in organising an event should be encouraged to take part in
When evaluations are a regular part of our work, we have a chance for hon-
est feedback on the process and content of the work and a way to improve in
the future. Bear in mind that there will be considerable differences of opinion
and that it is not necessary for the group to come to agreement. It is also
important to point out what was successful as well as what went wrong, but
begin with positive evaluations whenever possible. The structure of the evalu-
ation should be planned carefully.
Some of the most obvious points brought up in an evaluation might be
quantitative: we handed out so many leaflets, we attracted so many people,
we gained so much media coverage, we blocked a road for so long. If such
information is important in evaluating the campaign development, make sure
that somebody is monitoring it, that you have a way of counting the number of
protesters, that a media group collects information about coverage. However,
sometimes the numbers game can distract from the main purpose, especially in
the case of repeated protests. Maybe more protesters arrived, but the action
made less impact and first-time protesters felt useless, got bored, scared, or in
some other way were put off. Maybe a military base entrance was blockaded
for a longer time, but the action reached fewer people or was somehow less
empowering. Criteria for evaluation need to be linked with the strategic
purposes of a particular event.
Below is a check-list to help you in evaluating an action; it can also be used
in other areas of your work.
Was there an overall vision/strategy/objective?
Was it relevant to the problem/conflict?
Did participants know who initiated the action?
Were participants aware of the vision/strategy/objectives?
2. Principles and Discipline
I Was there a clear discussion and agreement on discipline for the action?
I Was it followed during the action?
I Were the planned tactics and those actually carried out consistent with the
I Did any of the participants feel that they themselves or others failed to
follow the agreed-upon discipline?
3. Preparation and Training
Was the preparation/training appropriate?
Was the preparation/training adequate?
Did it actually aid the participants in coping with the unexpected?
Did it meet the needs of those involved?
Did it meet the expectations of those involved?
Did the necessary community feel developed?
1. Vision, Strategy, and Objectives
Were the planned tactics adequate?
Were the tactics, as planned, actually carried out?
Did they meet the needs and expectations of those involved?
Were unexpected problems adequately dealt with?
Was this done in a way consistent with the discipline/vision/objective?
I Did the structure/organisation of the action fit its objective/
I Was it organised in a democratic way?
A. On the participants
Was it relevant?
Did it invite/create participation?
Did the participants feel in control of the action?
Did it increase the initiative and confidence of the participants?
B. On those to whom it was addressed
Was it understood?
Were objectives reached?
Did it close or open options for further action and communication?
Were there responses from individuals (opponents) that differed from the
institutions that were a part of it?
I How did these responses relate to the objectives of the action?
C. On others
Did they understand it?
Were they alienated by it?
Did it have any unexpected results?
Were people moved in our direction (neutralised, attracted, catalysed)?
, This evaluation form was developed at the International Seminar on
Training for Nonviolent Action held in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in July 1977.
STORIES AND STRATEGIES
his section is a collection of stories and strategies on the use of nonvio-
lence around the world. Stories help us learn from past experiences; the
motivation to act can be influenced by what has been done elsewhere or
inspired by the creativity and success of others. Many of the stories describe
how people learned strategies from campaigns in other parts of the world or
were inspired by contact with activists from other regions. In some occasions
the visit of a member of another group was the catalyst; in others, reading
materials produced elsewhere or attending an international event led to ideas
for campaigns. Additionally, many of the stories explain how campaigns were
strengthened through international cooperation.
While the contexts of these stories differ, they all have nonviolence as a
common denominator. Some cases focus on education and promoting nonvio-
lence within the activist scene in a country, as in Turkey and South Korea.
Solidarity work-such as with South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement-
can be a model for other situations. Learning across borders took place
between Seabrook, Wyhl, and Markolsheim and between Israel and South
Africa. International participation was key to the International Antimilitarist
Marches, the Bombspotting campaign, and the 15th of May activities in Turkey.
The work of building alternatives to violence and against human rights viola-
tions in conflict areas was helped by key contributions from the nonviolence
movements of Chile and Colombia.
When planning your campaigns, it is always good to research if others have
done something similar before and to learn from their successes and errors. And
remember to document your own campaigns, sharing your stories. We hope that
the following stories serve as inspiration for your nonviolent strategies. War
Resisters’ International, which played a role in connecting people in most of
these cases, supports exchange and support among nonviolent and antimili-
tarist movements, believing it is crucial to create an international movement
against war and for peace and justice.
International Solidarity Campaign with South
he first calls for an international boycott of apartheid South Africa were
made as early as 1958; in Britain, the Anti-Apartheid Movement launched
in 1959 saw it as a major strategy. At the intergovernmental level, South
Africa’s system of apartheid was widely condemned, especially after the 1960
Sharpeville massacre. In 1961 South Africa was thrown out of the
Commonwealth (then called the British Commonwealth), and in 1962 the UN set
up a Special Committee Against Apartheid, the next year agreeing to a ‘volun-
tary’ arms embargo. Yet apartheid did not finally end until the 1990s.
There were three main areas for international sanctions against South
Africa: economic sanctions, including trade and investment; a cultural boycott;
and a sports boycott. The cultural and sports boycotts had primarily a psycho-
logical impact on South Africa. A sports-mad country, South Africa’s exclusion
from the Olympics from 1964 onwards, and most importantly from internation-
al rugby and cricket from 1970 onwards, was brought about by a combination
of pressure from other African states and demonstrations, including disrupting
tennis and rugby matches.
The impact of economic sanctions remains a matter of debate, especially
because two powerful states (Britain and the USA) repeatedly circumvented the
declarations of intergovernmental organisations such as the UN or the
Commonwealth. However, there were waves of movements for ‘people’s sanc-
tions’ — beginning probably with the revulsion at the Sharpeville massacre —
when even the British Labour Party leadership supported the moral gesture of
refusing to buy South African fruit.
My own involvement began later. As a student in 1969, I was one of those
who wanted to transfer the momentum gained from the sporting boycott into
an economic boycott. Our students’ union had already passed resolutions
against the university buying apartheid fruit. Then we took up a campaign
against Barclays Bank, the most popular bank for British students at that time
and, as it happened, the bank used by my university. Our first success was in
dissuading new students from opening their first-ever bank accounts with
Barclays and persuading others to change banks. Our second was in holding a
rent strike, refusing to pay rent for student rooms into an account with Barclays
Bank. Eventually the university authorities conceded, triggering the resignation
of prominent members of the University’s ruling council. Throughout the coun-
try, trade union branches, clubs, associations, and churches debated changing
banks. I got into trouble with both the Quakers and the Peace Pledge Union for
writing in Peace News in 1972 that they had no legitimacy in talking about non-
violence in South Africa unless they took the small step of moving their bank
accounts. Local authorities decided to do so too. In 1986-16 years after the
Boycott Barclays campaign began — the bank sold its South African subsidiaries.
Finally, too, the Cooperative supermarket chain decided not to stock South
This type of boycott was very much influenced by waves of concern about
apartheid. One such wave was after the Soweto killings of 1976 and the mur-
der in custody of Steve Biko in 1977; another was in the 1980s with the emer-
gence inside South Africa of the United Democratic Front and spokespeople
such as Desmond Tutu. All the while, in the background, were local anti-
apartheid activists, putting resolutions to their trade union branches and their
churches, recognising that both trade unions and churches were large corporate
investors capable of exerting pressure on companies.
In Britain, the anti-apartheid boycott was a ‘long march’, usually rather
unspectacular. Having succeeded in persuading municipal councils to do some-
thing, we then had to witness Margaret Thatcher’s government take away their
power to make decisions on such political grounds. Nevertheless, we kept the
issue of Britain’s connections with apartheid in people’s minds.
The story was different in other countries. In the 1970s we Brits looked envi-
ously at the success of the Dutch boycott of coffee from Angola, a Portuguese
colony in close alliance with South Africa. In the 1980s, workers at one of
Ireland’s main supermarket chains — Dunne’s — were locked out in a four-year
dispute over selling apartheid goods, a conflict only resolved when the Irish
government made South African products illegal.
The USA was a particularly important terrain of struggle. The people’s sanc-
tions’ movement had three main foci: colleges and campuses; banks; and
municipal and state corporations. Their achievements were considerable. In
1985, after a 19-year campaign, the main bank involved with South Africa —
Chase Manhattan — announced that it would not renew its loans to South
African projects. By 1991, 28 states, 24 counties, 92 cities, and the Virgin
Islands had adopted legislation or policies imposing some form of sanctions on
South Africa. By the end of 1987 more than 200 U.S. companies had formally
withdrawn from South Africa, though many of them found other ways to carry
on their business. (For instance, General Motors licensed local production,
while IBM computers had a South African distributor.) What was most important
about these campaigns, however, was the public education carried out through
them and the sense of solidarity engendered with the anti-apartheid movement
inside South Africa.
Seabrook-Wyhl-Marckolsheim: Transnational Links
in a Chain of Campaigns
Joanne Sheehan and Eric Bachman
THE SEABROOK SITE, NEW HAMPSHIRE, USA, 1977.
PHOTO: GRACE HEDERMANN
hen 18 people walked onto the construction site of the Seabrook
Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire on 1 August 1976, it was the
first collective nonviolent direct action against nuclear power in the
USA. Many opponents of nuclear power considered such tactics too radical.
Later that month, when 180 people committed civil disobedience at the site,
the organisers, the Clamshell Alliance, used nonviolence training and the affinity
group structure for the first time. In the future, these elements became well-
known and practised throughout the nonviolent social change movement. On 30
April 1977 over 2400 people, organised in hundreds of affinity groups, occupied
the site. During the next two days 1415 were arrested, many jailed for two
weeks. This action inspired the anti-nuclear power movement and created a
new international model for organising actions that consisted of training for
nonviolent direct action and consensus decision-making in a non-hierarchical
affinity group structure.
Inspiration for the Seabrook action actually came from Europe. In the early
1970s, people in Germany and France became concerned about plans to build
a nuclear power plant in Whyl, Germany. Nearby, across the border in
Marckolsheim, France, a German company announced plans to build a lead
factory alongside the Rhine. The people living in Whyl and Marckolsheim agreed
to cooperate in a cross-border campaign, in August 1974 founding a joint
organisation, the International Committee of 21 Environmental Groups from
Baden (Germany) and Alsace (France). Together they decided that wherever the
construction started first, together they would nonviolently occupy that site to
stop the plants.
After workers began constructing a fence for the Marckolsheim lead plant,
on 20 September 1974 local women climbed into the fencepost holes and
stopped the construction. Environmental activists erected a tent, at first out-
side the fence line, but soon moved inside and occupied the site. Support for
the campaign came from many places. The German anarcho-pacifist magazine
Graswurzelrevolution had helped to spread the idea of grassroots nonviolent
actions. A local group from Freiburg, Germany, near the plants, introduced
active nonviolence to those organising in Whyl and Marckolsheim. In 1974, a
3-day workshop in Marckolsheim included nonviolence training; 300 people
practised role-plays and planned what to do if the police came.
People from both sides of the Rhine — farmers, housewives, fisherfolk,
teachers, environmentalists, students and others — built a round, wooden
‘Friendship House’ on the site. The occupation in Marckolsheim continued
through the winter, until 25 February 1975 when the French government with-
drew the construction permit for the lead works.
Meanwhile, construction of the nuclear reactor in Whyl, Germany, had
begun. The first occupation of that site began on 18 February 1975 but was
stopped by the police a few days later. After a transnational rally of 30,000 people
on 23 February, the second occupation of the Whyl construction site began.
Encouraged by the success in Marckolsheim, the environmental activists,
including whole families from the region, continued this occupation for eight
months. More than 20 years of legal battles finally ended the plans for the
construction of the Whyl nuclear power plant.
In the summer of 1975, two U.S. activists, Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner,
visited Whyl after attending the War Resisters’ International Triennial in the
Netherlands. They brought the film Lovejoy’s Nuclear War, the story of the first
individual act of nonviolent civil disobedience against a nuclear power plant in
the United States. They brought back to the United States and to those organ-
ising to stop the Seabrook nuclear power plant the inspiring story of the
German community’s occupations. More information exchange followed. During
the 1976 occupation of Seabrook, WRI folks in Germany communicated daily by
phone with the Clamshell Alliance. German nonviolent activists had been using
consensus, but the affinity group structure was new to them, and they saw it
as a excellent method for organising actions.
In 1977, German activists and trainers Eric Bachman and Günter Saathoff
made a speaking trip to the United States, visiting anti-nuclear groups in the
northeastern United States as well as groups in California where there were
protests against a nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon. Activists from both
sides of the Atlantic continued this process of cross-fertilisation.
The Marckolsheim and Whyl plants were never built. Even though one of the
two proposed nuclear reactors was built in Seabrook, no new nuclear power
plants have started in the United States since then. Both Whyl in Germany and
Seabrook in the United States were important milestones for the anti-nuclear
movement and encouraged many other such campaigns.
The Clamshell Alliance at Seabrook, which was itself inspired by actions in
Europe, in turn became a source of inspiration to others in the USA and in
Europe. In the United States, the Seabrook action inspired the successful cam-
paign to stop the Shoreham, Long Island, New York, nuclear power plant, then
80 percent completed. That began when an affinity group of War Resisters
League members returned from the Seabrook occupation and began to organ-
ise in their community. British activists who took part in the 1977 occupation of
Seabrook, together with activists who read about it in Peace News, decided to
promote this form of organisation in Britain, leading to the Torness Alliance
opposing the last ‘green field’ nuclear site in Britain. In Germany, a number of
nuclear power plants and nuclear fuel reprocessing plants were prevented or
closed due to growing protests. In the early 1980s, large nonviolent actions
were organised in both Britain and Germany in opposition to the installation of
U.S. cruise missiles, using the affinity group model. And the story has contin-
ued, with affinity groups being used in many nonviolent actions around the
world (including in the 1999 sit-ins in Seattle to stop the World Trade
International Antimilitarist Marches
he International Nonviolent March for Demilitarisation (IMD) was an annu-
al event in Europe from 1976 until 1989 that helped spread the idea of
organising through affinity groups and using nonviolence training and con-
I attended four of the marches and was involved in organising three: 1983
in Brussels against the IDEE (electronic defence exhibition), 1984 Grebenhain
(Fulda-Gap, blocking military maneuvers), and 1985 in Denmark (against
My first blockade was in 1979 at Ramstein. We were organised in affinity
groups, making decisions by consensus and with a speakers’ council (one
‘speaker’ from each affinity group). Nearly all camps, marches, and bigger
actions after that were organised in that way. It looked as if this idea of non-
hierarchical ways of organising nonviolent direct action was spreading, but it
might be simply that those were the kind of events I chose to attend.
In 1982 I attended my first ‘Training for Trainers’ where we learnt more
about the affinity group system and consensus decision-making. During the
1980s, there was a big demand for nonviolent trainings and one of the regular
topics was ‘non-hierarchical ways of organising nonviolent direct action’.
I found the intercultural profile of the IMD very empowering and think that
many participants were enthused to go home to spread the ideas and forms of
organising. Also, we could use the attraction of an international event to draw
in more and different people than would have happened with a purely locally
On these marches we also connected related themes. For instance, I learnt
about gestalt therapy as a way of confronting personal patterns that restrict
our creativity. This is happening with the G8 actions/camps today. One reporter
commented that ‘perhaps the biggest political impact of these days will hap-
pen when these young men and women go home, back to their ‘normal’ life —
changed by this experience, empowered and nurtured by the actions they did,
and by the support they have given and received’.
A good experience is like a seed that rests for a while in fertile ground and
then grows, becoming perhaps a pretty fly or a nourishing vegetable. For me —
and I think for many others — the IMD planted such seeds.
Chile: Gandhi’s Insights Gave People Courage to
Defy Chile’s Dictatorship
n 11 September 1973, the Chilean junta, backed by the United States’s CIA
and Nixon Administration, overthrew the democratically elected
government of socialist president Salvador Allende. Priscilla Hayner, in her
book Unspeakable Truths, Confronting State Terror and Atrocity (2001), outlines
the devastating impact of the resulting dictatorship: ‘The regime espoused a
virulent anticommunism to justify its repressive tactics, which included mass
arrests, torture (estimates of the number of people tortured range from 50,000
to 200,000), killings, and disappearances’. The dictatorship assassinated,
tortured, and exiled thousands of political opponents and visionaries.
Under these conditions, a foreboding silence, the result of threats and
terror, hung over Chile. Some of us wondered if Gandhian insights about the
power of nonviolence could help in the struggle to defy the terror.
(Nonviolence refers to a philosophy and strategy of conflict resolution, a
means of fighting injustice, and — in a broader sense — a way of life, developed
and employed by Gandhi and by followers around the world. Nonviolence is
action that does not do or allow injustice.)
A few of us decided to try to inspire others to speak up against the dictatorship
by ‘crying out the truth’. We faced a double suffering: the pain involved in
enduring the dictatorship’s violence and the suffering caused by keeping silent
out of fear. To not cry out while those we love were killed, tortured, and
disappeared was unendurable. Clandestine pamphlets and leaflets were printed.
Slogans that denounced human rights violations were painted on the walls at
night, at great risk to safety. Underlying these actions was the principle of
active nonviolence: since injustice exists, we are first required to report it,
otherwise we are accomplices. The clandestine actions helped spread the prin-
ciple of telling the truth and acting on it. Yet, despite the risks, we needed to
move beyond clandestine protests: we needed to move the protests against the
Chilean junta into the public arena.
Activating the Public Movement against Torture
José Aldunate, a Jesuit priest who became the leader of the Sebastian Acevedo
Movement Against Torture in Chile, says in his memoirs, ‘A comrade came to us
and brought up the fact (of torture). We educated ourselves about torture and
Crying Out the Truth
DEMONSTRATION OF THE SEBASTIAN ACEVEDO MOVEMENT, SANTIAGO, CHILE.
PHOTO: ARCHIVES OF ROBERTA BACIC
about the dynamics of nonviolence. We watched a film on Mahatma Gandhi. I
was more motivated [to protest against] poverty, but I responded to the disci-
pline of the group. We deliberated and decided to undertake a nonviolent
demonstration to denounce torture . . . to break the barriers of silence and hiding
with regards to torture, we had an obligation to denounce it in public. We
needed to shake the population’s conscience’.
On 14 September 1983, ten years after the regime took power, the anti-tor-
ture movement was born in an action in front of the headquarters of the
National Investigation Centre in Santiago. Around 70 people interrupted traffic,
unfurling a banner that read ‘Torturing Done Here’. They shouted their denun-
ciation and sang a hymn to liberty. The group returned to this scene to
denounce the regime’s crimes against humanity at least once a month until
1990.The movement denounced torture. It left to other entities the task of
investigating and making declarations.
In order to act, we needed to openly defy the State of Emergency provisions
that the junta had decreed in order to terrorise the population. We needed to
break through our own sense of powerlessness, isolation, and fear. But we also
needed to provide some measures of safety. The movement had no meeting
place, no secretariat, no infrastructure. It met in the streets and plazas when
it was time to act. It had no membership list. Participants came by personal
invitation, as the movement had to avoid infiltration from the secret police and
other repressive institutions. Instructions were passed from person to person.
Participants were mainly trained during the actions themselves, where we eval-
uated each action on the spot.
Participants faced legal and illegal sanctions when detained and prosecuted,
as they often were. Tear gas, beatings, detention, and prosecution were com-
mon retaliatory practices used against demonstrators. Torture was also a possi-
ble consequence of being arrested. Not only the Sebastian Acevedo movement
participants face these sanctions; so did reporters and journalists willing to
report on the actions and the issues that were exposed. Some of the actions
had as many as 300 participants. Some 500 people participated in total. There
were Christians and non-Christians, priests, monks, slum dwellers, students,
aged people, homemakers, and members of various human rights movements —
people of every class, ideology, and walk of life.
The main goal was to end torture in Chile. The means chosen was to shake
up national awareness (consciousness raising) and rouse the conscience of the
nation until the regime got rid of torture or the country got rid of the regime.
In 1988, after a widespread anti-intimidation campaign, the nonviolent ‘Chile
Sí, Pinochet No’ campaign helped, to Pinochet’s shock, to defeat a plebiscite
designed to ratify Pinochet’s rule.
Efforts to end the culture of impunity that arose during the Pinochet years
and to engage in national reconciliation continue, but nonviolent protest pro-
vided an important means, amongst others, to overthrow the dictatorship.
Israel: New Profile Learns from the Experience of
here was a new political awareness in Israel in the mid-nineties.
Increasing numbers of people objected to Israeli’s presence in Lebanon
and the loss of Israeli lives. Some questioned the government’s incursion
into Palestinian lands. Demonstrations took place daily, particularly at major
road junctions, to pressure Israel to get out of Lebanon. Several groups led the
grassroots movements at the time: Four Mothers, Mothers and Women for
Peace, and Women in Black.
My son had decided to refuse military conscription, and I needed to get
more involved. I started to look for people who were examining things critically,
hoping to find a support group. I had a neighbour who was a social activist; we
started going to demonstrations at the junction close to home. There I heard a
woman address the crowd about getting even more involved. I called her the
next day. She told me about a study group that had just started meeting on a
monthly basis. The group was comprised of middle and upper middle class
white (of European descent as opposed to Mizrachi, Ethiopian, or Palestinian
Israeli) women, most like myself, looking for some way to consider change
together. Some were already active in the peace movement; some had lost
family members in war.
In the study group I learned to look at things with a critical, feminist eye.
ACTION IN FRONT OF THE ISRAELI MINISTRY OF DEFENCE, TEL AVIV, ISRAEL.
PHOTO: ANDREAS SPECK
Rela Mazali, a feminist, author, and activist in the peace and human rights
movements for many years, facilitated. She brought materials that we analysed
to understand why things are the way they are. Why is Israel a militarist power?
Why is there so much discrimination in Israel? What are the similarities between
the pyramid of power in the military and civilian life in Israel? What is victimi-
sation? What are the roles of women and mothers? What is Jewish heritage, and
what role does it play in Israel today? (And many more relative issues.)
We talked about effective movements from which we could learn. We
looked at two different but related South African groups that worked to end
apartheid. They are important examples of the power of small focus groups who
work in a spiral motion and gain momentum.
We studied South Africa’s End Conscription Campaign, launched by various
CO groups in 1983 to oppose conscription in the service of apartheid. In 1985,
after white troops were deployed in black townships, the number of conscripts
who did not respond to the call-ups increased by 500 percent’ (from a short his-
tory at http://www.wri-irg.org/co/rtba/southafrica.htm). We discussed the End
Conscription Campaign through Rela’s study and research in her ongoing reading
about militarisation — first through Jacklyn Cock’s book, Women & War in South
Africa. We then continued with an email exchange with her and others.
We also studied the Black Sash Movement, a group of nonviolent white
women who used the safety of their privilege to challenge the apartheid
system. They displayed black sashes to express their disgust at the racist
system. They tied them to trees, posts, on car antennas, anywhere they could
be seen by all. We tried to use an orange sash similar to the black sash used in
South Africa, tying them everywhere possible. But it never took off; it didn’t
work at the time. (The Black Sash Movement had been an inspiration for Women
in Black, which was founded in Israel in 1987.)
But we did find another aspect of their work very helpful. While we had
read about this, we also learned from some South African women, one white,
one black, and one of Indian descent, who, in 1999, facilitated a seminar bring-
ing together Israeli women in the Left. South Africans couldn’t congregate in
groups of more than three. So they met in groups of three, then one of them
would meet with two more people. The South Africans worked in that circular
movement, using this deeper way of networking to spread their message and
engage in dialogue about ending conscription. We learned important lessons:
it’s a matter of discussing with people, not lecturing. Even if you find someone
who agrees with you on only one thing, build on that one thing. One on one, or
one with a very small group, is more effective. It takes a lot of energy to organ-
ise. Everyday life is hard; it takes a lot to be an activist. But putting the time
into this kind of process can be deep and effective.
‘For our first open study day in October 1998,’ Rela recalls, ‘I wrote up the
main principles formulated and followed by the End Conscription Campaign and
gave a short talk also proposing possible similarities and differences as I saw
them. We returned to these questions from time to time at various points in our
meetings, discussions, organising, etc.’ In retrospect, we realise this was our
founding conference. We were not looking to form a movement. We really
wanted to gather together and learn. The events of the day and the fact that
over 150 people showed up to discuss and learn made it clear that there were
people we could work with.
My son being a pacifist may have been a major factor in our group discus-
sions of the issue of conscription and the right to conscience. Some felt that
conscientious objection was too radical and later left the group. But about 12
of the original 30 or so women who had been members of what had grown into
two study groups are still active in New Profile today. In August 2000, New
Profile discussed initiating an End Conscription Campaign. However, the
Intifada started a month later, sidetracking that idea. We are just getting back
to that now with our new campaign ‘Thinking Before Enlistment’. New Profile
recognises conscription as one part of the militarisation of Israel. Even if the
Occupation ended, we still have to demilitarise Israeli society.
New Profile has maintained a learning/action balance. We have internal
study days as well as open sessions. We have learning circles five to seven times
a year. Sometimes we focus on a very specific issue during our monthly plenary.
This is usually without guest speakers and focuses on different aspects of what
can become a basis for action. But for separate study days and learning circles
we may have guest speakers. But sometimes the facilitator is someone from
within the group who has learned about something in particular or is an expert
in the matter. We want to discover more and learn about it collectively; New
Profile is non-hierarchical. We have remained an active organisation, working
without a managerial board for 10 years. Nothing is ever done single-handedly
or without analysis. Nothing changes overnight: to really make change happen,
we need to be persistent. Our studying of effective movements made that
, See also ‘An Example of Linking Peace and Gender Issues’, p26.
Turkey: Building a Nonviolent Culture
Hilal Demir and Ferda Ülker
ilitarism and patriarchy are deeply rooted in Turkish culture. Currently,
war in the ‘south-east’ is based on ethnic discrimination against Kurds,
although it is officially described as a ‘war against terrorism’. Any
attempt to question militarism is called ‘treason’. The people most affected by
the negative consequences of violence are primarily women, children, and
elders and also religious, ethnic, and political minorities. Violence is so inter-
nalised in Turkish society that alternative perspectives have been made
unthinkable, even among those who normally question hierarchy and promote
freedom and equality.
The influence of the military can be seen in the following examples:
I Only after having done military service is a man regarded as a ‘real’ man.
I The National Security Council (including the chiefs of staff) as recently as
1997 prevented the winners of the elections from forming a government (“the
I Economic power: the Turkish army’s financial services company OYAK is one
of the most powerful investors in Turkey.
I Opinion polls show that the military is the institution most trusted by the
The army under Mustafa Kemal established the Turkish republic in 1923, after
the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; Kemalist principles remain fundamental to
the state, reflected in the criminal code, the maintenance of a powerful army,
and the belief in the ‘indivisibility of the nation’. These generate repressive
attitudes. Few people see male domination of women as an issue, and physical
violence is widely accepted against subordinates, prisoners, and within the
The term nonviolence was used for the first time in the principles of the Izmir
War Resisters’ Association (IWRA) in 1992. Within the Association, nonviolence
was always a discussion point, especially how to find practical ways of living
nonviolently in a violent culture. We first used nonviolence training to prepare
Izmir Nonviolent Trainers Initiative
The Izmir Nonviolent Trainers Initiative (INTI) was first formed as part of the
IWRA with additional support from others. Our work was supported and
improved in quality thanks to cooperation with German trainers, including
training courses at Kurve Wustrow in Germany, an international training for
trainers organised in Foca, Turkey, in April 1996, and the accompaniment of two
German trainers who lived in Izmir from 1998 until 2001.
When IWRA closed in December 2001, the trainers’ initiative continued,
organising workshops in Izmir and anywhere in the country we are invited,
including in Diyarbakir in the south-east ‘crisis’ region. Today five trainers —
four female and one male — mostly work on a voluntary basis, only receiving
travel expenses, although sometimes we have money to pay a part-time
coordinator. In June 2006 we began a course of training for trainers with 20
participants from all over the country.
The aim of INTI is to enhance and establish nonviolent principles and struc-
tures as an alternative to militarism, nationalism, hierarchy, and patriarchy.
ourselves for prison visit scenarios when a group member, Osman Murat Ülke,
was imprisoned for conscientious objection. Initially nobody from outside
approached us to discuss nonviolence. However, now there is more interest,
although the War Resisters’ Association itself closed in 2001 because of the
burn-out of members.
IWRA’s commitment to nonviolence put us in sharp contrast with other leftist
groups who did not take our approach seriously and regarded nonviolence as
weak and ineffective. We mainly involved antimilitarist, anarchist, and femi-
nist activists. Perhaps the biggest welcome for nonviolence came from the
Lesbian, Gay, Bi,- and Trans-sexual (LGBT) movement which was just in the
process of becoming structured and took up nonviolent methods.
In political alliances, our most fruitful interaction was with the women’s
movement. When we first began, we formed a feminist and antimilitarist
women’s group called ‘Antimilitarist Feminists’, trying to reach out to women’s
groups. Despite some initial disappointment, we reached many independent
women and began to hold trainings with women’s organisations. This change in
attitude was related to changes/transformation within the women’s movement,
in particular a desire to do things their own way rather than on traditional left-
ist lines. Questioning violence became a priority for women, and nonviolence
seemed to offer a response. As more women sought personal empowerment,
our cooperation with women and women’s groups strengthened.
The closest political group was the conscientious objection movement
because it was built by the efforts of activists working to promote nonviolence.
Although this partnership continues, an individualistic streak in the movement,
we believe, makes discussion of nonviolence less effective. Although most
Turkish conscientious objectors are total resisters (that is, rejecting both mili-
tary service and any civilian substitute), the movement’s attitude towards
nonviolence is equivocal at times, especially because of support for conscien-
tious objectors from the Kurdish movement and leftist groups.
Our public activities began with organising demonstrations and seminars on
nonviolence and conscientious objection, publishing pamphlets (although
police confiscated a number of our works from printers), and looking for inter-
national cooperation. In the field of training we worked with activists from
extra-parliamentary groups, from human rights, women’s, and LGBT groups,
and from political parties. Additionally, the group co-operated with the Human
Rights Centre of the Izmir Lawyers’ Association to train lawyers and police
about human rights issues. In general, issues covered in our trainings include
creating non-hierarchical structures for grassroots and oppositional political
work, consensus decision-making, discussion of militaristic structures within
society (starting from the family), and nonviolent alternatives. The individual
behaviours and actions of participants are always the basic and central point of
our workshops. We reflect on theoretical analyses and practical experiences of
nonviolence and nonviolent actions (starting with Henry David Thoreau and
Mohandas Gandhi and leading to today’s examples). We include reflections on
anarchistic approaches to nonviolence, on Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the
Oppressed, and Gene Sharp’s strategies of nonviolence.
Our group believes that it is possible to eliminate all kinds of inequalities,
discrimination, and thus violence and to develop nonviolent actions and meth-
ods for social and political change. Therefore, with the principle that ‘nonvio-
lence is not an aspiration to be achieved in the future, but the very means to
achieve such a goal’, our group started questioning everyday life practices that
may seem to be ‘neutral’. For over ten years our group has been learning, prac-
tising, and teaching the means and methods of nonviolence, an attitude
towards life that we are now developing as a life principle.
First, we offer ‘introductory’ one-day trainings for diverse organisations and
for individual activists who question violence within their agendas. Second, we
offer ‘issue-based trainings’ on particular topics requested by groups based on
their needs; these have included prejudice, conflict resolution, communication,
and sexism. Third, we are working to offer a one-week intensive ‘training for
trainers’ session with individuals who have taken part in the first two training
sessions and who want to become trainers; this was in response to a constantly
increasing demand for such a module. Since 2002, we have conducted the first
and second parts of trainings with diverse groups — working with women, the
LGBT community, and human rights, ecology, peace, and antimilitarist groups
in Izmir, Ankara, Antalya, Adana, and Diyarbakir.
Individuals who participated in our first two trainings and wanted to be
trainers had already started questioning violence and had been trying to inte-
grate nonviolent methods in their institutions and their individual practices.
However, they felt they lacked information and experience about ‘nonviolent
action’. For example, in Diyarbakir we identified a need to learn about devel-
oping nonviolent solutions for fundamental activities (like ‘honour’ killings,
violence against women, etc). Participants needed empowerment for their
work and an enhanced capacity to use nonviolence to create new solutions to
TRAINING FOR TRAINERS IN TURKEY.
PHOTO: HILAL DEMIR
We aim to improve and strengthen the culture of democracy and human rights
by introducing the concept of nonviolence, to question the culture of violence
(which has a militaristic and patriarchal character in Turkey) in order to sow
seeds of a culture of nonviolence, and to raise awareness of and struggle with
discrimination in all walks of life. Training trainers will allow them to work for
these ends by gaining practical experience and increasing their capacity to
facilitate their own training groups.
Looking at examples of nonviolent campaigns in Turkey, we can say that these
activities have not been organised in an entirely nonviolent way. While nonvio-
lence was one of the fundamental principles, some organisations lacked some
We are aware that it is impossible to cover all principles of nonviolence in
a one-week training. One of the solutions we found is to continue dialogue and
to seek possibilities for future meetings of supervision and feedback.
Furthermore, during our third training, we plan to form a network between
trainers from all over Turkey and will establish operational principles for such
a network. This ‘network of trainers’ approach will ensure that our dialogue is
sustainable and allow us to continue sharing knowledge and experience among
nonviolence trainers and to collaboratively disseminate nonviolence training
both at local and national levels.
of the qualities of a truly nonviolent action, such as preparing for the event
with nonviolence trainings. One of the longest campaigns in this regard was the
Militourism Festival. This festival, held annually on 15th of May (International
Conscientious Objectors’ Day), consisted of visiting prominent militarist
symbols in various cities, organising alternative events, and declarations of
conscientious objections. Another was the ‘We Are Facing It’ Campaign, aimed
at coming to terms with the war going on in Turkey. It was spread over an entire
year, with major actions held every three months. The aim was to prevent people
from ignoring this war by the use of nonviolent means such as street theatre.
Another nonviolent action was the ‘Rice Day’, held in Ankara, the centre of
official administration, and specifically in front of a military barracks. We gath-
ered there to say ‘we exist, we are here’. As antimilitarists who subverted
societal roles in our activities, we used the symbol of Rice Day to enhance
group solidarity and end our invisibility. Apart from these major activities,
smaller organisations and actions mobilised for short-term political interven-
Although we have often been marginalised throughout the short history of
nonviolence in Turkey and have not been as effective as we would like, we are
becoming more visible thanks to alliances forged with the women’s and LGBT
movements. This is further aided by the fact that discussion about conscien-
tious objection has begun in the public arena. Increasing demands from different
political groups for implementing nonviolence training and methods in their
programmes affirm this trend.
The Applications of Augusto Boal’s ‘Theatre of
wo books by Augusto Boal have been translated into Turkish, and various
periodicals have discussed his work and ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’. We
generally use his methods in nonviolence trainings, especially ‘sculpture
theatre’ and ‘simultaneous dramaturgy’; we also use them in our personal
lives. Boal’s techniques offer simple and creative responses to stereotyped sit-
uations; for instance, if someone stares at you like a sex object, how about simply
picking your nose?
Sculpture Theatre (or Image Theatre)
This method uses body language to explore concepts. Participants are asked to
‘sculpt’ their (or others’) bodies to express an idea. Then they move into a
group to form a group ‘sculpture’ or image. We have explored concepts such as
‘war’ and ‘peace’; for instance, using the form of the participants’ bodies and
their relation to each other to express different aspects of conflict in the
dynamics of war. We also ask the group to ‘dynamise’ the group sculpture of
war, transforming into peace. This stimulates an enjoyable and active atmos-
phere in which to discuss the obstacles we face during the transition from ‘war’
Forum theatre (or ‘simultaneous dramaturgy’)
One method is to act out a scenario in which something happens that you want
to prevent or change. Then you re-enact the scenario; members of the audi-
ence can interrupt, calling out ‘freeze’ and making a suggestion for something
that one of the characters might do differently. The person who calls out then
takes over the role of that character and tests out the idea. We have used this
with groups of up to 20 women using the scenario of sexual harassment at a bus
stop or during bus trips. Participants are asked: ‘what can she do to prevent the
harassment’? When a person offers a suggestion, they enter the scenario to test
out the idea. We personally practise a course of action that we learned from
this study and share this experience with other groups and people. (See ‘Forum
Theatre’ Exercise, p137.)
This method is generally used during street actions, especially when making
press statements or petitioning against human rights violations. It creates an
opportunity to attract people’s attention. We created our own newspaper that
looked like an ordinary Turkish newspaper and read it on a stage to the public.
We used this technique to show and get the attention of the public about a fact
of our daily lives: that there is still war and that while the media do not cover
it, we need to be aware of it.
, For more on the Theatre of the Oppressed, visit
This is a performance either in the streets or somewhere unexpected, rather
than a theatre. A good place to do this in Izmir is on the ferry, especially at rush
hour. One year on 25 November — the international day against violence against
women — we dramatised a scene of a man harassing a women. Others of our
group mingled with passengers and started a discussion, explaining at the end
of the short ferry trip that the male harasser was playing a role and was really
a friend, but that women confront this situation daily. After our second experi-
ence of invisible theatre, we invited passengers to a press conference
afterwards. Some women who attended wanted to keep in touch. Once we did
‘invisible theatre’ about children and violence, but when we finished, a
participant protested that we had exposed him to a disturbing dramatisation
against his will.
Challenges and Successes of Working with
Nonviolence in South Korea
ot long ago, Korean social movements began to use the concept of ‘non-
violent way of struggle’. Still, many social activists see nonviolence
negatively, as a weak, passive, non-resistant form of struggle, partly
because of our own history.
For more than 30 years after the Japanese colonial occupation and then the
Korean War, an authoritarian military regime ruled South Korea. The regime
responded to growing aspirations for liberty and democracy with armed terror,
and so some people armed themselves, speaking of ‘resistant violence’.
Nowadays, the state still uses violence, especially against activists, but more
activists are coming to accept that there is a nonviolent way of struggle.
There has been some form of nonviolent resistance since the 1980s, such as
students objecting to being sent to the northern frontier, soldiers denouncing
the violence they experienced during military service, and civilians protesting
questioning by police patrols. However, the concept of nonviolence was limited
to a means of resistance.
Now, conscientious objectors to compulsory military service are said to be
the first sincere pacifists in Korea who view nonviolence as a philosophy of life.
They have advocated the right to refuse unreasonable orders from the state
ANTI FLAG SWEARING DIREC ACTION, SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA.
PHOTO: JUNGMIN CHOI
(when nationalism and militarism are prevalent), and they have appealed to
the basic good in people, asking them to fundamentally question the military,
arms, and war. People were deeply moved when they saw conscientious objec-
tors willing to go to prison for 18 months rather than take up arms. They have
come to know the significance of the act of conscientious objection, watching
the continual wars caused by the USA and Israel.
The working group for conscientious objection in Korea is now focusing on
providing necessary assistance such as legal and psychological counselling to
those who prepare to object and is also spreading awareness about conscien-
tious objection through a variety of activities, such as press conferences,
forums, campaigns, and direct actions. The number of conscientious objectors
(COs) in Korea is still small, and the demands on those who make a conscien-
tious objection declaration mean that they need support.
The CO movement does not have a clear stance towards nonviolent action.
For instance, in 2003 when Kang Chul-min declared his conscientious objection,
while he was doing his military service, there were conflicting opinions on
whether to hold a sit-down demonstration in solidarity. Similar discussions
arose concerning university students who made CO declarations before they
were called up. Many do not see conscientious objection as one form of nonvi-
olent direct action that should connect with other forms of direct action.
Other groups that take nonviolent pacifism as a principled philosophy
played an important part in the struggle against the U.S. Military base exten-
sion in Pyeongtaek. They used diverse tactics, including imaginative forms of
nonviolent direct action that were in striking contrast to previous methods of
struggle. Some campaigners decided to make a ‘peace village’, squatting in
buildings abandoned to make way for the base and renovating them as a library,
café and guesthouse, displaying works of art donated by artists. When bulldoz-
ers, backed with armed riot police and private security forces (‘hired thugs’),
arrived to demolish the remaining buildings in the village, villagers and
supporters initially succeeded in blocking the demolition, climbing on to roofs
or tying themselves to buildings and sitting down in front of bulldozers.
However as government forces escalated — from a force of 4,000 in March 2006
to 22,000 in September — hundreds of villagers and supporters were arrested
or injured. Despite this, people still tried to farm the fields under military
occupation, finally giving up in February 2007. The last candlelight vigil of
protest was held in March 2007; the next month villagers and supporters
returned to bury a time capsule marked by a flag saying ‘Return’.
Peace Community of San José de Apartadó,
Colombia: A Lesson of Resistance, Dignity, and
Ruben Dario Pardo Santamaria
ounded in 1997, the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was born
in adverse conditions for nonviolent resistance. The Community is located
in an area of Uraba, Colombia, where strong economic interests are at
play and where armed conflict is waged between guerrillas (the FARC), state
forces, and paramilitaries (usually working in collusion with the state). It is an
area where political terror, assassination, and intimidation have been used to
eliminate leaders and activists. The Peace Community itself is formed of
displaced people, people whose parents and grandparents were also victims of
violence. Throughout its existence, the Peace Community has faced campaigns
to discredit it from the highest levels of national government and the media,
especially under the government of Alvaro Uribe.
The Peace Community has more than 1,000 members, even though around
150 members have been killed by state security forces, paramilitaries, or the
Towards a Strategy of Civil Resistance
What began with an urgent need to find practical alternatives for displaced
people has grown into a project offering an alternative to the current model of
society. This has three dimensions:
I Resisting war and forced displacement, establishing a mechanism for
protecting civilians in a context of strong armed conflict.
I Establishing a sustainable basis for community cohesion, including
developing holistic and ecological economic alternatives.
I Constructing peace at the everyday, personal level of nonviolent
relationships and at political levels through condemning the use of violence
and supporting a negotiated political solution to the armed conflict and
through outreach, spreading the idea of zones of peace and offering guidance
to other local communities.
A war zone does not have a normal supply of essential goods. Therefore, the
Community needs to grow its own food; it cooperates with ‘fair trade’ groups
to market coca and baby bananas. In addition, it organised meetings and courses
(under the title Peasant University or University of Resistance) to share infor-
mation about ecological forms of agriculture.
The emergence of the Peace Community has been a radical challenge to those
who seek to dominate a territory, above all the armed actors of the state, the
paramilitaries, and the guerrillas. To survive, the Community needs to build
relationships that on the one hand reduce the pressure on the Peace
Community and on the other strengthen its resilience through building relation-
ships at the local, national, and international levels.
The Peace Community’s founding declaration lays out principles of demilitari-
sation and neutrality that represent the common denominator of the commu-
nity. The act of signing this declaration is a unifying force for the collective.
Training has been vital to the community. First, in preparing to establish the
community, there were workshops with displaced people and prospective
members. Now the Training Committee concentrates internally on strengthening
the understanding of and commitment to the Community’s principles, analysing
its situation, and evaluating the whole process of civil resistance. It teaches
conflict resolution skills within the Community itself and aims to strengthen the
resolve of Community members not to join any armed group. The Training
Committee works not only with families, coordinators, and working groups of
the Community but also with other families in the area.
The Community engages in activities to reduce the risk of human rights’
violations of Community members and to strengthen the very process of civil
resistance. This involves:
Proposal for New Neutral Zones
Unlike ‘safe areas’ created by agreement between armed forces, in the Peace
Community the civilian population itself has decided to create a physical space
I documenting and publicly denouncing violations committed by all armed
I identifying community spaces by erecting billboards declaring its principles;
I disseminating information through small publications, videos, national and
international meetings on its territory, national and international tours, and
its own Website;
I petitioning the national government and increasingly international agencies,
which has sometimes led to favourable verdicts such as restrictions on U.S.
military aid and the trial of soldiers accused of killing Community leaders in
I protective accompanying: Peace Brigades International regularly accompanies
transport to and from the Community, while other international groups,
including the U.S. Fellowship of Reconciliation, support placements in the
Community, for instance, working in the school.
and social protection for those not involved in the war. Peace communities are
not a mere space of survival amid the bullets, but places that seek to build peace
with social justice, a way of life based on dignity, autonomy, and solidarity.
Ability to Resist Repression
The peace community of San José de Apartadó has been one of the worst hit by
political violence in Colombia. Political repression is aimed at breaking the
principles and beliefs of those who opt for peace, at spreading mistrust and
intimidation, and at crippling individual and collective action. Through selec-
tive actions and direct violence, this repression spreads intimidation and
mistrust among the population, crippling peoples’ capacities to react.
Persistence in the Community’s resistance, despite the violence, can be
partly explained by the absence of better alternatives for people who have
been forcibly displaced. However, it also depends on more positive factors: a
strong social consciousness, in which people act as subjects not subordinate to
political orders; the perception that, despite the armed actors, the process of
resistance has a chance of success; confidence that nonviolence offers better
chances of survival; and an unshakable commitment not to abandon the struggle
for which so many martyrs have already given their lives.
Different Types of Resistance
The Peace Community resists at many levels:
I resisting malaria, poverty, and the lack of basic services in such areas of
I resisting the terror of legal and illegal armed groups;
I resisting the temptation to revenge in a territory where it would be extremely
easy to join any armed actor and seek vengeance against an enemy;
I resisting the imposition of an exclusive and authoritarian model of society,
while proposing a project of life based on a comprehensive vision of dignity
Among the most important factors that have enabled peasants and farmers of
San José de Apartadó to maintain nonviolent resistance during the past ten
years are the following:
I the accompaniment of entities of the Catholic Church;
I the Community’s democratic and flexible organisational structure, which
strengthens the sense of belonging and community cohesion;
I improvements in the lives of women and children as compared to previous
I strong internal discipline, respect for the rules of conduct agreed upon, and
loyalty to fundamental principles of neutrality and nonviolence;
I implementing internal measures of protection;
SAN JOSÉ DE APARTADÓ, COLOMBIA, COFFINS PROCESSION.
PHOTO: PEACE COMMUNITY
I opening up spaces for consulting with governmental actors;
I implementing economic strategies to meet basic needs in the Community;
I a progressive process of integrating and coordinating actions with other local
experiences of civil resistance in different regions of Colombia;
I training new leaders;
I the example of martyrs motivating continued resistance;
I protection offered by international accompaniment;
I gradual consolidation of a network of international support in many
I the moral strength of the Community and its resilience in the face of violence
by armed groups.
Bombspotting: Towards a European Campaign
n 8 July 1996, the International Court of Justice declared ‘that the threat
or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of
international law’. This offered peace movements an additional argu-
ment and a legal basis for actions of civil disobedience and direct actions
against nuclear weapons. In Belgium, small actions of civil disobedience at
NATO’s headquarters and Kleine Brogel Air Force Base started a campaign,
Bombspotting, that raised the issue of nuclear weapons and the legal duty to
Bombspotting was the first time many participants took part in direct
action. From the outset, organisers made a big effort to enable people to take
an active role in direct action without necessarily being involved for a long time
in the preparation. While we encourage people to contact a regional group and
we organise and actively promote nonviolent direct action trainings, we keep
participation open to ‘the average citizen’, not only to ‘the professional
activist’. This means that at Bombspotting actions, a large structure, involving
hundreds of volunteers, enables people to participate easily and without heavy
One important way in which we lowered the threshold for people to partic-
ipate was setting up local groups. These groups, consisting of people from very
BOMBSPOTTING ACTION AT THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE IN BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, ONJULY 8, 2006, TO
COMMEMORATE THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ICJ’S ADVISORY OPINION ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS.
PHOTO: CAROLINE DOSSCHE
different walks of life, brought the theme of nuclear weapons and the call for
direct action for nuclear disarmament out of campaign meetings and onto the
streets. Local mobilising efforts were much more effective than the office’s
national promotion campaign. Through working with local groups, we ensured
that potentially interested people nearly everywhere could have face-to-face
contact with people working on the campaign on the grassroots level.
For several years, we invited international activists to participate, but then
we faced new challenges. How could we help create pressure on governments
of NATO member states? This is still under discussion. We are far from a truly
international campaign, but have had efforts and discussions that others might
learn from. When you invite internationals to join in, it’s easy to overlook basic
things — such as food, accommodation, meeting places, transport — that can
add to stress. We need to make sure the international participants have all the
information they need to make decisions. We must take language problems in
account, such as ensuring that people answering a home base telephone number
or legal assistance can speak different languages. The internationals need time
to accustom themselves and to prepare for the action, both at home and shortly
before the action. In preparation, we run through the different phases of their
stay and role in the action from their perspective. What information does a
person need? What could help him/her feel secure and comfortable? We also con-
sider meeting some of the international guests before, to prepare this together.
An excellent example of an instrument designed for this purpose is the
Faslane 365 Resource Pack (http://www.faslane365.org). This booklet gives
basic information on the purpose and political context of the year-long Faslane
blockade and practical advice on mobilisation, tactics, training, and more,
enabling groups to autonomously prepare for participation.
In our experience, nonviolent direct action training with international par-
ticipants has proved very helpful. Trainings are an opportunity to go through
action scenarios extensively and to prepare to handle problems and difficulties
that might arise. One can have the feeling that participating in actions abroad
does not bring your own campaign much further. Moreover, it is time-consuming
and might cost a lot of money. On the other hand, by going to another country,
you can enhance the visibility of your campaign internationally. It’s very often an
effective way of meeting people with whom you can work in the future.
One example is that the international participation of French Greenpeace
activists inspired them to take action against the French development of new
nuclear missiles. In September, during the first large demonstration against the
M51 missile, about 30 Bombspotters took part in the first Bombspotting-style cit-
izens’ inspection at the Centre d’Essaies des Landes near Bordeaux. We gave
advice and assistance in preparing for the action, and Bombspotting nonviolent
direct action trainers returned a few months after the action to give a ‘training
But action abroad can never replace action in your own country. Therefore,
again, it is of the utmost importance to think about what you expect from the
involvement of internationals in your campaign or from your own participation
There are ways to increase the significance of the international presence.
At the Bombspotting XL action in 2005, where citizen inspectors targeted four
different sites related to nuclear weapons in Belgium, activists were present
from all NATO member countries hosting NATO nuclear weapons (the UK, the
United States, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and the Netherlands) and from other
countries (such as Finland, France, Greece, Portugal, and Spain). Our press
work drew attention to this presence, and international delegations did their
own press work in their respective countries. When working this way, it is not
just a question of inviting internationals and letting them participate. A lot
more work is necessary, including coordinating press efforts and dividing roles
before, during, and after the action.
EXERCISES FOR WORKING IN
his section describes exercises to help in developing your nonviolent
campaigns and actions. These exercises can be used during nonviolence
trainings, workshops, or group meetings. Exercises make our time together
more participatory and contribute to the process of learning and building
capacities among participants.
The exercises we have collected come from a variety of sources in our rich
history. Many times these exercises have been adapted and changed over time.
We expect that you will do the same, changing them to meet your needs. While
most of the exercises in this section can be used for different purposes, we give
some recommendations for where and how to use them best, as well as tips for
We hope you find these exercises useful in your process of building nonvio-
lent campaigns and that they motivate you to search for and develop more
exercises to continue to enrich the repertoire of the nonviolence movement.
Only a few of these exercises give ‘credit’ to particular trainers or training
groups. We apologise in advance to anybody who feels he or she should have
been credited as the author of a particular exercise. Please let us know so that
we can rectify this on the Web and in future printed editions. However, most
exercises used in nonviolence training have been passed from group to group
and adapted according to new situations or styles.
Time: Minimum 15 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise: To give people an opportunity to solve a
hassle or conflict using nonviolence. To practise what it feels like to be in both
roles in a conflict. This is a good introductory exercise for many situations.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Ask people to form two rows of an equal number of people facing one
another. (You can add another row to play the role of observers.) Ask people
to reach out to the person across from them to make sure they know with
whom they will interact. Explain that there are only two roles in this exer-
cise: everyone in one line has the same role and the people opposite them
have another role; each person relates only to the person across from them.
Explain the roles for each side and describe the conflict and who will start
it. Give participants a few seconds of silence to get into their roles and then
tell them to begin. Depending on the situation, it may be a brief hassle (less
than a minute) or you can let it go longer, but not more than three or four
Then call ‘stop’ and debrief. Debriefing questions should include: what people
did, how they felt, what ways they found to solve or deal with the conflict,
what they noticed about body language, what they wish they had done, etc.
(If you have a third row as observers, ask them what they saw.)
Replay the exercise, switching roles. So that people do not interact with the
same person, move one line up by having the person at one end go to the
other end of that line and everyone in that line shift one person.
Examples of roles
I Someone planning to engage in nonviolent action/someone close to them
who is opposed to their participation
I Blockading a weapons or government facility/angry worker
I Protester/counter-protester or angry passer-by
I Protester committed to nonviolence guidelines/protester breaking
Time: 15 minutes or longer
Goal or purpose of the exercise: A group technique designed to generate a
large number of ideas in a limited amount of time.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Give the group a question such as ‘what is nonviolence’? Or ‘how do we
develop a fund-raising strategy’? Then ask the group to come up with as
many ideas and responses as possible.
Here are five recommendations for holding a brainstorming session:
1. Focus on quantity: The greater the number of ideas generated, the more
you have to pick from.
2. No criticism: Criticism, challenges, and discussion should be put ‘on hold’
until the brainstorming is done.
3. Unusual ideas are welcome: To get a good and long list of ideas, unusual
ideas are welcomed.
4. Combine and improve ideas: Good ideas can be combined to form a single
very good idea, as suggested by the slogan ‘1+1=3’.
5. A brainstorm usually starts slowly, picking up speed as ideas spark other
ideas, and then slowing down again. This is why some call it ‘popcorning’.
At a nonviolence training session, you are not trying to come up with a single
definition to answer the question ‘What is nonviolence’? But through the
brainstorm, participants can share many answers to that question. It can be
enlightening to do a ‘What is violence’? brainstorm at the same time. Pay
attention to key words. Check to make sure that words like ‘power’ and
‘anger’ don’t appear only in the violence brainstorm.
After all the ideas are listed (preferably written up for all to see), ask if
people have any questions about or disagree with any of the ideas. Open
this up for discussion. You may not need to come to consensus on a brain-
storming session. Or you may want to sort out the answers for further
Time: 3 hours
Goal or purpose of the exercise:
I To motivate members of a dominant group to process information about
I To turn some power dynamics upside down so the dominant group can
experience what it is like when others have an uninterrupted opportunity
to dominate ‘air time’.
I To build more solidarity among those who have less power so they can
better support each other in an organisation or a workshop.
I To create a norm that the dominant group members can use to support
each other to change rather than depending on those who have less
power to ‘teach them’.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Explain to the full group that not all gender differences are between women
and men, but that power dynamics are also based on sexual orientation and
on how much a person fits the dominant cultural expectations of his or her
gender. While this exercise will include separate discussions of men and
women to air experiences and views, it welcomes sharing other gender
dynamics. Explain that the women will share from their life experiences in
response to a set of questions. The men will have the job of listening as
deeply as they can, giving full attention to what they hear, without asking
questions. Following this, gay men and any others who feel that their gender
identification has led them to experience a lack of power in their society will
also be asked to speak from their life experiences.
To work effectively, this process requires common ground rules.
I Confidentiality — Nobody should repeat outside the session what someone
else has said.
I Participants will ask permission of a person if they want to pursue a point
made by that Speak Out participant.
Ask the women to go to another room with a female facilitator and prepare
to speak out. They will first work on their feelings about doing this, being
reassured that not everyone needs to talk and that previous experiences with
this exercise have built unity. Go over the following questions and ask partic-
ipants to tell personal stories about their experiences as women.
I What are you pleased about or proud of regarding your gender identity?
I What is difficult and painful about it?
I What do you want the others to know, so that they could work with you
better and be more supportive?
Encourage honesty and expressing the emotions that come up.
At this same time, ask the the men to stay in the room and to work with a
male facilitator who first asks about their feelings. Ask what they’ve found
useful in their lives to enable themselves to listen well to something impor-
tant they may have had difficulty hearing. Try to get as many men as possible
talking. Listen for and encourage gay men and others to speak up who may
have a minority status because of gender issues.
When the women are ready, they return. They stand in front of the men,
who are seated, and speak as individuals (not as a group). They speak to
each of the three questions, as the facilitator presents them.
Any men who also feel their gender identity has given them a minority status
in their culture are invited to stand up and answer the same questions.
When the women are finished, they leave the room. The female facilitator
goes with them, encouraging them to debrief.
The male facilitator assists the men in processing and digesting what
they’ve heard and what they learnt from it.
Staying in touch, the facilitators arrange a common time to bring the two
, This has been adapted from an exercise developed by Training for
Change, notes by George Lakey, which can be found at
A good tool to use is a closing circle, in which everyone gets to share one
insight — usually something they’ve learned about themselves — in a
sentence or two. The facilitators might bridge the gap by socialising with
participants from the other gender group. Then play by moving into
dancing or some physical activity in which everyone can participate and relax.
A GENDER DIALOGUE FOR
Time: 30 to 45 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise:
I To create a space for dialogue between women and men in peace
I To identify points of tensions between men and women in peace
I To develop a level of comfort and commitment in addressing gender issues
in peace organisations.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
I. Small group discussion of Gender, Conflict, and Peacebuilding
1. In mixed small groups of men and women, make a list of the ways men
and women experience conflict and violence differently.
2. In the same small groups, make a list of the different ways that men and
women participate in peace work.
3. In the large group, ask each small group to report their findings.
II. Divide the large group into small groups of women-only and men-only.
1. Ask each group to share successes and challenges in working with the
opposite sex on peace issues. Challenge the groups to provide as many
real examples as possible, both positive and negative.
2. Ask each group to discuss strategies for working with the opposite sex on
I Have each group report back their findings and strategies.
I In mixed pairs of one woman and one man, ask participants to respond to
each other about the reports. Each person should take a turn talking
about his or her feelings about the dialogue while the other listens and
tries to understand, not interrupting.
, This exercise was adapted from the Women in Peacebuilding Resource
and Training Manual, edited by Lisa Schirch. The full manual can be
found at http://www.iiav.nl/epublications/2004/womens_peacebuilding
_manual.pdf or at http://www.ifor.org/WPP/resources.htm
Time: 30 minutes or longer
Goal or purpose of the exercise: To help people learn about the rich history
of nonviolent campaigns and to gain a better understanding of campaigns,
tactics, and movements.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Ask people to break into small groups of five to six people (groups should be
of equal numbers). Ask one person in each group to list the numbers 1 to 10
on a piece of paper. Tell the groups they are ‘competing’ with one another
to see who can do the task fastest (as opposed to our usual cooperative
style). Tell each group to list 10 wars as quickly as possible, raising their
hands when they are done. Quietly note the time. Then ask them to list 10
nonviolent campaigns and again raise their hands when done. Note how it
likely takes longer to list nonviolent campaigns than wars (although we will
not discuss this point further here).
Starting with the ‘winning’ group, write a list of nonviolent campaigns on a
wall chart. Ask other groups to add to the list. There will probably be a mix
of movements, tactics, campaigns, etc. List them all; use the list to explain
the differences so that participants can learn about strategic processes and
how effective strategies develop. For example, the list may include ‘anti-
apartheid’ (a movement),’Salt March’ (a campaign), and ‘sit-ins’ (a tactic).
Using the list, ask the participants to describe components of campaigns,
identify tactics, and describe what makes a movement. Use a well-known
campaign as a case study to learn about the strategic development of non-
violent campaigns. You can also use this list to introduce people to campaigns
with which they are not familiar. This list can become the basis of a longer
discussion. Adjust the time according the group’s needs and knowledge.
Time: Minimum 30 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise: To identify and analyse the nature and
components of a problem and to come up with positive responses.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Draw a tree with roots, a trunk, and branches with fruit. The tree repre-
sents the problem you will analyse. Ask participants to identify the roots
(causes), the fruits (consequences), and the trunk (the institutions that
uphold the system.) You can also add underlying principles found in the soil
that ‘nurture’ these root causes.
What is the healthy fruit we want to grow? What roots do we need in order
to grow healthy fruit? What roots do we need to cut? What structures need
to be developed for a healthy society? What needs to be resisted? What values
need to be in the soil to strengthen the roots? Identify goals for growing a
healthy tree or goals for cutting down an unhealthy tree. Can we answer the
above questions positively?
Analyse the Problem Tree
Choose the institution in the trunk of the tree that your group wants to
weaken. Draw another tree, identifying the root causes and consequences.
Use the list of questions above to analyse the situation or use the questions
THE PILLARS OF POWER
Time: Minimum 30 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise:
I To identify the pillars holding up the power structures we want to over
I To analyse the pillars with the goal of developing strategies to weaken
I To identify the vulnerability of power structures.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Describe the Pillars
1. Draw an upside down triangle with pillars holding it up. Write the name
of the problem in the triangle. It can be an institution or an injustice
2. Ask the group to identify the pillars that represent the institutions and
factors that support the problem (e.g., the military, corporations,
patriotic citizens). Be specific about elements of the support structures
(e.g., the military includes the leadership, soldiers, veterans, military
families). This will help as we analyse how to weaken the structure.
3. Identify the underlying principles that are the foundation of the pillars
(e.g., sexism, greed, lies).
Analyse a Pillar
Choose a pillar that your group wants to knock down. Consider your group’s
mission as you make your decision. Draw another set of pillars, writing the
name of the institution from your chosen pillar in the triangle. Now analyse
what holds up that problem. This can become the basis for developing your
Explain to the group that while the problem seems hard to shake, the
inverted triangle symbolises its weakness. Whole pillars do not need to be
knocked down to weaken power; weakening the pillars can have a great
CONSEQUENCES OF FEAR
Time: Minimum 1 hour
Goal or purpose of the exercise: To share and analyse the causes and
consequences of fear.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Ask the members of the group to refer to an experience when they felt fear.
Divide into small groups so that everyone can participate. One person
should take notes about the consequences of fear. Afterwards, in a large
group, write up the central ideas on the wall. Another option is to ask
people to draw a situation when they felt fear. Discuss the drawing, focusing
on the subjective experience (what participants thought, felt, what happened
in the body, what reactions were, etc.), not simply re-constructing the
It is important to end the exercise discussing the value of various alterna-
tives that we can use against fear, to end on the positive. The exercise aims
to help people to share experiences, identify their reactions, and know
better how to deal with problems.
SPECTRUM OF ALLIES
Time: Minimum 20 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise:
I To understand who our allies and opponents are.
I To help in realising that tactics need to be planned in relation to how
much they do or do not attract key allies and move people towards being
I To encourage more optimistic mobilisation efforts through realising it is
not necessary to win over the opposition to our point of view.
I To invite people into the fascinating complexity of strategising.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
This exercise uses a newsprint diagram to explore the idea that most social
change situations involve a struggle between those who want the change
and those who don’t. Represent those who want the change by a point at
one side of the sheet (say, on the left) and the opponents by a point at the
other side. Explain that societies (or towns or states) usually include a range
of groups that can be put on a spectrum from closest to the point of view
of the advocates to farthest away. Draw a horizontal line representing this
spectrum. Draw a half-moon or half a pie with wedges (as on the diagram
below). The wedges closest to either end represent active allies and oppo-
nents, the next passive allies and opponents, and the group in the middle
Use the issue you are working on; if this is a general training, ask for an
example of an issue that people in the group might be working on or inter-
ested in. State a demand related to the issue. Ask who in society might be
inclined to be most supportive, least supportive, and in the middle. Give
examples: ‘unions’, ‘poor people’s groups’, ‘Chamber of Commerce’, etc.
As participants identify groups and their locations on the spectrum, write
them into the ‘pie’. Identify why people are neutral; discuss if there are
ways to move them toward becoming allies. Also note where people may
already have moved from one wedge to another and discuss why (e.g., sol-
diers and veterans tend to support wars in the beginning, but as the war
wages, opposition develops).
Give the good news: in most social change campaigns, it is not necessary to
win the opponent to your point of view, even if the powerholders are the
opponent. It is only necessary to move some or all of the pie wedges one
step in your direction. If we shift each wedge one step, we are likely to win,
even though the hardliners on the other side don’t budge.
As the group develops its strategy and its tactics, it needs to identify which
wedge it wants to address and how it can move people. In making choices
about whom to reach out to, ask questions such as: which groups do we have
some access to or credibility with? Which groups are not being reached?
Given our group’s purpose, which groups are we most suited to persuade?
This exercise can be done in as little as 20 minutes, but you can spend much
more time filling in the wedges and analysing the situation.
, Taken from: http://www.trainingforchange.org/content/view/69/39
TREE AND WIND TRUST GAME
Time: 30 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise: To highlight situations of insecurity or fear
and to gain confidence in yourself and the group.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Form a tight circle of six to seven people, with one person in the middle.
Ask the person in middle to place his/her feet solidly on the ground, close
his/her eyes, and let him/herself fall to one side (as if a tree being moved
by the wind). Ask the rest of the group to keep their hands in front of their
bodies and pass the person in the middle from one to the other, without any
brusque movement, not letting the person fall. It’s important that all in the
circle coordinate to make the ‘tree’ move from one side to the other. After
a minute, ask another person from the group to go to the middle. It’s impor-
tant that all people participate, so that they can share their experiences.
Once each person has had a turn in the middle, on a big sheet of paper,
write the feelings and experiences that everyone had during the game.
Relate these impressions to fear. Compare some real situations where fear
appears or some consequences of it with what the group has said.
Summarise the consequences of fear and what can be done to overcome it.
Time: Minimum 30 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise: To prepare people to face crisis situations
and to develop a frame of mind of thinking quickly under stress, focusing on
key issues while learning to ignore minor ones, so as to reach action-decisions.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
To a group no larger than eight people (this can be a small group, with others
observing), give a scenario. For example: ‘A woman faints inside the line of
a march. You are a peacekeeper. What do you do’? Allow 15 seconds for dis-
cussion among the three or four people taking part. Afterwards, discuss with
all participants. Ask: How did you come to a decision? What helped the
process? What was the main difficulty?
Another step is to practice the exercise with a spokescouncil. Form several
small groups that act as ‘affinity groups’. Give them a new scenario, and ask
each group to choose a spokesperson. Once each ‘affinity group’ has come
to a decision, have the different spokespersons meet to come to a decision.
After they reach a level of consensus, ask each spokesperson to consult with
their ‘affinity group’ about the spokescouncil’s decision. Each group can
make recommendations for changes if necessary. Then have the spokescoun-
cil meet again to come to a final decision that hopefully will be a decision
that everyone in all of the ‘affinity groups’ can live with.
Please note that a major limitation is that doing too many quick decision
exercises, especially right before an action takes place, can establish a
mind-set of emergency, thus raising tension so that people panic. Quick
decision exercises should be tempered with other training experiences to
prevent this perspective of imminent danger.
Time: Minimum 20 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise: Role playing is a simulation exercise in
which participants take on roles in a given situation as preparation for
encountering a similar situation or evaluating a past one. Role playing is
used to develop a sense of tactics, individual competence, and group cohesion.
The main advantage of role playing over other tools is that by its nature it
involves people’s emotions as well as their intellects in the experience.
Because participants are more deeply engaged in role playing than they are
in discussing a situation, they learn more and probably more quickly. Role plays
are a versatile tool that can be used for many different purposes, for
example: to analyse situations, theories and tactics; to understand people and
their roles; to develop insight into the thoughts and feelings of one’s
‘opponents’; to anticipate new situations; to reveal fears, anxieties, and
other feelings people have about an action; to develop individual and group
competence and confidence; and to develop group morale.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Although role plays can be very complicated and involve many participants,
they often are designed to look at a limited situation and not an entire
action. Consider what the group needs to practise to prepare for an action.
(See ‘Roles Before, During, and After an Action’, p86, to determine roles
that may be needed.)
Set the scene, often with a few very simple items to prepare the scene and
characterise the roles, so that all participants understand the physical
setting in which the role play will take place. Give the participants a
description of their role, especially including the motives and interests of
the role, rather than a screen play to act out. Give people a few minutes to
get into their role, and, if they are in a group, possibly to map out tactics.
Be clear when the role play begins and when it ends. Ask role players to
start at the given scene and play their role as they see it.
It is best to end the role play as soon as enough important issues are
uncovered. It is important for the trainer(s) to act to prevent physical or
emotional injury to the participants, possibly by quickly stopping the role
play if situations that endanger the participants develop.
After stopping the role play, give the participants a brief pause to lay down
their roles. Then begin an evaluation. This is an essential part of the role
play exercise. It is often advantageous to begin with allowing the partici-
pants to share the emotions that came up during the role play. If not everyone
could see the entire role play, it helps to have a very brief overview of the
events. Participants can share what they learned during the exercise.
Observers can share their views about what happened, what went well,
what needs improvement, what precipitated increased or decreased
Set the tone for the evaluation, helping the group members to share their
feelings or tensions and what they learned or observed about tactics, strat-
egy, goals, nonviolence theory, and its application. Discourage evaluating
how ‘well’ the participants played a role. There is no one ‘right’ answer to
a given situation so it is important to help the group to express its ideas and
alternative solutions for that situation. For a short role play, usually twenty
minutes is enough. It is often helpful to start another role play that can
allow the group to try alternatives that came up in the evaluation rather
than continue the discussion. One way to do this is to repeat the same basic
plot with different people in the roles or change the situation by bringing in
new roles, such as police or crowd reactions.
An evaluation should only go on as long as new issues are raised and
participants are exploring problems and alternatives.
Time: Minimum 20 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise:
I To help a group determine what an effective nonviolent action is.
I To show different perceptions on nonviolence
I To test or develop a specific proposal for effective nonviolent action on
which the group agrees.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Make a large cross (+) on the floor with masking tape, long enough to make
a grid on which the group members can stand. Write ‘nonviolent’ and ‘vio-
lent’ on opposite ends of one line and ‘effective’ and ‘not effective’ on
opposite ends of the other. (Instead of tape, you can simply put the words
on paper at ends of four sides.) Present a possible action scenario; ask people
to stand in a place on the grid that represents how they feel about it (e.g.,
nonviolent but not effective). Ask some of the people to explain why they
are standing where they are. Let people know that if they are ‘moved’ by
what is said, they can change positions.
If the purpose of this exercise is to create an effective nonviolent action for
a certain situation, use scenario suggestions that move people towards the
nonviolent and effective corner. As you discuss, make a list of what people
identify as needed to make the action more effective and nonviolent (e.g.,
training all the participants, good media work, etc.) If the purpose is to
show different perceptions on nonviolence, suggest a wide variety of
scenarios (both from you and from the participants themselves).
Ask questions to get the group thinking more deeply about what is effective
and nonviolent. Depending on the purpose of the exercise, this exercise can
be done in as little as 20 minutes to show how people feel about actions; it
can be extended until a satisfactory nonviolent action scenario is developed
if that is the goal. This is also a good exercise to use in conjunction with
Time: Minimum 45 minutes
Goal or purpose of the exercise: To explore different scenarios and options;
to develop new alternatives.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Forum Theatre is a form of role playing that can be used for public action
(see ‘Turkey: Building a Nonviolent Culture’, p104). The basic idea is to act
out a scenario, perhaps leading to an undesirable conclusion or violence and
then to begin acting out the scenario again. This time, however, either a
participant in the role play or any observer can shout ‘freeze’ and take over
a role in the scenario to try to do something differently.
A short example of forum theatre
Plot: Two members of your group visit a state official to report an act of
violence against your group. It is unclear whether the police and whoever
attacked your group collaborated. Before entering the official’s office, ask
the group members to decide what documentation about the attack they
have as well as what they want to achieve. Ask the person playing the official
to take a certain attitude (ranging from generally sympathetic to feigning
that s/he will take it seriously to downright hostility and counter-attacking)
and motive (such as a desire to keep group quiet or to find out as much
about them as possible). Ask the official to begin the meeting with some-
thing somewhat disruptive, such as taking the initiative him/herself (or at
least telling them how busy s/he is and perhaps asking to see their identity
cards). S/he should also consider doing something friendly or scary (friendly
would be reminiscing about his or her activist youth or claiming friendship
with parents of some group members; frightening would be showing knowledge
of private lives of group members).
Cast: 2-4 group members, 1 official, 1 official’s receptionist
Role play: Play out the scenario once through. When the group replays, ask
the official to introduce new challenges for the group. Remind people that
if they have a new idea to try, call out ‘freeze’ and take the place of one
of the group members.
Discussion points: What were reasonable objectives for the group mem-
bers? How could they take the initiative in the situation? How much did they
want to divulge about the group and its members? Were they putting other
group members or their families at risk? If they convinced the official to
promise to do something, how could they firm that into an agreement and
make sure it happens? How could they have prepared better for this visit?
TOOLS FOR GROUNDING,
PROTECTING, AND BLOCKADING
Time: 10 minutes for each
Goal or purpose of the exercise: To learn tools that can help you protect
yourself and others in your group and de-escalate a situation.
How it’s done/facilitator’s note
I Centring: When you are centred, you are calm, stable, present in the
moment, and hard to push off balance physically or emotionally. You can
also have a calming effect on those around you. In order to centre yourself,
focus on your centre of gravity. It’s just below your navel, deep inside
your body. Focus here when you feel upset or under pressure in order to
ground yourself and reconnect with your power within.
I Point to attacker: You can make a violent attack very visible by getting
everyone in the vicinity to sit down so the attacker is suddenly visible to
all and to the media.
I Puppy pile: To protect someone being attacked on the ground. One person
kneels and forms a bridge with their body over the victim; others then
pile onto the bridge. Don’t squash the person attacked!
I Step in between perpetrator and demonstrator: Keep your palms open
and visible, try not to touch the attacker, or at the very least, do not hold
onto him or her. Just inter-positioning yourself can often be enough to
stop an attack. Talk reassuringly to the attacker.
I Surround (“U’) and move perpetrator away: With several people, step
between the attacker and the demonstrator, form a U shape around the
perpetrator, and move him or her away. Don’t completely surround the
attacker; make sure to leave him or her an ‘out’. Talk with the attacker
reassuringly as you do this.
I Surround (“O’) and absorb demonstrator: Totally surround a demonstrator
who’s being attacked and absorb him or her back into the crowd.
I Form a line between opposing factions/blocking: Knees relaxed and not
locked, stand shoulder-width apart. Be aware of how strong a line you
need to make and the different impacts of different stances, e.g.: standing
separately > holding hands > linking elbows > linking wrists.
I Staying put/holding your ground: For use, for example, in a blockade.
Centre yourself, send your roots down deep into the earth, feel yourself
relaxed and heavy.
I Sitting in a row: place larger people on the ends.
I Sitting in a circle: Cross your hands between your legs and hold each others’
wrists with a strong grip. In this formation, you can see each other and
give emotional support. Make sure to warn each other about what’s
happening behind, where the other side of the circle cannot see.
I Sitting in a column: Wrap your legs round the person in front, lean forward,
put your hands around the chest of the person in front of you, and keep
your head down.
I Self-defence posture: First lace your hands together at the base of your
skull, with your elbows together protecting your temples. Curl up in a
foetal position on the ground, lying on your right side to protect your
liver. Most main organs and head are thus protected, although your
kidneys are still vulnerable
Time: 10 minutes per statement; more if needed, less if there is clear
Goal or purpose of the exercise: To see and hear the spectrum of people’s
thoughts on an issue and to take a barometer reading of where a group
stands on a statement.
How it’s done/facilitator’s notes
Identify a space where group members can place themselves along a line.
One end of the spectrum represents ‘agreement’, the other end ‘disagree-
ment’ (these words can be posted at each end as a reminder). Present a
clear statement (one idea, not more than a sentence or two), and ask peo-
ple to stand in a place on the spectrum that represents how they feel about
it. Make it clear that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, just different
opinions, and that it is important to listen to each other and try to under-
stand each others’ perspectives. Ask some people to explain why they are
standing where they are; explain that people can be ‘moved’ by what they
hear. Allow time for discussion.
If agreement is needed (e.g., for Nonviolence Guidelines) and there is wide
range of disagreement, ask a few people from either end of the spectrum
to get together and and see if they can rewrite the statement in hopes of
Examples of statements
I Individual Principles of Nonviolent Action (see p31.)
I Individual Nonviolence Guidelines (see p32)
DO IT YOURSELF:
CREATING A HANDBOOK
ince this is an international Handbook, we realise that many groups will
translate materials to create their own handbooks. If you are thinking of
producing your own handbook, here are some tips. First, you need to be
clear about your goals and the amount of energy you are willing to put into a
handbook (see questions below under goals and content). Another important
aspect is thinking about what would make your handbook special.
Here is a list of questions that may be useful before starting your own
What is the main reason for the handbook?
Who is the handbook for?
How do you want the handbook to be used?
What do you need to include in the handbook?
Have you checked existing handbooks? What don’t you like about them or
find not useful?
What topics and themes do you want include?
How do you want to structure the handbook?
How long will your handbook be?
Will you use only new texts or existing ones?
Who will choose existing texts and write new ones?
What is the timeline for this work?
How should the handbook be used? Can people just read a section that is
relevant or do they need to read the full handbook?
How would you fund the handbook?
Do you want to sell it or give it out for free?
What will the distribution scope be?
What kind of layout do you want (e.g., paper size, graphic styles)?
How will you evaluate the handbook?
INDEPENDENCE DAY DEMONSTRATION, BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA.
PHOTO: COLLECTIVE ACTION OF CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS IN BOGOTÁ
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
I Affinity group without
Autonomous group of 5 to 15 persons resorting
in which group members not only to
have an affinity for each other, but physical
know each other’s strengths and violence. It is one of the primary
weaknesses and support each other as tactics of nonviolent resistance.
they participate (or intend to
participate) in a nonviolent campaign
together. This group makes decisions
about the action together.
I Boycott I Consensus decision-making
Social, economic, or political non- A decision-making process that aims
cooperation. to take everyone’s concerns into
consideration, often modifying a
proposed solution several times in the
process. It is based on listening,
respect, and participation by
everyone. Consensus decision-making
decision-making, which often leads to
a power struggle between two
I Conflict resolution
Reconciling opposing perspectives,
stories, or experiences and deciding
on a response that promotes and
protects the human rights of all
Pocket guideline with recommenda-
tions on what to do if stopped by the
police during an action.
A series of activities and actions done
over a period of time to achieve
specific, stated goals. Campaigns are
started by a group of people with a
common understanding and vision
who identify goals and begin a
process of research, education, and
training that will strengthen and grow
the number of participants who
engage in the activities and actions.
I Civil disobedience
The active refusal to obey certain
laws, demands, or commands of a
government or of an occupying power
I Constructive programme
The process of building a new society
in the shell of the old. As Robert
Burrowes describes it: ‘For the individ-
ual, constructive programme meant
increased power-from-within through
the development of personal identity,
self-reliance, and fearlessness. For the
community, it meant the creation of a
new set of political, social, and eco-
nomic relations’. In cases where politi-
cal revolutions have taken place but
the population was not organised to
exercise self-determination, creating
a new society has been extremely dif-
ficult, and a new dictatorship usurping
power has too often been the result.
A process after an action or a training
experience in which group members
share what they experienced, felt,
and learnt during the experiencing, as
well as look at how these learnings
may be helpful in the future.
I Direct action
Any action where individuals or groups
act directly themselves to try to bring
about change rather than asking or
expecting others to act on their
behalf. Interrupting a pro-nuclear
sermon in church would be direct
action; writing to a vicar’s bishop to
complain about the sermon would be
indirect action. Either could be an
effective way of raising the issue.
Supporting people to have more
control over their own lives.
Empowerment can involve gaining
skills (or having one’s own skills and
knowledge), increasing self-confi-
dence, and developing self-reliance.
Is used in a variety of group settings
to describe the action of a person
(facilitator) whose role is to work
with group processes to ensure that
meetings run well and achieve a high
degree of consensus, to help a group
of people understand their common
objectives, and to assist them to plan
to achieve those objectives. This is
done without the facilitator taking a
particular position in the discussion.
Gender is a social construction of
ideas that defines the roles, belief
systems and attitudes, images, values,
and expectations of men and women.
It contributes heavily to power rela-
tionships, not only between men and
women, but also within each group.
This results in many social problems.
I Human rights
Legal rights guaranteeing every
human being’s life, liberty, and secu-
rity of person, based on international
treaties and law.
Either (1) The behaviour of people
who in a conflict refrain from violent
acts; or (2) Any of several belief
systems that reject violence (both
physical and structural) on principle,
not just as impractical. Otherwise,
the term is best not used, since it
often contributes to ambiguity and
confusion. To describe specific
actions or movements, the recom-
mended terms are: ‘nonviolent
action’, ‘nonviolent resistance’, or
I Nonviolent action
An action based on the desire to end
violence — be that physical violence
or what’s been called “structural vio-
lence” of deprivation, social exclusion
and oppression — without committing
further violence. It is an alternative
to both passive submission and
violence. The techniques used in non-
violent action include many specific
methods, which are grouped into three
main classes: nonviolent protest and
persuasion, non-cooperation, and
I Nonviolent resistance
Nonviolent struggle, conducted largely
by non-cooperation, in reaction to an
act, policy, or government a person or
group disapproves of. The broader
terms ‘nonviolent action’ and ‘nonvi-
olent struggle’ are preferred to refer
to the overall nonviolent technique of
action and to action in which a nonvi-
olent group also takes the initiative or
intervenes, as in a sit-in.
population and its institutions using
nonviolent forms of struggle. The term
was especially used during the 1986
Philippine nonviolent insurrection.
I Nonviolent struggle
A synonym for ‘nonviolent action’.
This term may be used also to indicate
that the nonviolent action in a
conflict is particularly purposeful or
aggressive. ‘Nonviolent struggle’ is
especially useful to describe nonvio-
lent action against determined and
resourceful opponents who use repres-
sive measures and countermeasures.
Opposition to war or violence as a
means of settling disputes or gaining
advantage. Pacifism covers a spec-
trum of views ranging from believing
that international disputes can and
should be peacefully resolved; to
calls for abolishing the institutions of
the military and war; to opposing any
organisation of society through
governmental force (anarchist or
libertarian pacifism); to rejecting the
use of physical violence to obtain
political, economic, or social goals; to
condemning force except in cases
where it is absolutely necessary to
advance the cause of peace (pacifism);
to opposing violence under any
circumstance, including defence of
self and others.
Can be defined as the ability to have
an impact on the world. Power may
be seen in different forms:
- Power with: power that comes from
people acting in cooperation.
Individually, they may be powerless,
but together they are greater than
the sum of their parts.
- Power to: an enabling power,
derived from an inner conviction,
acquired knowledge, or skill, an
investment of trust or assistance from
others, or from the ability to use
external resources (e.g., money,
- Power over: the power of dominance
in which the will of one person or
I Snatch squad
A police riot control tactic in which
several officers, usually in protective
riot gear, rush forwards, sometimes in
a flying wedge formation to break
through the front of the crowd and to
snatch one or more individuals from a
I Social movements
A type of group action. They are
large, informal groupings of individu-
als and/or organisations focused on
specific political or social issues, in
other words, on carrying out, resist-
ing, or undoing a social change.
I People power
The power capacity of a mobilised
I Strategy and tactic
Terms that are often confused.
Tactics are the actual means used to
gain an objective, while strategy is
as either ‘violence’ or ‘nonviolence’;
several categories fall between these
two extremes, including ‘destruction
of property’. In reporting on a demon-
stration or resistance movement
which is primarily or exclusively non-
violent, care is required to distinguish
it, for example, from the acts of
violence by small numbers of persons
(who may be undisciplined or deliber-
ately disruptive for political reasons
or as agents provocateurs). Similarly,
a demonstration should not be
described as ‘violent’ when it is
violently attacked by police or troops
but nevertheless maintains its
the overall campaign plan, which may
involve complex operational patterns,
activity, and decision-making that
lead to tactical execution. Strategy is
a long-term plan of action designed to
achieve a particular goal, most often
‘winning’. Strategy is differentiated
from a tactic or immediate actions
with resources at hand because it is
extensively premeditated and often
practically rehearsed. Strategies are
used to make the problem or prob-
lems easier to understand and solve.
Inflicting or threatening to inflict
physical injury or death on people. All
behaviour cannot be neatly classified
Other Training Manuals and Web Resources on Nonviolence
I Resource Manual for a Living Revolution, Virginia Coover, Ellen Deacon,
Charles Esser, and Christopher Moore (New Society Publishers; first edition
1977, latest 1985; 351 pages). Familiarly known as the ‘Monster Manual’, this
was the comprehensive sourcebook for English-speaking nonviolence trainers in
the 1970s and 1980s, produced collectively within the United States by
Movement for a New Society.
I Nonviolent Action Handbook, Beck, Sanderson, Goleta, (World Peace
Communications; 2002; 95 pages). Introductory texts, downloadable or as print
copies from World Peace Communications, 495 Whitman St. #A, Goleta, CA
93117, USA. http://san.beck.org/NAH1-Nonviolence.html
I Nonviolence Trainers Resource Manual (Nonviolence Training Project; May
1995; 211 pages). Wide-ranging manual with sections on defining nonviolence,
power and conflict, learning from other movements, strategic frameworks, non-
violence and communication, working in groups, and preparing for nonviolent
action. PDF download at: http://www.nonviolence.org.au/downloads/
I The Ruckus Society Website offers manuals on action planning and media
among other topics, plus numerous links to other Websites: see
I Handbook for Nonviolent Action (War Resisters League, Donnelly/Colt
Graphix; 1989; 36 pages). Designed as a tool for learning about different
aspects of nonviolent civil disobedience actions. Most of it can be downloaded
as part of ACT UP New York’s Manual for Civil Disobedience: see
I Seeds for Change: A British-based network that provides training resources
including: consensus and facilitation, groups and meetings, practical skills for
campaigning groups: see http://seedsforchange.org.uk/free/resources
I Rant Collective: A trainers’ collective that offers resources on action planning
& structures, anti-oppression, media, and strategy: see http://www.rantcollec-
Nonviolent Action (General)
I The Albert Einstein Institute: nonviolent action, frequently asked questions
about nonviolent action, 198 methods of nonviolent action, applications of non-
violent action, case studies, publications on nonviolent action in many lan-
guages: see http://www.aeinstein.org
I The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Gene Sharp (Porter Sargent; 1973; 3 vol-
umes). Now classic analysis of the theory and dynamics of nonviolent action and
an exhaustive list of methods with examples. Includes extensive bibliographical
I People Power and Protest since 1945: a bibliography on nonviolent action,
April Carter, Howard Clark, and Michael Randle (Housmans; 2006). See
I How to Win Campaigns: 100 Steps to Success, Chris Rose (Earthscan; 2005).
I The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense, Robert J. Burrowes (State University of
New York Press; 1996).
I Justice Ignited: The Dynamics of Backfire, Brian Martin (Rowman &
I Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, Bill
Moyer (with JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, and Steven Soifer), (New Society
Publishers; 2001; 228 pages). Includes Movement Action Plan – a tool of strategic
analysis for nonviolent movements. For resources on the Movement Action Plan,
I DIY or Die: Website with links to different resources for nonviolent direct
action: see http://www.sprayism.com/dawiki/doku.php?id=guides
I The activist tool box: Nonviolence direct action tool box:
I Peace News tools section: Collection of different resources in
nonviolence from practical tools to nonviolence analysis:
I Starhawk’s Resources for Activism Trainers: Resources for nonviolent direct
action and anti-oppression trainers/preparers, magical activism workshop facili-
tators, and consensus decision making: see http://www.starhawk.org/activism/
I The Tyranny of Structurelessness, Jo Freeman (1970). An analysis of why
‘structurelessness’ does not work if we want to be effective:
I Meeting Facilitation — The No-Magic Method, Berit Lakey. How to develop
good group structures, with resources on: agenda planning, facilitation, and roles
in a group: see http://www.reclaiming.org/resources/consensus/blakey.htm
Decision-Making (including Consensus)
I Papers on Nonviolent Action and Cooperative Decision-Making, Randy Schutt.
A nonviolence trainer’s sample agendas and workshop notes dealing with
preparing for nonviolent action, nonviolent action strategic planning,
cooperative decision-making, and interpersonal behaviour:
I INNATE: Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training & Education. Consensus
for Small Groups: an introduction and worksheets. More resources on nonvio-
lence training available at http://www.innatenonviolence.org/workshops/
Dealing with Emotions and Trauma (Fear, Burn-Out, Anger)
Both of these websites have resources in many languages and links to other
I Activist Trauma Support: This Website is primarily for political activists who
may be injured during or by their political activities and/or who are struggling
with other mental health issues related to activism. Resources are available in
many different languages: see http://www.activist-trauma.net
I T-team: a collective of activists in Tel Aviv, historical Palestine, who’ve
come together to support activists going through intense emotional (and post-
traumatic) experiences as a result of their work:
Each of these resources is deeply connected to a particular country and cultural
context, but as examples, they can provide ideas and inspiration for people
I Training for Change, USA. Resources on diversity and anti-oppression. See
I Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice, Paul Kivel
(New Society Publishers; 2002). A book written for white activists working
against racism within the United States.
I Confronting Racism in Communities: Guidelines and Resources for Anti-
Racism Training Resources, David Hollinsworth. A training manual produced for
groups addressing racism in Australia. The document is available as a pdf on the
Web from the Change Agency Education and Training Institute: see
I Henry Martyn Institute, India: Henry Martyn Institute in Hyderabad, India,
established itself as a an ecumenical Christian organisation, dedicated to the
objective study and teaching of Islam and the promotion of interfaith dialogue.
In recent years, however, its work has expanded to include a praxis program
and training for communities in addressing religious and various identity-based
conflicts in Indian communities.
Contact: Henry Martyn Institute, 6-3-128/1, Beside National Police
Academy, Shivarampally, Hyderabad — 500 0520 India
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.hmiindia.com/index.htm
Praxis Program: see http://www.hmiindia.com/praxis_crVision.htm
I Soulforce: an organisation committed to using nonviolence to end violence
against gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgendered people (LGBT) in the
United States. The mission of Soulforce is to cut off homophobia at its source:
religious bigotry. It applies the creative direct action principles taught by
Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. to peacefully resist injustice and demand full
equality for LGBT citizens and same-gender families. Their Website includes
I Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom: see
http://www.peacewomen.org. Includes women’s peace and security resources,
with materials from many cultures and contexts and a number of handbooks
and training resources.
See also http://www.peacewomen.org/resources/Organizing/organizingindex.html
I The Inclusive Security Sustainable Peace: A Toolkit for Advocacy and Action.
Developed by International Alert and Women Waging Peace,available in PDF format
at: http:// www.womenbuildingpeace.org
I Advocacy Guide for Feminists: see http://www.awid.org/eng/Issues-and-
I Claiming Justice, Claiming Rights: A Guide for Women Human Rights
Defenders, see http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/pdf2007/
I International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice: see
I Women Peacemakers Program: see http://www.ifor.org/WPP/index.html
I Women in Black: see http://www.womeninblack.org/
Working with Media
Online media centres/contact examples: