To help start the conversation and keep the focus of this discussion thread, please consider and respond to the following questions:
- What are the (creative) tools used by (young) activists in their nonviolent organizing?
- What role does social media play in nonviolent activism and what does this add to existing nonviolent organizing tools and strategies?
- What are the (gender-specific) risks attached to using social media for nonviolence?
Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to existing comments!
I would like to say hello and I hope I will say something useful
I am an activist, I live in Palestine and I have been doing nonviolence action for a very long time now, over ten years I could say. from my experience in the past years within the field of nonviolence, people would trust the ones who walk the walk with them not just talk the talk, for example: you could find many N.V trainers who are great in theory but what people want to see is that person also goes out with them to the street and demonstrate how he/she believes in nonviolence as a way of life, and how changes will happen when people apply those theory in real action. so we have been using many methods to mobilize people, by training them, distributing flyers, giving lectures, organizing events, creating campaigns, going on marches and parades etc
Thanks for sharing! That's an excellent point without a doubt. Often the distinction is made between strategic nonviolence, and principled nonviolence. The strategic one is adopted merely because it is thought to be more likely to “work” than violence or because violence is not a practical possibility. Those adopting nonviolence in this way often reserve the right to go back to violence if they do not meet with success. The principled one is rooted in principles/ beliefs and holds the view that moral behaviour excludes the use of violence (way of life).
I was wondering, before preparing for marches and parades on the streets, do you agree with the group on certain strategies to use when the parade might turn into a more violent one than to be expected/ hoped for? How does your activist group deal with this?
Thanks again and looking forward to hearing more on this, Peaceful wishes Jose
Dear Jose and Ahmad,
I am very interested in the conversation you began here about the role of NV activism in theory and in practice, as well as the question of how demonstrators prepare for demonstrations. Myself an activist in Israel-Palestine I too have seen many times the theorists who promote but who will not take that to the streets, and those who proclaim non-violence only because they have realized non-violence is their only option now. First off, I believe that regardless of the intention of NV as long as it is being practiced and utilized productively in activist actions then it is good, even if they believe it is only a 'last resort'. Practicing NV will eventually lead them to change their perceptions on NV and then their behavior, thus likely resulting in their deeper belief in NV. For example, I consider myself a anti-militarism/pacficist, while I also struggle with the question of whether revolutionary violence is in certain contexts can be more effective. I practice NV as a way of life, and believe that in Israel-Palestine NV is nesscary and from my experience more and more activists have recognized this as well, even if they do not believe 100% in NV.
In regards to preparing for demonstrations. This is a very good question, as a participant in many demonstrations I have not found that many people do run pre-demonstration sessions. However, there are some groups, for example my friends at Youth Against Settlements who are working to train more and more NV grassroots activists who will be able to stay NV in the face of violent dispersal methods used by the Israeli forces. They once explained to me,"it is better to have 20 well trained NV activists then 2,000 untrained activists". I say this because rather than planning before large demonstrations which is logistically very difficult there are more people trying to practice NV as a way of life, thus reducing the need for these pre-demonstration kiind of planning.
Ahmad would you agree with the comments I made here? Do you too feel that more Palestinian activists have understood the power and potential of NV activism? Do you feel that training NV activists is more productive then pre-demonstration meetings?
Interested to hear your responses~
I'm glad we're having this conversation on the importance of (and challenges to) training allies on the practice (and theory) of non-violent action. To me, deciding to use non-violent action is based on a strategic analysis of the situation. In your battle for human rights, you have two choices: violent confrontation or nonviolent struggle. Violent confrontation has a high price, and you are unlikely to win that battle using this approach for several reasons including: you will lose supporters along the way, your opposition probably has more resources. Nonviolent struggle, however, will give you more opportunity to engage a larger population and you'll be able to wage the battle where your opponent is not as comfortable.
New Tactics has a number of resources related to understanding the power of nonviolent struggle and how to put this principle into practice:
There are many other great projects out there that promote nonviolent struggle such as: Waging Nonviolence and the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict.
In response to the role of social media in nonviolent activism, I wanted to share a helpful resource. I teach a course on Media for Human Rights and Social Change at the School for International Training's peacebuilding programs. One of the tools that I have incorporated into the curriculum over the years is 10 Tactics for Turning Information into Activism. As the site explains:
10 Tactics provides original and artful ways for rights advocates to capture attention and communicate a cause. It includes a 50-minute film documenting stories from around the world and a set of cards; with tools, tips and advice, for you to work through as you plan your own info-activism.
Each tactic has its own video with case studies of successful implementation of these tactics by activists in different parts of the world.
My students' feedback in general has been that the most helpful aspect of tmy course is the actual hands on training in creating high quality videos and radio reports about human rights issues they care about. Helping youth to identify the human rights issues in their communities, guiding them in conflict-sensitive journalism tequniques and teaching them the technical skills to make their own media can have impressive results. Building their confidence in their abilities to tell their own stories is key.
Questions I have for other practitioners:
What are the best techniques you have encountered to help youth get involved in citizen and social media for human rights and social change in a safe and impactful way?
Also, how do you deal with teaching youth to determine when it is dangerous for a youth activist to have their identity exposed through social media in an age when nearly everything is public on facebook? I have encountered this issue in my classes with Iraqi and American students.
Looking forward to hearing suggestions and experiences!
Thank you for sharing this valuable resource. I think you make a very good point here in saying that building youth’s confidence in their abilities to tell their own stories is key. A large component of what we as UNOY Peacebuilders do is to build up the capacity of young people all around the world.
One of our former staff members, scholar Celina del Felice, has written a very interesting article on the unexplored power and potential of youth as peace-builders. Perhaps it might be useful for you and your students.
In addition, I think you raise a very good question regarding exposure of identity on social media. I think that not only youth activists, but people in general need to be really careful with exposing their personal information to an unknown audience. Why was this issue only raised among your Iraqi and American students?
Kim van Luijk
Hi Melaina and Kim,
Thanks a lot for sharing these ideas and resources with us. The Tactical Tech 10 Tactics are indeed excellent, we have worked with Tactical Tech for New Tactics and we consider one of our great partners. On the issue of self-confidence, I would also like to share with a tactic that we captured at New Tactics that utilizes sports to foster a sense of self-confidence among refugee youth from Iraq and Syria in Jordan.
Reclaim Childhood, based in Amman, runs a sports program called “Goals for Girls” in cities and towns in Jordan with significant Iraqi and Syrian refugee populations. They recruit young women and girls, ages 8 to 18, from these refugee communities to play with young women and girls from the local communities in Jordan. Their goal is to empower Iraqi and Syrian young refugee women and girls by fostering engagement and critical life skills through sports. They have so far impacted the lives of more than 800 young women and girls. Engagement in sports offers these young women and girls the unique opportunity to foster critical life skills, such as the ability to work in teams and approach challenges with courage and confidence.
yes, this is a very important question, and as Kim rightly pointed out, it's a question which might be addressed broader - not limited to youth. I wanted to share some general documents related to this issue.
Access, released a guide on maintaining online and mobile phone security, with versions in Arabic and English.The Access guide provides tips for keeping communications safer in such a climate. It recommends Gmail, for example, because it uses a secure connection by default, known as HTTPS, like at banking Web sites; Hotmail provides HTTPS as an option, and Facebook began offering it in January. The guide also explains how to disguise browsing histories and how to gain access to banned sites.
Access has only written an excellent policy document on the major cyber threats facing civil society. Worthwhile a read also.
Lastly, Movements.org has published a report on how to organize on Facebook securely.
Melaina and others, a few other resources to help youth understand the risks they take online (especially if they are using social media for human rights work) include:
These are engaging ways of exploring sometimes scary topics with young activists.
New Tactics has also had a number of dialogues on security and well-being. I hope these resources are helpful!
I would say that the creative tools that were used by youth in organizing nonviolent resistance were those utilizing technology and art. From social media such as Facebook and Youtube, the youth spoke their minds, organized protests, and reached out to other youth as well as the international community. The use of social media seemed very affective in voicing the opinions of the youth. They also provided an alternative source for information than the mass media, who may have political agendas that they follow. Artistic tools such as documentaries, street graffiti, and animations were also used to raise awareness. Depending on the level of anonymity of the social media (or the user’s profile on the network), there can be many risks associated with the use of social media as a tool for civil disobedience. Recently, in fact, there was a case in Lebanon in which an activist who had been very outspoken on his disapproval of the conduct of some government officials on Facebook. He was, allegedly, detained by the police, and physically harmed during that time.
Yeah aosolutely, many activists have used art to bring a message across. In this light, I wanted to share with you an article entitled " Art and the Arab Awakening", it provides a nice overview of how art has been used by activists.
In a different thread Javier Garate highlighted using video as away to attract youth's attention to a specific issue/
On videos: I wanted to share this short video titled "Where is the Love". Is a video produced by students living in east London where one of the biggest arms fairs (DSEi) in the world takes place. As part of a school project they took on to do this video, which is excellent as young people challenge the organisers of DSEi arms fair. Nothing better than young student asking very direct questions to the organisers of the arms fair.
Having youth to use their own words, musics, images to express what they feel about a specific issue, makes this video special.
I think the question is not how to engage youth, youth are always engaging on issues as this video very well shows. It is how to find ways to continue that engagement afterward.
I wanted to share with you an excellent tactic from Poland which we captured from Poland on engaging youth in non-violent activism...
Never again is a group in Poland that utilizes music and sports to combat racism and fascism. They gather cultural resources to build an anti-racist youth network in Poland. By anchoring their activities in the field of youth culture, the organization has been able to recruit and sustain popular involvement in anti-racist action. Youth mobilized through Never Again’s music and sports events often become involved as network anti-racism correspondents at the local level throughout Poland.
Before I start writing down my comments for you to read I want to say congratulations to all the Palestinians who are following this discussion. The world has spoken, and the vote that took place in the UN the other day, however symbolic, goes to show just how isolated Israel and the US are regarding the real issues on hand.
I took some extra time today to go over what has been posted so far. It really is amazing to see how the "conversations" are developing. Based on Kristin's experience many others could log in during the weekend and make comments, and I think that this is fantastic.
That said I would like to share with you a very good blog that was sent out by +972 magazine earlier today and was written by A. M. Poppy, a journalist in the UK, a response to an earlier blog written by Noam Sheizaf. I am also including a third link by Noa Shaindlinger, who is very active with Anarchists Against the Wall, and joins the nonviolent demonstrations held weekly in the West Bank. All the journalists focus on the question of normalization, and t if Palestinians and Israelis should network Here are the links:
http://972mag.com/on-anti-normalization-dialogue-and-activism/55611/ and http://972mag.com/on-anti-normalization-dialogue-and-activism-a-response... and http://972mag.com/thoughts-on-a-joint-yet-unequal-palestinian-israeli-li...
I think this discussion is very relevant to what we are trying to relate to now and raises thoughts about what can be considered common ground and how hard should we strive for shared dialog and networking. Can we have progress without dialog?
All the best
I think your last question is a very important and relevant question. Nevertheless, this question might need a complete new dialogue! Over the years I have received many requests for so called normalization projects. All these requests came from internationals or Israeli's. I believe that dialogue is very important, as long as it happens in an equal situation. If adults from both sides decide to have a dialogue together in order to improve the situation, and both sides can meet in a place without having to arrange permits or scholarships, I believe it can be a good thing. Unfortunately many dialogue projects either ignore the real important subjects or they attract youth by offering them a free trip, a permit, or even money. If dialogue projects take place, they should take place because both sides really want it, and not because it is easier to receive funding from for example the EU when a project brings Israeli and Palestinian youth together.
But again: it is worthwhile to open a complete new dialogue for this subject since there are so many opinions and ideas about dialogue projects.
I realise I'm not answering your question...I really don't have an answer for it because the situation is so complicated. What I could say, is that I know quite some people that do meet in Area B, in East-Jerusalem, in Jordan or Europe and have dialogue and deep friendships. But this is often on a personal level, so without the involvement of an NGO or project. These friendships and dialogues are not facilitated, documented, etc. I think I believe more in the importancy of these personal friendships and dialogues instead of artificial dialogues created by a project.
Dear Ruth and Fabienne,
I would like to follow up the conversation on normalization, and the question of dialogue, progress. At Windows, as you can imagine, we are constantly facing this issue and are always having to defend ourselves and our work to activists and our socities on each side of the greenline. I would first like to explain what is Windows' view on normalization and how we perceive our role moving forwards.
At Windows, we are very much against normalization and we too believe that 'dialogue' that is not based in our reality is not going to lead to any progress. Such as what Fabiene said about offers of money, trips, avoiding the core issues of the conflict, we believe these things will only contribute to the ongoing status quo. Our programs are aimed to end occupation, discrimination and violations of human rights. Thus our programs delve deep into the issues at the heart of our conflict. We make an effort to meet in netural space, or at the very least to alternate between whom must travel (sometimes holding seminars in TLV and sometimes in area B/C of WB where Palestinians will not need permits to travel). As I mentioned in my earlier posts with Ruth, we are very aware of the imabalances of power, and our youth must grapple with these issues as part of their process of (re)creating new realtionships between them based on their shared values. On the same note, we do not mandate that our youth to become 'best-friends', although it does happen, rather, we first and foremost expect them to be open-minded and willing to hear the other's narrative and with that be willing to acknowledge the other's reality (something more difficult than you think). We believe that youth do not have to "accept" the other's history, but to at least be aware and comprehend the 'other'. In addition, we feel that just to meet is not enough, the youth must commit to shared goals and actively pursue them. For us that includes their goal of creating their own media, sharing that with their communities and later developing their own action plans for activism. We believe all of these elements are basic requirements for any type of 'dialogue' that will bring about meaningul progress. (I put 'dialogue' in quotes because we typically avoid the term dialogue since it is connotated with normalization because it most often defines conversations that arevery surface level). To us, our conversations become part of our activism of defying the pressure to not work together.
With all that said, with the current debates raging, we have recognized the need to work more indepth in each society as this is what the society is asking for. Thus we have increased our school workshop programs (done in Single Identity in Jewish and Palesitnian schools) and added additional project based learning programs also in the SIG framework. However, we believe that there is a need to maintain our joint-efforts because without it, we will only go backwards. If we do not continue to keep at a least a low level of open conversation, we fear our societies will revert back to/ or that the belief will grow, that there is no 'partner' and that there is thus no 'hope'.
In short, we believe that in order for 'dialogue' to be progressive it must address the core issues and be relevant to the lived realities of our participants, as well as ensuring there is equal commitment to ending occupation and pursuing justice for all in our region. We believe that despite the increasing pressure to not work together, we must maintain our open channels of communication so they do not become lost for good.
I am interested to hear other's responses to these issues.
PS. On a personal note, mabrouk to all the Palestinians who are part of the dialogue, and to Palestine in general. I am very excited by this acheivement and would like to echo ruth by saying, it is a great show that the US and ISrael are losing their power to control this conflict and the future of the Palestinian people.
Thanks guys for this lively discussion, it is often a very hot issue in the Middle East and it is always debated!
I wanted to reflect on the interplay between the tactical innovations of the youth movements and the tactical adaptations of the ruling elite within each country, a concept that Olena Nikolayenko called "tactical interaction".
In her research she concluded that the tactical innovation of the various youth movements was, in part, a product of the political opportunity structure in which they operated.
For example, in Azerbaijan, an increase in oppression led to tactical innovation when young activists, afraid to pass out informational leaflets in the streets, began tossing them from roofs and balconies of high rise buildings in what they called "leaflet rains.
In Serbia, for example, the history of civic activism impacted the tactical innovation of the youth movement Otpor (Resistance) with regard to its leadership structure. During student protests of 1996-97, a small circle of young people acted as official spokespeople and communicated with the media. Given the public visibility of these students, the government was able to undermine further mobilization of youth by discrediting just the handful of individuals who represented it. As a result, when Otpor formed in 1998, its members decided to rotate their spokespeople and build a horizontal structure.
Interesting research; thanks for sharing, Jose! Here at New Tactics we would definitely agree that tactical innovation is related to the political context in which they work. Youth movements will implement a tactic based on the context in which they work (the allies they work with, the tactical targets they identify, their larger strategy), and their oppononent will react to that tactic. This is why it is important for activists to stay flexible and adaptable with their tactics. If they keep using the same tactic, it will become less effective because their opponent has learned to respond to it. Advice to youth movements: learn about lots of different tactics so that you can adapt them to your context when the need arises. Tactical flexibility is the source of suprise! The more tactics you know influences what you think is possible to do.
How can youth be trained to become monitors for human rights violations in their society? Here is a story from Brazil, which we captured in our tactics database:
Thanks for this great tip on youth involved in Human Rights Monitoring, initiatives like this one are important!
I wanted to share an initiative here in Rio de Janeiro working to monitor rights abuses through community reporting/journalism. Catalytic Communities (in Portuguese here) is a nonprofit working to destigmatize Rio de Janeiro's favela communities and integrate them into wider society, generating gobal recognition of their heritage status. They have recently launched a Community Journalism Initiative working with community members to document and publish Favela perspectives leading up to the 2016 Olympics. This initiative, in which community journalists are paid for work, grew out of community journalism trainings and the recognition that there are many fantastic journalists within Rio's favelas but no market for their stories (mainstream media in Brazil doesn't often publish reports on violations in the favelas.) The initiative has its own bilingual website Rio On Watch (portuguese here) has a section on violations as well as another on solutions. Evictions and demolition of favela communities and marginalization of residents through relocation to the outskirts of the city are some of the commonplace violations takign place in Rio today.
I encourage other practitioners to share local or international community journalism initiatives that they are familiar with. What initiatives have been most successful in documenting violations? What about dissemination -- are there strong examples of successful initiatives that have succeeded in bringing about change and getting heard by a wider, strategic audience? When working on an indigenous radio program in Ecuador we struggled with getting the program disseminated to a wider audience.
Thoughts and resources on traditional and new/social media dissemination are welcome!
i wanted to share a few examples that come into my mind at the moment.
HarassMap is a new social initiative to help restore Egypt’s tradition of public safety for women using an SMS reporting system for sexual harassment to change its social acceptability, spread awareness and revitalize the public movement.
Voices of Africa Media Foundation, a Netherlands-based non-profit, trains young journalists in Africa to create news videos for the web using mobiles. The African Slum Journal is a series of video reports about issues that matter in slum communities. The reports are produced by so called Community Media Houses. A Community Media House is an organization, deeply rooted in the slum, that recruits and trains young people in film making and editing These trainees bring out real life stories from African slums that they sell to both a local as well as to a worldwide audience. They offer a platform for musicians and artists. In this way the Community Media House becomes a sustainable source of income for these youngsters. The trained reporters will own 50% of a Community Media House. The other 50% will be owned by the Voices of Africa Media Foundation, that has taken the initiative for this project.
In this dialogue, we have spoken about the use of social media for activism. I wanted however to highlight some of the challenges girls in particular face in terms of accessing and using technologies.
The 2010 Plan Report " Because I am a girl" includes an analysis to girls' access to technologies, please find them below:
So what stops girls from using technology? ( a summary of the report is also available - here)
I was wondering if the colleagues in this dialogue have experienced that girls experience challenges in terms of accessing social media and that they are less knowledgeable in terms of using social media and how these colleagues have dealt with it in their work.
Challenges around enabling girls to access social media were mentioned during our last month's dialogue on Empowering communities with technology tools to protect children. Although direct solutions weren't shared in the conversation, there were a number of comments around the development and use of "resource centers" for youth to train them on how to use technology safely. We also hosted a related dialogue on Physical spaces as catalysts for greater digital citizen participation that might be helpful to you and others in getting new ideas for how to engage and train youth in the use of technology in human rights protection.
Eager to hear of other ideas and resources for how to strengthen access to social media for girls!
this is an interesting discussion and lots of important points are being made. I want to add on the discussion around using the internet for activism that there is this huge discussion around whether this kind of activism has led to a notion called 'clictivism' where its no longer really creating any social change but rather just people clicking on 'likes' and Retweeting posts that they think are relevant and important without any real context or understanding of what the content is. I think that this is a natural issue and might actually exist with activism in general where we end up saying the things that we say for the sake of 'fitting-in' or sounding progressive in some way, we pick up terms and language that we reuse over and over again. However, aside from this mishap, I believe that online activism can actually create ripples of change. Recently, one example that really made me realize that while the concept of clicktivism is a real issue, online activism is not necessarily all that is the Uprising of Arab Women page. This was a facebook page where young women from around hte world and especially the middle east and north africa sent pictures of themselves holding a banner explaining why they are with an uprising for women in the arab world. For weeks, i followed the pictures and they were incredibly inspiring and surprising - some of them quiet contraversial and reflected a lot of courage.
Then a woman called Dana Bakdounis posted her photo on the page holding a passport in her hand and saying "I’m with the uprising of women in the Arab world because for 20 years I was not allowed to feel wind in my hair and body.” In less than 24 hours her photo was taken down from facebook and the administrators of the page where blocked from accessing facebook. This comes to show how online activism can make an impact and allows for not only dialogue but confrontation with opposing ideologies.
You can follow the story in more detail through this storify that the young feminist wire put together as the event was happening:
Thank you for sharing this inspiring story. Your comment reminded me of the following article by Micah White.
As White argues, 'any activism that uncritically accepts the marketisation of social change must be rejected. Digital activism is a danger to the left. Its ineffectual marketing campaigns spread political cynicism and draw attention away from genuinely radical movements. Political passivity is the end result of replacing salient political critique with the logic of advertising.'
However, I agree with you Ghadeer in that one of the main strengths of online activism is that it can offer a platform for confrontation of opposing ideologies. Empty commercialized clicktivism in itself can trigger responses from an ideological, critical and passionate anti-movement, as could be seen in the case of Kony2012 (http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/clicktivism-destroying-meaningful-soci...)
Does anyone have any more examples of this?
thanks for sharing this example! I'm a very active follower of the page of the Uprising of Arab women. The Facebook page is still online and pictures are posted on a regular basis. The Press Releases the Arab Uprising posted in relation to this case can be viewed online on their facebook page.
I think this page is a very good example of an online space for women and men to share their (often controversial) opinions, and their aspirations in terms of the advancement of women's rights in the region, to feel supported and find the space to exchange views and get inspired in their activism (feeling : see, I'm not alone!). But also to open up discussions on the topic of women's rights in the region, and events are being organized by and around the page, for example a seminar on 6th december in Portugal.
Could you please elaborate a bit on what you mean with this page being an example of " online activism is not necessarily all that " ? I don't think I really understand what you mean,
I haven't been able to go through the whole dialogue and maybe someone else mentioned something about theatre but still want to bring out another experience with theatre besides being an effective tool of communication, education and entertaiment. Lately in Kenya we are struggling with the issue of xenophobia around Kenyan Somalis and Muslim communities in general who are purported to be link to terrorist groups. In our community forums, we've tried using theatre and this being a sensitive issue that not many people want to talk about openly, theatre as a tool helped in breaking the ice and set the dialogue rolling.