Training for Nonviolent Action

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Core concept training lesson plans

I wanted to be sure that the training resource that Hardy Merriman shared in his "Core Concepts" post would also appear here under the Training Tools and Processes theme for easy access.

Hardy stated in his post: "You can find lesson plans that relate to a number of these [Core Concept] areas in the curriculum (entitled: A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle) that I co-authored with the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) ."

Here are the first four sections of the curriculum. This is an excellent resource book.

Theory and its application:

1 • The First Step: The Vision of Tomorrow, page 14
2 • Power in Society: Models and Sources of Power, page 22
3 • Pillars of Support, page 32
4 • Obedience, page 44

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Useful Materials from European experiences

Hello everybody,

We from PATRIR are glad to join this discussion. We are very happy to share with you some of the European experiences that we have contributed to gather in the frame of a common (11 European partners) project, entitled ARCA (

One of the outputs of ARCA is the "Guide to Peace Educators" (, is a comprehensive overview of actual practice of Peace Training in Europe and at the global level. It looks at what is being done to train people for peacework and what can be done to improve the quality and content of training. In the fields of civilian crisis intervention,
violence prevention, peacebuilding and conflict transformation, the importance of training is increasingly recognised as essential to develop the professional competencies of interveners. The present guide aims at presenting current practices in the field of preparing individuals for peacework and nonviolent intervention in conflicts, to reflect about challenges the field faces, and to offer reflections and visions for future developments. This resource is available in 6 languages (EN, FR, ES, RO, IT, DE) on the above mentioed website.

Another importatn resource material is the one developed by PATRIR in collaboration with Kurve Wustrow (Germany), focusing on enhancing trainers capacity for non-violent training. This Manual on Conflict transformation is the product of a process by a consortium of partner organisations. The goal was to identify, synthesise, complement, teach and enable conflict transformation for trainers from a European point of view. The project consisted of the conducting of training of trainers workshops and the Manual. The training of trainers workshops were conducted in Slovakia, Romania, Italy and Switzerland and Germany in the years 2005 and 2006. The whole project has been, and continues to be, an ambitious and challenging initiative with many different dimensions. We have learnt a great deal, but in an emerging and dynamic field there is always much more for us to learn and to improve. The Manual provides different chapters with concepts and mirroring exercises that are crucial for understanding and applying conflict transformation. The Manual is based upon the comprehension of Diana Francis’ conflict transformation theory and focuses upon transformation of social conflicts. The Manual purposely does not supply the reader with “fixed schedules”. It is our true believe that every schedule would give the underlying message that reality can be copied. In that
sense all the exercises function as suggestions that can be changes due to the chosen objective.

For downloading this resource material, please access:

With best wishes and wishing useful reading,

The PATRIR Team,

Bianca, Corina and Zsuzsa




Influencing Attitudes and Behaviours

 Building upon this point of the knowledge area, we at PATRIR have developed customed designed trainings trying to help facilitate the processes of conflict transformation through non-violence for different conflict areas that we are engeged.

 Among our participants to the training we often have people from the same country involved in the different parties of the same conflict. It proves to be a real eye-opener for people tools like the ABC triangle (Attitudes, Behaviours, Contradictions) that leads individuals to analyse their own and the "other's" attitudes, behaviours, contradictions towards themselves and the representatives of the other parties. Also, a very useful tool for opening people up for discussion on the attitudes and behaviours in conflict situations is the Peace-culture War-culture presentation. Publications that present these approces are: "No Fist is Big Enough to Hide the Sky: the Power of Nonviolence" by Kai Frithjof Brand-Jacobsen or "Searching for Peace" by Johan Galtung, Carl Jacobsen and Kai Frithjof Brand-Jacobsen.

On the practical side, after addressing these issues in the frame of a training program, the change of attitude of parties towards one another was quite visible. Joint participation to the training's working groups, further cooperation after returning to their own countries became a common phenomenon.

One of the greatest experiences was receiving four participants from one of the South-East Asian countries. These people, faced with the theory of non-violence and attitude/ behaviour change, decided already in their own country to work together in order to solve their conflicts by negotiation, mediated with the help of a community development organisation, that in time became the official mediating organisation of the peace process. The training itself, the participants and the atmosphere created outside the training was rated very beneficial for their own objectives. This is a clear example of the fact that the content process and the quality of the participants can greatly ifluence the attitudes and behaviour of individuals inside a training and outside, in their own countries.

In our customed designed trainings, we continuously improve the used tools, with interdisciplinary ones, like strategic project management in applied to peacebuilding initiatives, like in our Designing Peacebuilding Training (DPP).

With best wishes and waiting for your questions,

The PATRIR Team - Bianca, Corina and Zsuzsa 


Training Tools and Processes

New Tactics wrote:
Theme: Training tools and processes

In this theme area, please share tools and processes that you have found to be powerful and especially useful when training for nonviolent action.

For example, what tools have you found to be helpful for addressing key issues or knowledge areas?

  • Theory: Strategy building, tactical decision-making, understanding the nature of power and influence, etc.
  • Influencing attitudes and behaviors: Creating dilemmas for opponents, creating the right message for the right target, examining the role of privilege - color, class, ethnicity, etc.
  • Methodologies: Adult education and learning models, games, videos, etc.
  • Adaptations: What tools have found needed to be adapted differently for your context or audience?

There is this one tool that I have used once and must say I found it very effective and appropriate. In the run-up to the last general elections in Kenya, there was need to reach as many people as possible with the Nonviolence message and as an organisation we thought of introducing a bit of theatre into the process eventhough this was at a different level. Having taken participants which incidentally were from a theatre group through Nonviolence training, as part of their action plan they decided to spread the Nonviolence message to other communities through what they called community theatre. I must say this being a participatory approach it worked wonders such that post election violence that rocked Kenya never affected places where we reached with message.

I say it was effective because we managed to reach a larger audience within a short period of time and mobolisation became very easy. It was a new approach to us but communities quickly identified with it and so to me it is a tool that I wouldn't mind using again and again in the future.

Oluoch Dola

Chemchemi Ya Ukweli

P.O.BOX 14370 00800 Nairobi, Kenya

Tel:254-20-4446970 or 254-20-2320346 or 254735244554

Theater as a training tool leading to action and change


Thank you for sharing your recent experience of utilizing theater as a training tool to reach a broader audience.

Every culture has its tradition of theater. It's a powerful medium to engage, educate and move people to action.

I want to share two resources on the New Tactics website that highlight two different ways in which theater has been very effectively utilized as a training and mobilizing tool.

From Bangladesh: Action Theatre: Initiating Changes - "The tactical outcome is the creation of local theatre groups who would initiate discussion, debate, analysis and actions on critical human rights issues in their community. Participants in the tactic also enhance their leadership skills and human rights awareness."

From Senegal: Using Popular Theater to Break the Silence Around Violence Against Women "The public sees these situations [of violence against women] set on stage and they also have the chance to play a role and to discuss what they saw. As a result, people begin to recognize abuse that they have wanted to hide or to silence: it is a first step to stopping this abuse."

I hope these resources will give you and others more ideas about how theater can be utilized in your efforts. 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Theatre as a tool for a rehearsal for change...Augusto Boal

the Change Agency

Hello all

Dola and Nancy it’s great to see theatre being raised a powerful tool to effectively communicate with a broad audience. Thanks Nancy for these resources and Dola enjoyed reading about how you used theatre in the run-up to the last general elections in Kenya when “there was need to reach as many people as possible with the Nonviolence message.” I would be really interested to hear about the kinds of processes you used to develop the theatre pieces.  

I find that using tools from Augusto Boal’s suite of The Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) processes can be used in a meaningful way in workshops to explore and build a collective understanding on a range of themes. There are an immense variety of ways that Boal’s processes can be used in a workshop. Just some of the themes that I have found them useful to support a group exploring, in a participatory way, are for example power dynamics, community organising etc.

Boal’s exercises could form a small component of a training or a the more multi-layered  processes could be significant portion of a training depending on how a facilitator chooses to use them.

One of the many things that I find incredible about Boal’s tools is that people (ie workshop participants, a community etc) can actually have an opportunity to have a ‘rehearsal for change’ in a way they works, feels appropriate for them. That could mean having an opportunity to trial, rehearse using a tactics, or even just an element of, that they feel is appropriate for them.

Below is some brief information on Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. To find more information on Theatre of the Oppressed, you can go to: Here you can find a the principles of TO in around 20 languages, a library of books titles, photos, evaluations and reports by Boal and others and also a general introduction to every branch of TO such as Forum Theatre, Image Theatre, Invisible Theatre, Newspaper Theatre, Legislative Theatre and Rainbow of Desire.

Theatre of the Oppressed was born in 1971, in Brazil with the specific goal of dealing with local problems – soon, it was used all over the country. Forum Theatre came into being in Peru, in 1973, as part of a Literacy Program; we thought it would be good only for South America– now it is practiced in more than 70 countries. Growing up, TO developed Invisible Theatre in Argentina, as political activity, and Image Theatre to establish dialogue among Indigenous Nations and Spanish descendants, in Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico... Now these forms are being used in all kinds of dialogues.

TO was used by peasants and workers; later, by teachers and students; now, also by artists, social workers, psychotherapists, NGOs... At first, in small, almost clandestine places. Now in the streets, schools, churches, trade-unions, regular theatres, prisons...

Theatre of the Oppressed is the Game of Dialogue: we play and learn together. All kinds of Games must have Discipline - clear rules that we must follow. At the same time, Games have absolute need of creativity and Freedom. The Discipline of our Game is our belief that we that we must re-establish the right of everyone to exist in dignity. We believe that all of us are more, and much better, than what we think we are. We believe in

Below is a very brief glossary of a few key terms from TO from the peace troupe website 

PROTAGONIST: The person experiencing the "oppression", often referred to by Boal as "the oppressed", which has met with some argument.    

ANTAGONIST: The "oppressor" or the source of the oppression. Initially to Boal this was the person who prevented you from acting on your will. He referred to the "cop in the street" as an example of the oppression present in Brazil. After living in political exile in France and travelling in Western countries, Boal became aware of a more psychological set of oppressions, which he has recently articulated as "cop in the head."

INTERVENTION: The passive to active dynamization of the spectator into the actor produces the spect-actor. This is the moment when the dramatic action is halted and the protagonist is replaced.   

SPECT-ACTOR: In this role, alternatives are offered, by way of improvisation, in an attempt to bring the scene to a different conclusion.   

JOKER: The director, guide or mediator who facilitates the passive-to-active experience of the spect-actor and who encourages the discussion which follows a "rehearsal."  

IMAGE THEATRE: Actors choose real moments from their lives and "sculpt" other actors into images of those moments. By dynamizing the images with freeze-frame motion, a collective reading is possible. Discussion of the changing role of oppressor/oppressed can lead to alternative actions which can be played out in a scene or re-scultped as a series of images.   

FORUM THEATRE: This represents the highest performative end in Boal's work. A short scene or one-act play is presented. The dramatic work has been developed through collaboration and addresses a specific issue or moment of conflict. After the scene is played, it is repeated from the beginning. However, at the moment of crises (Boal's moment of oppression), the spect-actor audience may yell "Stop!" and then physically replace the actor playing the oppressed character. In the most elaborate performances this extends to costumes, make-up and other theatrical devices of character and acting. The other actors, trained to always seek the original outcome, present the challenge for the new spect-actor. When all interventions of this sort are completed, discussion may follow or replacement of the Antagonist may be allowed.

Augusto Boal has published several books some of these are: Theatre of the Oppressed, Rainbow of Desire, 1995, Routledge, Games for Actors and Non-Actors, Routledge.

Another book not by Boal but about the application of his work in social change is: Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy and Activism; Schutzman, Mady and Jan Cohen-Cruz ed.; 1994; Routledge.

If anyone is interested in talking more about Theatre of the Oppressed, especially how the Image Theatre, Rainbow of Desire and Forum Theatre ‘branches’ of TO can be used effectively in a training/workshop environment I’m always keen.


Pru Gell


The role of theater in movements


Thank you so much for sharing these references from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. It reminded me of my years in the Philippines and hearing about the significant role that theater played in the leftist nationalist movement of the 60s to through the 80 and it's continuing role in leading cultural exploration and expression from then until now. The Philippine Education Theater Association (PETA) - in existence since 1967, now over 40 years old and has just completed writing the story of PETA.

I remember people telling me about the early years when they held "lightning rallies" (still being used today. Perhaps the "flash mobs" of today might resemble the lightning rally but these were highly organized and brief to avoid the very harsh repression of the Marcos dictatorship. But I'm getting a bit off track. I remember people telling stories that the lightning rallies were really mini-street theater productions. They were a way to capture people's attention, tell a story that would educate and raise consciousness about the social and political situation and include a call to action to get involved. A bit like a radio public service announcement. And like lightning - now you see it, now you don't. It flashes bright and you remember having seen it. But can't say exactly where it was or put your finger on it.

In March of this year, Filipino students used a lightning rally but a number of them were arrested. Theater is a great practice tool to help prepare for the performance - the exit is as important as the entrance.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

The role of theatre in movements...highlighting possibility

the Change Agency

Hello Nancy

So great to read your story of 'people telling stories that the lightning rallies in the Philippines were really mini-street theatre productions' and 'like lightning - now you see it, now you don't. It flashes bright and you remember having seen it.'

Possibly for the people having seen 'it', a 'street theatre production,' something (for example a movement building, people power growing, respectful rather than repressive relationships) that may seem possible is demonstrated and made visible to a community. While without the theatre production, or even using theatre processes such as Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed tools in a training, may have been thought of as unlikely, or even if individuals felt something was possible, it may have remained less visible, unnamed. I think participatory community theatre for social action has the potential to acknowledge, shine a light on the reality of a situation, as well as highlighting the potential or alternative for what might be.

As I write this something about using Boal's tools, and other theatre processes, being an opportunity to rehearse resilience keeps coming for me. Nancy I can see myself sharing your story of the Philippines in future workshops and I'll be sure to say where I heard it. Thankyou.

Pru Gell 

CANVAS Toolbox

Regarding knoweldge transfer, our experience matches with famous Dale Cone of Experience - whatever knowledge in nonviolent struggle is trasferred, the best and most efficient way to do it is using practical tools which enable participants to adopt new skill by DOING IT.

 Throughut the years, CANVAS, together with its friends  has given our best to achieve modest contribution to spreading this knowledge worldwide. We have designed  4 new tools for knowledge transfer, and accomodated dozens of existing tools from wide spectrum to Nonviolent Struggle knowldge trasfer porcess. Core package of this tools, containing practical exercises for understanding Nonviolent Struggle fundamentals is as follows.

1. THE FIRST STEP: THE VISION OF TOMORROW (A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle CANVAS Core Curriculum, pages 14-21, English) (A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle) Every long journey starts with one small first step. In the case of a strategic nonviolent struggle, this step is the simple and precise answer to the question: What does your movement want the society to be like when the struggle is over?The answer to this question, known as the “Vision of Tomorrow”, provides a picture of the future society you are striving towards. Once formulated, the Vision of Tomorrow becomes your movement’s primary objective. It is a permanent guideline for your movement’s supporters. Your strategic nonviolent struggle becomes a journey towards achieving that vision. That journey, however, is not an easy one. The obstacles on your journey must be foreseen and removed; allies can be approached and convinced to join their efforts with your effort. Also, opponents must be recognized and faced.  2. PLANNING METHODOLOGIES: THE POWER GRAPH (A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle CANVAS Core Curriculum, pages 94-105, English) (A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle) 

Power graph analysis is a method of macro-analysis that can give you a quick, general assessment — a “snapshot” — of comparative power relationships in your society. It provides a broad analysis of strengths and weaknesses of your opponent and your movement. This assessment can assist in directing your focus towards more favorable courses of action for your movement. Still, it can never be a full substitute for a strategic estimate (outlined in the Advanced Course, Lesson A1: Planning Methodologies: The Strategic Estimate), which serves as a source document for all aspects of strategic planning.

(for more info on one of greatest accomodated tools ever - The Strategic Estimate search book of Robert L Helvey, NVS - Thinking about fundamentals, also quoted and avaliable on this website)  3. Communicating clearly - SETI (A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle CANVAS Core Curriculum, pages 114-115, English) (A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle) Description : Tool for prioritizing communication goals, and design communication for selected target audience. Explains four types of communication goals – on Strategic – Tactical (Time) and Informative-Emotional (Emotional Scale) As effectiveness of your communications campaign in the long-term depends on

your capacity to move people from Informative to Emotional and from Tactical to Strategic Goals, or visually toward Strategic Emotional objectives, in the upper- right part of the SETI diagram.

4. Planning for victory -  PLAN FORMAT (Nonviolent Struggle – 50 Crucial Points, pages 50-57, English, Serbian, Farsi, Spanish, French) and (A Guide to Effective Nonviolent Struggle CANVAS Core Curriculum, pages 174 - 181, English) Since planning is the first and foremost step that your campaign, or any other major activity, needs to stay organized, you will need a brief and precise “How to?” instruction for every level of planning—from strategic to tactical. It is well known from the field of business that “no product may be sold if you cannot persuade the potential buyer within 10 minutes that it is necessary for him or her to have it.” Likewise, it is crucial for nonviolent movements not only to keep their various program and operational documents brief, but also to structure them in a standardized format that ensures clarity as to purpose, actions to be taken, and assigned responsibilities.


Hope this may be helpful. Thank you for sharing your great tools with us!




Nonviolence Photos

Hi all,

one very useful, adaptable and very low-tech tool I would really like to share is using Nonviolence Photos.  This tool is inspired by the Photo Language tools which the Catholic Education office develped in the 1980's, which some may be familiar with but is basically a set of large colour and black and white photos of powerful nonvolent actions and activists in different contexts.  I have 30 laminated photos I use of actions from all over the world -
Guatemalan women facing soldiers / union blockades / forest actions /
monks marching in burma / Dorothy Day getting arrested  and so forth.
In collecting them i have aimed to get a diversity of actions / protest
/ nonco-operation and nonviolent interventions and historical and
contemporary examples as well as aiming for a representations from
struggles around the world.

 As an exercise it
can be used in several ways. Like ‘Photo Language’, the photos can be used to
stimulate discussion, creativity and personal disclosure and strategic thinking as well as learning about Catagories of nonviolent actions..

 The photo’s can
be spread facing up on the floor in the middle of the workshop space.

Participants can
be then invited to walk around and choose a photo that particularly interests
or inspires them. When everyone has chosen a photo and returned to the circle,
each participant in turn shares what they see in the photo, tells the group
what inspires them about the particular image.

 In some cases, it
is useful to focus on the image itself as there may not be much information in
the group about the details of the particular action or campaign depicted. Not
all the images are positive or show ‘ideal’ nonviolence. This can be utilised.
(ie: photos of arrests can stimulate discussions on fear, power and arrest as a
consequence/strategy of nonviolent actions.)

Some questions
to ask:

  • What are your own first impressions
    when seeing the photo?
  • How do think person or people in the
    photo are feeling at the time it was taken?
  • Do you think the people in the
    picture felt powerful/afraid at this time?
  • What form of power was being used?
  • What was the type of nonviolent
    action depicted? (Protest/persuasion, non-cooperation or nonviolent
  • Can you see yourself in this picture?
    If so where would you be?

The photos can
also be used in other exercises.

  • To use in small groups to stimulate
    nonviolent stories.
  • To teach the different catagories of
    nonviolent action by asking the group to sort them into the catogories.
  • To stimulate ideas for roleplays
  • To draw out the key dynamics such as courage, risk, creativity, involvement of ordinary people, action as communication 
  • As a planning tool to stimulate ideas
    for actions and creativity.

 I've collected a set myself but people can collect their own without much trouble - from online sites / books  - I used a lot from activist calenders and even some personal photos. Enlarged on colour photocopier and laminated.   Its a great visual tool when you dont have a powerpoint or DVD player handy.

Anthony Kelly

Nonviolence photos as a training tool and resource

Anthony, this is a really great idea.

Not only is this a wonderful visual tool for eliciting a wide variety of information from the group - but I especially like the idea that people can pick up the photo of their choice, touch it, and have a much greater ability to connect with the photo on different levels (physical, psychological and emotional). 

Thanks so much for sharing this great tool and resource idea. 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

List of resources collected from this dialogue

Just wanted to let you all know that we have collected the resources shared within this dialogue, and categorized them for you. The URL is: 


Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder


Theme: Training the trainer
– training experiences and challenges

In this theme area, please share your personal experiences
and challenges regarding organizing and providing training for nonviolent

  • What are some of the issues
    that a trainer [community] needs to address when the trainer comes from
    outside the community, country, or movement?
  • What skills are needed to be a
    good nonviolent action trainer? (e.g., ability to listen, flexibility,
  • How do you select people for
    trainings and roles? (e.g., criteria and process for selection of
    participants, moving from trainee to trainer role, etc)
  • How do you determine the best
    setting for nonviolent action trainings? (e.g., inside or outside areas of
challenges for nonviolence workshop facilitators #1

Thanks, New Tactics, for initiating this online dialogue. I'm really looking forward to some great discussion. To kick things off, I'd like to describe two challenging workshop situations I've encountered very recently - challenges that seem to come up from time to time and speak of something deeper or more significant. I'd love to know what others participating in the dialogue make of these situations. How would you respond? What do you make of this? 

During a  workshop, the trainers distributed a 'statement of intent' for an action that was part of the workshop. This included a set of 'agreements' that had fleshed out by the group initiating the workshop. Naturally, the 'agreement' included commitments to nonviolence and that participants wouldn't damage property. Our action was a practice or warm up to a much larger action in coming months when activist will stop a coal train. For the practice action, the organised proposed an agreement not to enter the property of the railways company or to disrupt movement of trains. This had been the basis for liaison with the police.

As the statement of intent was circulated and read, one member of the group asked 'what are these' and 'why are they called agreements? 'Who agreed to these?' After clarification that the organisers proposed that they were asking people to participate according to these agreements, the individual said that while the proposed agreements seemed sensible, he could not make a firm commitment to adhering to them. He was not sure how the situation would unfold and what he might feel he needed to do during the action.

What would you do as a trainer or workshop participant in this situation? Why?

Challenges for facilitators - dissent on agreements

I've really been thinking of this initial question that you posed for us. It's a very difficult - and real situation - faced by facilitators.

I'm going to throw out a process idea and I'm looking forward to reactions and ideas. I'm wondering if an adaptation of the CANVAS "Visioning the future" exercise could be useful in the kind of situation you outline here. What I'm thinking of is this:

Have people write down the spectrum of people who have "signed-on" to the agreement but also those that the movement is communicating with (in your example, the police, but this could be other organizations, religious allies, the media, etc) as well as other parts of society.

Have people take on the roles of those identified and ask questions such as,

"What appeals to you about these agreements?"

"Why would you want to sign on to these agreements?"

"Why would it be important to you that those involved in the planned action maintain these agreements?"

"How would you feel if someone broke these agreements?" 

It would be helpful for those who are not convinced of the importance of having and maintaining such agreements to hear and "feel" how the breaking of such agreements would be taken by others. That would be a more powerful way to bring about understanding of the consequences of breaking nonviolent action agreements rather than trying to "force" agreement during the traning but risk the breakdown of those agreements during the action. 

I'll be interested to hear what others think. 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

"Diversity of tactics"

I certainly hope Philippe will get in on this conversation, since I know he's thought so much about this as well as might be writing about it as we speak.

But, Sam, this is a cultural piece we're facing in the US; I know it's hot in Canada, too. Diversity is an important value and being translated into a meaning that all tactics, all tools should be available to us.

The framing itself is terrible -- of course. Diversity, as used, contradicts strategy. It also guarantees one will not get a diversity of participants. Few people will risk joining into an action where anything might happen. That's especially true where I live, for example, for African-American and Latino activists, who just won't be bothered with the high-risk, high-invitation-to-repression tactics of white, middle-class young rebels.

That said, in the training room I think modeling boundaries and enforcement is the goal. It's chilling to some in the room who avoid commitment, but if people cannot accept agreements, I invite them to walk out of the room. It's their choice. But that's the freedom of a democratic situation -- the freedom to choose.

I've had situations where I've invited participants to leave if they did not want to agree to such nonviolent guidelines. It ended up being a helpful confrontation. Most recently when one participant raised this question, what it clarified for them was the act of choosing to be involved in a nonviolent action.

One value underlying this choicepoint, and there are several, is solidarity. Agreements to each other is the heart of solidarity.

George Lakey wrote an article, in case you missed it, about this issue to the US arm, especially, of the Anti-Globalization Movement.

Daniel Hunter, Training for Change

"Diversity of Tactics" & Strategic Nonviolent Action

Thank you Sam, Nancy, Daniel for starting this thread on the challenge for nonviolent action trainers, and organizers, of dealing with those who would not agree to explicit nonviolent action. As Daniel explains, some of the activist scene, in Canada and the US at least, has had to deal with a position framed as "Respect for a diversity of tactics".


I could share a bit of my own political history here, but suffice it to say that the term was first coined in Montreal in late 1999 to define a "not nonviolent" framework. I believe this came as a response to a string of successful nonviolent mobilizations that kept gaining momentum, by people who disagreed with nonviolent action guidelines per se, on ideological grounds.


Holding up the right to explicit nonviolent action has become very difficult in a number of North American activist circles. For those of you not familiar with the concept of "Diversity of tactics" and how it can frame the debate, I invite you to read this example statement for protests at the upcoming 2008 Republican National Convention to be held in St-Paul/Minneapolis (USA) next September. If Diversity of Tactics (DoT for short) hasn't yet come to your country, I think you should prepare.


I have had similar experiences to the one you describe, Sam. And while I think Nancy's workshop proposal looks quite promising if you could expend the time, I think Daniel's suggestion is certainly advisable once the "training for the action" stage is reached. If someone doesn't agree with the strategic choices made by organizers before s/he came into the room, s/he can certainly refuse those choices, but should be invited to forego an action that can't be agreed to. What would you say to someone at a meeting of the Vegetarian Society who'd say they want to cook for the next fundraiser, but can't commit to the no meat rule?


I don't think anybody can argue against the benefits of using a variety of tactics that appeal to a diversity of constituencies, with enough flexibility to change tactics over time in response to changing conditions. 


Of course, diversity of tactics is a good thing. Who would say eating a diversity of foods is not healthy? Diversity of tactics lies at the core of the emphasis nonviolent action trainers have put for decades on knowing a repertoire of at least 198 methods of action.


So what's the twist?


"Diversity of Tactics" takes the idea further to mean that:

  • all tactics are inherently, or at least potentially good;
  • because your individual circumstances will dictate your tactical inclinations, everyone has a right to their own tactic;
  • therefore nobody has a right to judge somebody else's choice;
  • to disagree publicly with a tactic or insist on a common approach is arrogant and shortsighted.

Actions organized under the DoT banner make an explicit commitment to allow any and all tactics that anybody may choose to bring to the mix. 


Back to the food analogy, saying you need to eat a diversity of foods, and to show respect for the diversity of foods in other peoples diets, does not mean that you can eat anything and everything. Some foods are poisonous. Pretend otherwise and die.


Some consequences of the Diversity of Tactics rule include:

  • a stifling of debate about which tactics will be effective, and which will be counterproductive
  • an unwillingness to put any parameters on public actions -- this can go as far as saying (as I heard recently): "If some people want to come and start more 'radical' tactics, we have no right to stop them. The action belongs to those who come to the action. We can't impose our ideas on others."
  • the impossibility of nonviolent action --  as a glass of water with one drop of blood will be completely tainted, an action that is 10% or even 1% violent will not be "nonviolent" -- this destroys the whole concept of "diversity" and belies the idea of respect for the nonviolent option
  • the marginalization of nonviolence training -- sure, we can facilitate our tactical nonviolent action and civil disobedience workshops on the side, it's one more attraction, great! -- but the workshops will be ineffective
  • the opening will be, and has been, used extensively by agents provocateurs 
  • you know the rest... uncontrolled vandalism, use of dangerous weapons, loss of public support, heavy police repression, beaten down newbies, despairing activists, etc.


I have come to the conclusion that nonviolent theorists, organizers, trainers and activists need to rise to the challenge presented by the Diversity of Tactics ideology. Widely read books among young North American activists like Pacifism as pathology: Reflections on the role of armed struggle in North America, or How Nonviolence Protects the State, and their misleading syllogisms, need to be addressed.


I have started a book with the working title of "Diversity of Tactics: The strategy debate on nonviolent action, property destruction, and revolutionary warfare to achieve fundamental social change". In it, I want to look seriously at the violent and nonviolent frameworks of struggle -- because, indeed, nonviolent action, far from being a "tactic", forms its own distinct strategic framework. From a position of radical, revolutionary nonviolence, I want to explore the history, and illustrate with a number of  contrasting case studies, stories and experiences from the 1960's on.


I need your support. I hope you can share experiences, stories, tools, resources on this topic. I am also looking for funding to start writing full time. 


Have you encountered your own local brand of "Respect for a Diversity of Tactics"? What has been your experience? 



Philippe Duhamel

Intertactica — a liberation blog


challenges for nonviolence workshop facilitators #2

There's a thread that runs through a lot of our workshops with social movement organisations and activists that I find myself reflecting on. Something that (hopefully) others participating in this online dialogue might have also seen and have some insights you're happy to share.

In the world of nonviolent direct action, there seem to be a widespread belief that diversity is strength: that our campaigns will be served by individuals and small groups following their instincts and convictions. In practice, this can look like many cells, action or affinity groups taking actions that, while quite different, appear to be broadly aligned around achieving a specific objective. The Australian climate change movement demonstrates this pattern. The many action groups working to prevent dangerous climate change tend to act in isolation from each other, apparently trusting that their combined efforts (quite different tactics, targets and apparent analyses) will succeed. When planning direct action, the movement seems drawn to including many small groups each doing their own thing.  

I'm a big believer in collective action. My experience brings me to a belief that collective action requires some selflessless and self-discipline. If I have had an opportunity to contribute to the process of analysis and strategy development, I then need to support the group's decsisions and actions, even if they don't seem the absolute best / wisest / most strategic option. My experience in social movements provides me with evidence that power can be built and edxercised when campaigning organisations or movements act in unison. I have witnessed many successful campaigns that appeared to rely on clear and shared analyses and focused courses of action, with movements investing significantly in tightly coordinated action.

So as a trainer, I'm challenged by this tension. I can facilitate dialogue so groups make their choices (including this one about diversity, unanimity, alignment, etc), but how to respond to a group's commitment to diversity of tactics when this seems to be based on an unshakable faith or political  standpoint rather than from an analytical, evidence-based or pragmatic perspective (I'm showing my colours here!)?

What do you think?

The question of diversity or unity of tactics

This is a really excellent and challenging point you raise here.

Diversity or variety of tactics are especially helpful when groups are thinking about the surprise factor and keeping the opposition "off balance" or when you're putting on different kinds of pressure.

For example, different organizations can take up very different roles in terms of "push" tactics (those kinds of tactics that put pressure on the opposition to make changes because it's costly for them if they don't); and "pull" tactics (those kinds of tactics that provide incentives for the opposition to make changes - rewards for making changes).

It is not often possible for the same organization to play these two roles at the same time. It's very helpful and necessary then, to ally with different organizations who can take on these different roles but in coordination with each other.

T he challenge, however, if often for these kinds of organizations to work together. The level of distrust among civil society organizations that are choosing different tactics can often be very high.

How do others work with these kinds of concepts and tactical differences among organizations?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

the question of diversity or unity of tactics

 a couple of things...

firstly, i am interested to explore further the kids of tactics that people feel migt be more or less suited to 'push' or 'pull' strategies -- how do others think about these categories? are they the same tactics used in different ways, different political or cultural contexts for different ends or are they completely different sets of tactics?

secondly, one framework that we draw on in the Change Agency to get people thinking about diversity of tactics -- and the need to value different ways of working is Bill Moyer's Movement Action Plan [] -- in particular, the four archetypal activst roles. I personally find this a useful franework for analysing movements, organisations and tactics -- to think strategically about where the movement is at, what groups offer  in the way of tactics that can move our cause forward (different things at different times depending on where power is, or our strengths as a group).  I know others have critiqued MAP for its limitations but i still have not found anything that doesquite what it does -- othes perhaps have some frameworks to offer?

sam la rocca

"Diversity of tactics"

I certainly hope Philippe while get in on this conversation, since I know he's thought so much about this as well as might be writing about it as we speak.

But, Sam, this is a cultural piece we're facing in the US; I know it's hot in Canada, too. Diversity is an important value and being translated into a meaning that all tactics, all tools should be available to us.

The framing itself is terrible -- of course. Diversity, as used, contradicts strategy. It also guarantees one will not get a diversity of participants. Few people will risk joining into an action where anything might happen. That's especially true where I live, for example, for African-American and Latino activists, who just won't be bothered with the high-risk, high-invitation-to-repression tactics of white, middle-class young rebels.

That said, in the training room I think modeling boundaries and enforcement is the goal. It's chilling to people, but if people can't accept agreements, then they can walk out of the room. It's their choice. But that's the freedom of a democratic situation -- the freedom to choose.

I've had situations where I've invited participants to leave if they did not want to agree to such nonviolent guidelines. It ended up being a helpful confrontation. Most recently when one participant raised this question, what it clarified for them was the act of choosing to be involved in a nonviolent action.

George Lakey wrote an article, in case you missed it, about this issue to the US arm, especially, of the Anti-Globalization Movement.


Daniel Hunter, Training for Change

"diversity of tactics" (diversity = strength?)

Hi Daniel! It's great to hear your contributions to the dialogue. As always, a powerful blend of reflection and vignette, drawing on your campaign experiences. I was dipping into two of your training manuals again today for some excellent training tools.

On this topic of diversity (activists asserting and maintaining their perogative to pursue parallel tactical approaches and resisting the inclination toward group unanimity, 'group think'  or consensus), I feel so torn. Right now, I'm primarily considering our emerging climate change movement. After years of conservative government-funded NGOs making very little impact on policies and practices here in Australia, the emergence of a more grassroots, radicalised, youthful and diverse movement is so exciting. And so precious.

We're warming up for Climate Camp ( it may be a major and significant shift in the debate. I know if I was 'big coal' (as we lovingly call the industry), I'd be taken very much off guard by the sight of hundreds of mostly young people engaging in education, movement-building, networking and a healthy dose of civil disobedience, including stopping coal trains. And I suspect that I'd feel a bit reassured, though, if that same assortment of activists chose to  form multiple cells or affinity groups, each doing their own thing rather than acting in a coordianted or disciplined way. The 'diverse' approach would have the benefits of being harder for the community to understand or identify with, riskier to the activists (as they would have less influence over messaging or framing)...

The orthodoxy is very powerful. I feel that as an older activist/educator , I need to bite my tongue. Yet, as a long-time climate change activist, I feel compelled to speak up.

James Whelan
the Change Agency

The dichotomy of "push" and "pull" tactics in Nancy's comment

Shaazka Beyerle, The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Hi everyone. Nancy's posting prompts me to add a bit on the dynamics of nonviolent struggle and how this relates to nonviolent tactics or actions. Nancy and I talked about this earlier today. 


At its essence, the dynamics of nonviolent struggle or civic
resistance involve two processes – one can consider them two sides of the same
coin. One process is PULL – pull people to your side, to your issue, to your
campaign or movement by shifting loyalties away from the oppressor or oppressive
system and/or winning support of groups and people to your side. The source of
people power is people, and as Srdja always says, a nonviolent movement needs
“numbers,” i.e. numbers of people. The other process is DISRUPT – disrupt the status quo,
disrupt “business as usual,” disrupt the system of oppression or control. Many
nonviolent actions play a role in activating these two dynamics.

had a similar dichotomy but used the term "push tactics” ["those kinds of
tactics that put pressure on the opposition to make changes because it's costly
for them if they don't"]. What she describes is the same as disruption. However,
the term “push” could be misconstrued. A nonviolent movement that strategically
tries to push the oppressor will actually strengthen it because it could end up
pushing those who support the oppressor more closely together rather than away
and to the side of the movement. For an in-depth look at this, one can refer to
“pillars of support” in the two CANVAS books that are linked to this site.



pull (build support and power) and disrupt

thanks shaazka.

i am not sure you saw my reply in response ot nancy's post, but i am interested in how y'all see these two processes playing out... would you say that it is possible for a movement to win  through only using disruption or by only pulling -- what i read as building power and support -- or is it necessary to have these in some kind of balance. do we need to do both at the same time? and do you have processes for supporting people to think this through? and my other question was about the tactics that fall into these categories -- do you have models or ways of organising tactics beyond the 198, that offers activists insight into which tactics pull or disrupt? i imagine that the one tactic can have different effects depending on the context but i wonder what others think?

sam la rocca

pull (build support and power) and disrupt

Hi Sam and Shaazka,

two things come to mind in this conversation. One is the 'Two hands of nonviolence' image that Barbera Demming uses to describe the combined moral and coercive impact of a nonviolent action. I'll paraphrase her - We have two hands; one outstretched as a gesture of friendship, as in a handshake or offer of support -which says to the opponent "we share the same humanity, we can work together on this " - the other hand, however, is upheld shoulder height - like a command to stop, that basically says to the same person "I cannot except this injustice. I will get in the way and prevent you from moving forward.".

Demmings point is of course, that the combined impact of a nonviolent action. if designed well, creates an irresitable push and pull impact upon the opponant / on the one hand stopping something, on the other hand inviting them to work towards a solution. Gandhi applied simmiliar imagery at various points describing Satyagraha's approach to conflict.  

This also applies to a campaign - good strategy includes powerful disruption and prevention of an injustice continuing combined with powerful invitations to everyone involved to participate in the solution.  It is the combination that is most strategically relevent. 

The second thing that i think may be relevent to this thread is the mechanisms of change that Sharp describes and is very relevent for 'Theories of change' type processes.  The four mechanisms through which nonviolent action produces political change: Conversion, Accommodation, Coercion and Disintergration.   Generally, activists applying or emphasizing 'pull' type actions within a campaign are seeking either of the first two, conversion (where the morals, beliefs, attitudes of the oponant are changed by the nonviolent action), or accommodation, (where the state has descided that the cost of preventing change outweighs the cost of accepting change').

Activists applying 'push' or 'coercive' type actions are generally seeking to force change via Coercion (where power to continue the injustice is successfully undermined) or in some cases, Disintergration (where the sources of power of the government are broken down to such an extent that it no longer functions).  Movements, campaigns and individual activists tend to subscribe to one or two of these Mechanisms of Change within their strategy which can then largely determine their choice of  'push' or 'pull' tactics.....

Of course in any large scale campaign all of these mechanisms may be relevent and activists should be aware of when to invoke or cultivate one or another. 

BTW: There are very few good participatory tools that i know of, that cover mechanisms of change..  

anyway - some thoughts to add to the mix... 

Anthony Kelly

Two hands of nonviolence


I'm glad that you brought this "two hands of nonviolence" image to the dialogue along with Gene Sharp's "Theories of Change".  

It reminds me of a great excerpt from "The Art of War".

"There are not more than five primary colors (blue, yellow, red, white, and black), yet in combination they produce more hues than can ever be seen.

In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack--the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle - you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?"

While a general conducting a military campaign has direct command to utilize forces in these kinds of direct and indirect methods of attack. A challenge faced by nonviolent movements is that we are usually working in coalitions of organizations with a wide variety of views and passions. Leading us back to the question of how to gain and maintain unity while many different "generals" are giving orders.

Even more challenging can be that reliance on only a few tactics - as you say in your post "movements, campaigns and individual activists tend to subscribe to one or two of these Mechanisms of Change within their strategy which can then largely determine their choice of 'push' or 'pull' tactics..."

Rather than view those using 'pull' tactics as "collaborators" or those using 'push' or disruption tactics as "hard-liners" looking for ways to work together to use tactics in combination that will continually keep the opponent surprised and off-balance while keeping the initiative in the court of the nonviolent movement.  This is certainly far more easily said than done.

I also agree, development of participatory tools that can help groups experiment with these different mechanisms of change would be a great way to open the door for more creative thinking and willingness to see a greater spectrum of allies that can be enlisted in nonviolent movements.

You've given us a lot of food for thought...

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

alternative ways to classify tactics

Shaazka Beyerle, The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict


Hello everyone and Sam and Anthony. Our collective
discussion about nonviolent actions or tactics shows how important the topic is
to nonviolent struggle and to teaching general concepts and skills about it. Sam, you asked if I meant that movements should focus on pull tactics alone, or disrupt tactics alone or some combination. It depends on the case or struggle, but most nonviolent efforts need to both pull and disrupt. And, sometimes a  nonviolent tactic can do both. Mohandas Gandhi's Salt March (mentioned in an earlier posting) seemed to activate both the pull and disrupt dynamics. As the march proceeded it grew and grew in numbers, thereby pulling people to his side. However, when thousands engaged in civil disobedience by boiling sea water to make salt, which was against the law, it disrupted the British rule because  the authorities could not enforce the law and could not control people. British rule - likey any system, as Hardy pointed out - runs on obedience. Gandhi said, "Even the most powerful cannot rule without the cooperation of the ruled." Does anyone have any examples of real-life pull or disrupt or combination tactics they'd like to share?

I didn’t see your posting when I sent mine. You raised the point about
typologies to categorize tactics and asked if there were different ones from
the 198 Methods by Gene Sharp (, 

Another typology I’ve found helpful comes from a training
tool, the “A Force More Powerful” nonviolent strategy game ( [FYI, a new version of the game is being
developed by York
Zimmerman Inc. and should be available at the end of the year. In the meantime,
if anyone is interested in a copy of the original game version, feel free to
let me know.]

The game classifies tactics according to what could be
called strategic objectives, and also gives clear and simple definitions of each
tactic. The first category involves tactics that weaken or disrupt the
powerholder or oppressor and nonviolently wrest power away. This can include:

all kinds of protests, including vigils, arches,
rallies, etc.


overloading of facilities, e.g., an unusual form
of this tactic took place during the American civil rights movement, when  activists engaged in acts of civil
disobedience and were arrested in such large numbers that they succeeded in
deliberately overloading the jails.

development of alternative institutions, such as
schools, citizen committees, family assistance, etc.

The second category is tactics that deny something the
powerholder or oppressor needs and nonviolently keeps power from the
powerholder, such as legitimacy, skills and knowledge, material resources
(including money), information, and even cooperation and obedience. This can include:





--civil disobedience

An example of a particularly creative deny-tactic has been
identified by Dr. Stephen Zunes. It comes from the Philippines People Power
movement during the early 1980s. It also happens to be a low-risk, mass action
tactic. People were called upon to withdraw their money from seven banks owned
by cronies of the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, which denied the regime something
it needed, namely mone. (

The third category of nonviolent tactics is building strength.
It’s important for nonviolent strategists and planners to realize that measures
to strengthen the movement/campaign can be as important as getting out there
and “taking action.” This can include:


social events

training and education


information gathering

charity work



crafting a message and communication plan

A fourth category of nonviolent tactics is communication.
This can include communicating to movement members, supporters, potential
supporters, the general public, the media, and the various institutions,
organizations, groups and people that support the oppressor or enable the
oppressive system to function. Example of these tactics are:

distribution of information


wearing of symbols

displaying symbols

publishing a newspaper, journal or article

websites, blogs, Facebook, etc.

meeting with people

 The fifth category is tactics that defend the nonviolent
movement or campaign to avert or repel attacks and repression. These tactics


accusing infiltrator(s)

traveling/moving around

leaving the country.

 The nonviolent strategy game can be a useful tool in
trainings. After starting a game scenario, facilitators can engage the group to
choose tactics, tactic coordinators, targets, locations, etc. This can generate
a comments, discussion and sometimes,.healthy disagreements or debate.


Confronting Corporate Power - Nestle Boycott example

Hi all,

is the reference I was telling Howard about the article regarding confronting corporate power to include in his great bibliograpy of resources on civil resistance.

This article is an excellent
read written by Douglas Johnson. It shares the experience of Nestle boycott and highlights many of the challenges facing movments and campagins regarding areas that we've been sharing in this dialogue such as: needing a vision, how to measure success, using the combination of pull and distrupt tactics, and one area that we haven't touched on - how to know when to end a campaign.

The reference information: "Confronting Corporate Power: Strategies and Phases of the Nestle Boycott", Douglas A. Johnson in Research in Corporate Social Performance and Policy, vol. 8, pages 323-344. Copyright © 1986 by JAI Press Inc. ISBN: 0-89232-679-4

Here is a brief excerpt from the introduction of the chapter:

"Defining measurable victories is key to any social change effort. Measurable victories accomplish specific changes in the world, both for the protection of infants and for the enhancement of human life. Although they have not yet reach final goals, their specificity makes steps in the goal's direction. Their measurability also provides a tool to understand social progress, which improves campaign planning and direction. Such demonstrated progress has an invaluable motivating effect: in the long run people are motivated to contribute themselves to efforts that make real improvements in their lives or in lives of others. Leadership will remain and develop when people know that progress is being made or is possible. Scarce resources attract efforts that seem likely to accomplish concrete changes. Allies who hold different sets of goals can be recruited and challenged by the specific contribution this victory will make to those goals. Even the relationship to the adversary depends on measurability: without clarity of objectives, the adversary never knows what is at stake, and has no incentive to change.

Measurable victories are achieved by campaigns, not by programs. Programs are arenas of work without clearly defined objectives; because no end is conceived, no urgency infuses the work. A campaign, on the other hand, is fought for concrete, determined ends that are measures of success or failure, win or loss. It is a gathering of diverse forces-leadership, allies, people, money, information, technique, and willpower-focused on accomplishing defined objectives together in a specific time period. A campaign implies a race against time, the constant movement offerees toward an end in sight, which must be reached before the adversary. A campaign also implies an adversary. Whether it be an election race against an opponent, a war against an enemy, a health drive against smallpox, a new advertising effort to launch a product against a competitor, a campaign confronts an adversary who also moves, changes, strengthens, and weakens. The adversary alters the conditions, just as we create new conditions through our campaign. A campaign requires a constant adjustment of direction, an evaluation of the flow of conditions; it demands leadership and decision making under stress to ensure that resources remain targeted. We permit this focus because the stakes are serious, often understood in terms of life and death, and justify the personal sacrifice and inconvenience of living in a campaign. In a given period of time, be it three months or ten years, we will know if we have won or lost. That is the risk of a campaign, and its greatest strength.

The Baby Food Campaign yields interesting lessons to the progressive social change community, because it shares many essential characteristics with other social justice organizing efforts. Both the similarities and the differences of the Baby Food Campaign warrant its study by others who will provide leadership for future campaigns.

This article focuses on one key element of the campaign: the Nestle boycott. In the first part, we examine important characteristics of the issue and of the industry that defined the potential of the campaign. The second section briefly outlines the dialectic of the interacting strategies and tactics of the boycott forces and the Nestle Company. Finally, some possible lessons of the boycott are outlined for future campaigns."

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Disrupt and Pull tactics

I've been looking for Saul Alinsky's formula for success since we started talking about "Disrupt" and "Pull" tactics. I appreciate the posts regarding using the term disrupt rather than "push". Disrupt is a term that does more accurately fit the intention of nonviolent action.

Alinsky put it this way: "Agitate + Aggravate + Educate + Organize" .

Alinsky was also a firm believer in starting where your community of people are and taking small steps that can provide opportunities for success to build the commitment and support for the greater change as momentum grows.

Perhaps too there is a need to think about how we "disrupt" our own general human preference for complacency and avoidance of change.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

tactics: push and pull

Hi Nancy. Like you, I thought of Alinksy in this context. Some of his thoughts to throw into the discussion:

The Ten Commandments of Activism    [Saul Alinsky]
1.    Do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you
2.    If something you do is ineffective, stop doing it
3.    When you lose your temper, make sure it is well-planned
4.    Be truthful and honest at all times, but know when to keep your mouth shut
5.    Covet thy neighbour’s vote, unless it is quite obvious you will never get it
6.    Plan to change the world, but be happy with changing a single opinion
7.    Be creative and never miss a free kick
8.    Honour the media, even if it makes you gag
9.    Be controversial, but watch the legals
10.    Lighten up and have fun

Rules for Radicals

1.    Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.
2.    Never go outside the experience of your people. The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
3.    Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.
4.    Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”
5.    Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.
6.    A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”
7.    A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.
8.    Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”
9.    The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.
10.    The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”
11.    Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.


James Whelan
the Change Agency

Training the Trainer - Training Experiences and Challenges

[quote=New Tactics]Theme: Training the trainer – training experiences and challenges

In this theme area, please share your personal experiences and challenges regarding organizing and providing training for nonviolent action.

  • What are some of the issues that a trainer [community] needs to address when the trainer comes from outside the community, country, or movement?
  • What skills are needed to be a good nonviolent action trainer? (e.g., ability to listen, flexibility, etc)
  • How do you select people for trainings and roles? (e.g., criteria and process for selection of participants, moving from trainee to trainer role, etc)
  • How do you determine the best setting for nonviolent action trainings? (e.g., inside or outside areas of conflict)

I am glad to be back and add my voice once again to the good dialogue that has been going on. I had a problem over the last couple of days with the internet and so could not post any comment let alone go through what others have done but all the same am back and thank you guys very much for keeping the debate alive.

What I have seen let down trainers in the past is the fact that some of them find it very difficult to link the community's theory of change to the real issues that affect them and more so developmental issues. When this is done well and this is also from experience, communities are propmted to start asking difficult questions which is very good when you want to move from theory to practice. When a trainer comes from outside the community it is important for them to quickly learn and understand that community. As mentioned in this theme, flexibility and listening skill are key to this process and I would also want to add the aspect of creativity what others would otherwise call getting outside the box. This helps people look beyond what they are used to which is another process of learning and mostly new things/ideas e.t.c. Trainers should also be alive to the fact that this is also their learning process and so should not behave like its them who know it all.

One more thing on this is that if you asked me I would say the training processes should start outside conflict areas. Some trainees are absolutely new to this and because we do not wnat to scare them away, we should start building confidence in them slowly. My experience with Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) is the same. To be field team members(FTMs) we were first trained in Cluj Napoca - Romania where there is no conflict at all and before the first group was posted they had what they called in-country training where now they were taken to the country they were going to work (in this case Sri Lanka and Philippines) and again under-went another process of training. On all due honesty, I find this very useful and encouraging in terms of process.

Oluoch Dola

Chemchemi Ya Ukweli

P.O.BOX 14370 00800 Nairobi, Kenya

Tel:254-20-4446970 or 254-20-2320346 or 254735244554


Theme: Nonviolence in Action

In this theme area, please share your personal experiences
and other examples of nonviolence in action that can provide ideas,
recommendations, and inspiration for others.

Nonviolence in action

Shaazka Beyerle, The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Once I was with a group of teachers, discussing the core concepts of people power and nonviolent action,  such as pillars of support, the dynamics of people power (pull vs disrupt), and strategy. All of a suddent I pictured what a child will do when he/she wants something. So I asked the teachers, why are children natural nonviolent strategists? They laughed and we discussed it. Is there anyone in our online dialogue interested to answer this?

It'is a powerful example of how nonviolent action can go on at every level - from the microcosm of the family to a school or university to a city or region all the way to a nation. It's also is an example of nonviolence in action!


Nonviolence in Action - Witness Against Torture Action

Yola, I want to thank you for sharing your US Supreme Court Action showing "nonviolence in action." I'm glad you you made your first post to the New Tactics community. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.

It's also great that your action shares how video can be used as an advocay tool. I invite everyone to join New Tactics next month for our on-line dialogue featuring video as a tool for advocacy.

I wanted to be sure that we are collecting the examples being shared in an easy to access spot under "Nonviolence in Action"

Yola wrote in this dialogue the following:

Noviolent Direct Action at the USA Supreme Court

Hello, This is my first message to the net. I want to introduce myself with
a  link to a nonviolent direct action in Washington. I have it in my
page so you can have a version in English and the translation into
By circulating the video  wider and wider we manage to increase the
effects of the action. It's our small contribution in the struggle to
achieve Human Rights for everybody."

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Training for effectiveness


My name is Caitlin and I am a graduate student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. I am currently finishing up my Master's degree and am researching tools and indicators for measuring success in civilian third party intervention. From practitioners and nonviolent peace trainers, I am wondering if in your training, you teach ways to measure effectiveness? Moreover, how do you know (or measure) that the tactics you are training people to use work?  

Thank you! 

Measuring and assessing impact

Hi Caitlin,

Welcome to the dialogue. You are raising very important questions here. The New Tactics project has sought out case examples from the around the world that highlight the successful implementation of tactics. The website has a searchable tactics database and indepth case studes (tactical notebooks) that provide these tactical examples for others to gain insights and ideas about adapting and transfering tactics to their own issues and contexts. At the same time, there is no standardized way in which we measured the success or impact. We have looked at a wide variety of indicators - but first and foremost we have looked at what the organizations had set out to achieve and how successful the tactic was in moving them them toward that goal.

As New Tactics has gathered these cases, we have found that it's a challenge to encourage human rights organizations to take time to reflect and assess the impact of the tactics they have implemented. Reflecting upon our successes helps to frame the failures
and less than stellar achievements into the overall perspective of how much we have
achieved and how far we've come in our efforts. This energizes not only the people in our own organization but for others as well.

Human rights organizations - and especially nonviolent movements - are hard pressed to move immediately on to the next campaign, keeping the momentum going. In addition, the "success" of a tactic might be measured not by the positive impact of the tactic but in terms of a disporportionate repression that follows that tactic by the power structure. This could indicate the degree to which the power structure feels it is losing control.

You might be interested to take a look at a publication that came out of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy's Measurement and Human Rights Program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, called "Measurement & Human Rights: Tracking progress, assessing impact".

The New Tactics project had an opportunity to participate in their in 2005 and 2006 sessions. I personally attended the 2006 session and found the discussions very helpful and stimulating. I was very interested in the way they framed the measurement and impact issues. I hope the information below will be useful for you and others thinking about how we can better measure and track our progress.

(The information below comes directly from their website)

The Measurement & Human Rights Program has selected four avenues
through which to discuss major issues concerning measurement and human

Data collection:
How will the human rights community overcome obstacles in making its
data collection more rigorous, more comprehensive, and comparable over

Data analysis:
How will the human rights community accurately identify trends,
standardize definitions, and have uniformly rigorous analysis across

Evidence based policy: How will the human rights community effectively incorporate quantitative data and analysis into the policy-making process?

Impact assessments: How will the human rights community accurately evaluate the impact of their interventions?

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Effective or ineffective tactics

I'd like to draw your attention to the excellent comment made by Shaazka, "Tactics aren’t inherently effective or ineffective, or low
risk versus medium versus high risk. It depends on the context in which the
nonviolent struggle operates."

Please refer to her post " Build capacity to make strategic selection of nonviolent action" under "Dealing with Repression" theme to read more.  

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

measuring success

Hi Cailin!

I  think you've put your finger on an important - and under problematised - question here. As activists and organisers, we spend so much time wrestling with other questions (selecting tactics, keeping our groups healthy and energised, reconciling our inner fears, etc) and (I think) not so much asking 'how will we know when we're succeeding?' 'How do we know when our efforts are really making a difference?'

Last year, the Change Agency initiated an action research project on the topic of evaluating advocacy ( We've been identifying, modifying, applying, learning from and sharing frameworks and tools for evaluating campaigns.

One of the key ideas that comes through in several evaluation approaches is the idea of prospective evaluation - developing evaluation frameworks  that are tailored to our unique campaign from the outset. Prospective evaluation requires our campaign group to be clear about what success would look like and how we believe we're going to achieve it before we step outside the door. We're also interested in program logic models. From that page on our website, there are links to online tools that campaigners can use to develop their own program logic models.

What are you learning in your research? I'd love to know about the tools and indicators that are being applied effectively in civilian third party intervention. Is your project online? 

James Whelan

Resources for measuring success

Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Thank you, James, for the great resources on measuring success for human rights organizations. I am very interesting in learning more about the methods you mentioned, and will certainly take a look at the link you shared. These skills would be very beneficial to the New Tactics community members, as well as to the New Tactics project!


Training Tools and Process

 Adult education and learning models

Hi guys, I would like to get some more inputs on this particular area but also at the same time share insights on my experience in this area. Over the years I have come to learn about the behaviour of adults when it comes to learning. Classroom setting in many occassions don't work and the more you make the learning environment friendly the easier for them. Adults also learn when they want and this is always need driven and in this way they do not forget easily. Games and videos can also come in handy because most of these are real life experiences to show that nonviolence has worked somewhere else. I have come to love Gandhi video because relating what happens in the video to the principles of nonviolence becomes very easy even to the participants. I have also used in the past People's Power, Romero plus Nirea which is purely an African setting among other videos.

In terms of approach participatory methodology has worked well for me in the past. I have learnt through that, that everybody have stories to tell and through the sharing so much learning takes place. This combines well when you now want to move to action because everybody feels like they are part of the process (having made a contribution)which again works well when you go further ahead to the process of solidarization.

Oluoch Dola

Chemchemi Ya Ukweli

P.O.BOX 14370 00800 Nairobi, Kenya

Tel:254-20-4446970 or 254-20-2320346 or 254735244554

Story telling: narrative ways of working

Oluoch, your comments about the value of story telling are a great reminder. I think there's a risk that when we attempt to pack as much as possible into our training time we can squeeze out the space for this deeper sharing. My colleague Jason MacLeod has been exploring narrative approaches to transformative training, and has attended a workshop with the Dulwich centre ( here in Australia. You can read a recent article 'narrative ways of working with groups and communities' here:

I think there is  lot of potential in the process of building individual stories into a collective story, which as you say really increases ownership.

Great to be talking with you all.

Holly Hammond

Story telling: narrative ways of working

Further to Holly and Oluoch's post here is a tool I have been experimenting with the following tool as a way to richly story strategy.

It is a blend of Phillipe Duhamel (Canada), Ncazelo Ncube (Zimbabwe) and the Dulwich Centre's work. I feel there is great value in going deep into people's stories and stories of campaigns to unpack the lessons. Working with stories also has the added advantage of strengthening the levels of trust, safety and unity in the group.


Jason MacLeod


Stories Under the Banyan The Banyan tree, Ficus Benghalenisis, is a large spreading fig tree. The seeds of Banyan trees are dispersed by fruit eating birds. When they land in the branches or trunk of a tree the seed germinates, sending its roots down to the ground. These roots wrap themselves around the host tree, providing a structure for the tree and eventually strangling the host. In many countries Banyan are also important culturally. They are places where spirits and guardians dwell. The trees are also used as important meeting places where people sit and tell stories. Objectives 

  • To richly describe peoples stories.
  • To elicit special skills and knowledge around strategy and tactics, movement building and social change perspectives.

 Time needed At least 4 hours Resources needed Newsprint – enough for each person, lots of coloured pens and paper, a picture of a Banyan Tree How it’s done This tool has four parts to it. If possible this first section could take place under a Banyan Tree. Part 1: Under the Banyan Tree 

  1. Tell people we are going to look at what we know about effective strategy and tactics. Emphasise that we are going to look at our own experience. Ask people to think about the experiences they have had: campaigns they have participated in, meetings or demonstrations they attended, actions or interactions.
  2. Show them a picture of a Banyan Tree. Talk briefly about the importance of the Banyan Tree. Ask about the importance of Banyan Trees to the participants. Talk about the Banyan Tree as a meeting place, a place of power, a place where stories and knowledge can be shared. Say that we are going to find out from the wealth of experience in this room, what are some of the ingredients for successful campaigns.
  3. Draw a Banyan Tree on a piece of paper. Tell people that first we will start with the leaves. The green leaves still on the tree are the successful actions or campaigns that we have been a part of. But sometimes campaigns or actions are only partially successful. They might even fail. Sometime we think we have failed, but we have achieved tremendous success in relation to goals that perhaps we did not clearly articulate. These are the yellow leaves. Draw some leaves on the ground. But they are not wasted. The only way to be successful is to make mistakes. This is the way human beings learn. So these leaves on the ground become compost. They enrich the soil and help the tree to grow. Explain that maybe you will only choose one campaign to focus on and that is fine. If so draw and colour the leaves so that all of them symbolize that campaign.
  4. Then draw some flowers. The flowers are ways we might describe these campaigns or actions, images or metaphors we might use.
  5. Then draw some roots. The roots are the significant histories of these campaigns or actions, however recent or long ago these histories are.
  6. Then point to the trunk. What is the role of the trunk? The trunk supports the tree. So the trunk here is the organizations, values, traditions, skills and knowledges, practices and beliefs that support our social change work.
  7. And the branches are the significant people that support us to be involved in social change – fellow activists, networks, friends and family.
  8. The fruits are the fruits – the gifts – that our social change work has created
  9. The ground represents the other people and places these campaigns and actions are linked to – near or far.
  10. Once the parts of the Banyan Tree is explained hand out pieces of paper. Have plenty of coloured pens available for people to use. Invite people to make their own Banyan Tree.

 Part 2: The Banyan Forest 

  1. Once people have finished making their trees bring all the trees together to make a forest.
  2. Then invite people to choose one story of one campaign to share in small groups.
  3. In the large group support people to elicit key success factors and write these up on butchers paper
  4. If there is time one possibility is to use a maximize / minimize list to look at ways to reduce the ineffectiveness and strengthen effectiveness.

 Part 3: The Storm of Life 

  1. Acknowledge the forest. Acknowledge that trees are not free from dangers.
  2. Elicit the difficulties and challenges that trees face. Ask: so if forests have difficult times what about a community? Do communities or a people face threats and dangers, difficulties and challenges, hazards and strife?
  3. Use the metaphor of storms. There may be big, noisy and violent storms but eventually even the worst storms will pass. So we will explore some of these difficulties and challenges through the metaphor of storms. What kinds of storms affect people around here?
  4. What are the affects on your lives? (look out for alternative storylines – the kind of things that people are doing to respond to difficulties and challenges).
  5. When storms come is the trees fault? No!!! No one is a passive recipeinet of repression and trauma. People are always doing something. Point to people’s campaigns and actions to reinforce this.
  6. When storms or difficulties come what do trees do to protect themselves? Elicit. (if necessary ask - what do animals and birds do?)
  7. What are the things human beings do? What do you all do?
  8. How might you all make a contribution to other people facing similar strife?
  9. Endig questions for part 3: 1. Are storms always present in our lives? 2. What do we do when storms pass. 3. What do (x collective – name of group/s) do to contribute to others?

 Part 4: Celebration of Life 

The purpose of this section is to link people back to their own support networks


  1. Ask people to write a letter back to someone significant in their social change work – perhaps an organisation indentified in the trunk or a person in the branches or a person still alive in their roots. Ask people to share why that person or organisation is significant to them – relating the structure of the letter back to the tree: green leaves – the lessons learnt from successful campaign campaigns; yellow leaves – the lessons learnt from campaigns or actions that failed or were less successful, or were successful in other, perhaps unintended, ways; flowers – words, symbols or metaphors that describe the campaign or action; fruit – the fruits or successes of the campaign or action; trunk – the organizations, values, traditions, skills and knowledges, practices and beliefs that support your social change work; branches - the significant people that support you to be involved in social change – fellow activists, networks, friends and family; roots - the significant histories of these campaigns or actions, however recent or long ago these histories are and finally, the ground - the other people and places these campaigns and actions are linked to – near or far.
  2. Party.

 Where this tool comes from 

Adapted by Jason MacLeod from a tool written by Phillipe Duhamel originally tilted “Stories Under the Baobab”. Also using ideas from “ The Tree of Life” by Ncazelo Ncube from Zimbabwe (In Training for Transformation by Anne Hope and Sally Timmel, as well as the “Tree of Life” developed by the Dulwich Centre, Adelaide, which further enriched and extended the work of Ncazelo Ncube.



Jason MacLeod, The Change Agency

Role Plays from People's Individual Stories

Linda Sartor, Nonviolent Peacefore

I find using role plays to be a very practical and satisfying experience. We use them for our own learning in a research/writing group of which I'm a part in which we are studying our white supremacist norms and consciousness in our everyday lives as European Americans.

Role plays were also very valuable in the training of trainers we just did for domestic peace teams. I think it is especially relevant when we create role plays on the spot directly from people's stories--an experience they already faced or something they expect to be facing.  

Vision for (rather than against)

Linda Sartor, Nonviolent Peacefore

I agree with the idea of visioning for something. I was recently at a conference called the White Privilege Conference and heard a presenter who said, "We don't have to fight against capitalism. We need to vision what will replace it." I think that is a good direction to take in terms of bringing forth more nonviolent ways of being in the world.

But in terms of training, I am seeing much in this discussion already here that seems to have to do with organizing, as a way to put theory into practice. We just did a training of trainers who want to establish domestic peace teams and we used an emergent curriculum that was responsive to the needs/wants raised by the participants. What they wanted was to focus on organizing. It seems to me that to train in a way that facilitates turning theory into practice, we have to foucs much of the training on organizing.

transformation and organising

hi linda, thanks for your post.

i guess you've got two comments there and so i'll address both. the first on the idea of having a vision for, not just against, comes up in other posts here and in an organisation i am working with at the moment. the way friends of the earth ttells the story of their work is through 3 themes: 1. mobilise (organise); 2. resist (fight); 3. transform (create fundamentally new institutions and ways of working).

the second about organising -- so what do you mean by the word organising in this context? what kinds of things were people talking about in the training? 


sam la rocca 

Training of trainers of domestic peace teams

Linda Sartor, Nonviolent Peacefore

In response to Sam's question, we were providing a training for trainers for training domestic peace teams. These 25 trainers were interested in applying their learning right away, but did not have domestic teams who were already in existence asking for the expertise. That led to many questions about organizing peace teams. I assume this is because the participants from all over North America were seeing the need for peace teams to be organized for variouus events/issues in their own localities and organizing the teams was prerequisite to training them.   

Training for Effectiveness

Measuring Impact,

 I just want to also add my voice to the this debate of impact assesment as far as peace and nonviolence is concerned. Over the last few years that I have been in this field, I must agree with my other friends who say there is no standard way to measure impact and this in my experience has been a BIG source of conflict sometimes between us and our funding partners. If you take for insatance behaviour change in persons  that sometimes is influenced by Nonviolence Trainings and the framework in which impact assessment can take place, automatically it appears to be an uphill task because this would then require that you must have known the individual for sometime in the past while at the same time check with them after the training to see if there is any kind of difference. I have shared that example simply for two reasons, one because its the simplest and two because Nonviolence to me in simple terms is an attitude of mind and a way of life that seeks to transform individuals & society from "A"  to "B" and because the change or transformation begins with self (behaviour change) This then help us look at issues differently (changing our lenses) that finally becomes necessary in the process of moving from theory to practise. In conclusion, I agree with the rest that assessing impact with regards to Nonviolence is not an easy thing to do but again if there are ways out there that have worked for people then I would be glad o learn.


Oluoch Dola

Chemchemi Ya Ukweli

P.O.BOX 14370 00800 Nairobi, Kenya

Tel:254-20-4446970 or 254-20-2320346 or 254735244554

Assessment and funding

Linda Sartor, Nonviolent Peacefore

Yes, not only with regards to training but just with regards to the work of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, we struggle with coming up with measurable evidence that we are accomplishing what we set out to do. In terms of assessments of training, I favor the idea of self assessment. If anyone has a tool for that, I would be very interested in seeing it. If not, I'm also interested in thinking out loud with others about it in order to create one.  

Assessment, measurement

I think there's a need to educate funders that often impact cannot be measured.

If a campaign achieves its goals, those who concede usually say - "no it was nothing to do with the campaign.  We decided for our own reasons ..."  

In Gay Seidman's book Beyond the Boycott she comments that "there is surprisingly little concrete evidence that even widely publicized campaigns have a significan impact on corporate profits" ... and yet an impact on corporate policy they have had.  (Incidentally, the book is also a broadside against those who advocate voluntary codes of conduct.)  

If somebody who is escorted is still alive, then we cannot prove that's because s/he is escorted.  The kind of interviews by Liam Mahoney and Quique Eguren in Unarmed Bodyguards often convincing evidence that protective accompaniment has worked in certain circumstances, but their (brilliant) research goes way beyond "project evaluation". 

It is important in advance to set criteria for evaluating what we do, but there also has to be a level of evaluation that assesses whether those criteria are  themselves appropriate.  This is particularly important for training.  Everyone can enjoy a training workshop, and everybody might have learnt new skills, but are these skills the ones appropriate in the situation? that is, appropriate in the context and also appropriate to the point of development of a group or movement?

Howard Clark 



assessment, measurement

Howard raises some excellent questions in hiw posting on this topic:

* Can we ever be sure our campaigns had the impact we were seeking - or (indeed) if they had any impact at all? When the things we hope to change actually change, what insights or lessons can we draw, if any? 

 * What of the relationship between activists and funders? Just because funders would like to know that the projects or campaigns they've funded have actually made a demonstrable impact, does that mean that activists should dance to their tune? (Apparently Einstein said that many things that can be counted really don't count and that most things that count can't be counted).

Resisting the temptation to service our funders is important. Donor-driven campaigns are seldom strategic, it seems.

I would argue, though, that the question of campaign evaluation is evaded for other reasons that are far too convenient. These are tough questions to ask. We're not going to win any friends in our campaign or be the life of the meeting by proposing our comrades commit precious time to developing a campaign evaluation framework from the get go - when others are cooking up sexy tactics, discussing the problem (everyone loves that topic) and addressing more pressing organisational imperatives.

What can be more important than to work out what success would actually look like (along the way, as well as when we arrive) and how we believe we're going to get there? What conversation is more likely to generate important insights to guide our campaigns?

I think it is an important and exciting challenge fo activist educators (including nonviolence trainers) to engage in this theme.  It's a shame we can't sit down face to face - this online dialogue is great, but no substitute huh?  


James Whelan
the Change Agency


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