Training for Nonviolent Action

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Measuring Impact ... Most Significant Change

the Change Agency

Hello all

Oluoch Dola after reading your comments, about assessing Nonviolence trainings, I thought of an evaluation tool called Most Significant Change (MSC), that may be a useful tool to assess the impact/influence/effectiveness of Nonviolence Trainings, as it focuses on using qualitative rather than quantitative indicators. Anecdotally I’ve heard about it being used meaningfully in a range of settings. I’ve added some information about MFC below from and a link  to view a comprehensive MFC guidebook.

 ....MSC involves the collection and systematic participatory interpretation of stories of significant change. Unlike conventional approaches to monitoring, MSC does not employ quantitative indicators, but is a qualitative approach.
The MSC approach was originally developed by Rick Davies through his work with a participatory rural development project in Bangladesh in 1994.

The Most Significant Change (MSC) technique is a dialogical, story-based technique. Its primary purpose is to facilitate program improvement by focusing the direction of work towards explicitly valued directions and away from less valued directions. MSC can also make a contribution to summative evaluation through both its process and its outputs. The technique involves a form of continuous values inquiry whereby designated groups of stakeholders search for significant program outcomes and then deliberate on the value of these outcomes in a systematic and transparent manner. - Dart, J. J. & Davies R.J. (forthcoming) "A dialogical story-based evaluation tool: the most significant change technique", American Journal of Evaluation.

 MSC is an emerging technique, and many adaptations have already been made that are discussed throughout the guide. Before getting into modifications, they present an overview of what a 'full' implementation of MSC might look like. Rick Davies and Jessica Hart describe this using ten steps. 1.     How to start and raise interest 2.     Defining the domains of change 3.     Defining the reporting period 4.     Collecting SC stories 5.     Selecting the most significant of the stories 6.     Feeding back the results of the selection process 7.     Verification of stories 8.     Quantification 9.     Secondary analysis and meta-monitoring 10.   Revising the system (Excerpt from The ‘Most Significant Change’ (MSC) Technique: A Guide to Its Use by Rick Davies and Jess Dart) Information about the MSC approach has also been made available globally through a MSC approach internet discussion group set up in 2000.  Access to the mailing list and papers concerning the work of Rick, Jessica and others can be found at:  In 2000 the name Most Significant Change Approach was settled on as it embodies one of the most fundamental aspects of the approach: the collection and systematic selection of reported changes.   More information on MSC can be found at which is managed by Rick Davies who developed MSC. Here you can download The ‘Most Significant Change’ (MSC) Technique: A Guide to Its Use by Rick Davies and Jess Dart which is a 104 page guidebook that was created in April 2005. 

Maybe this is somewhat useful, more likely to be if adapted to make it relevant to the community involved in Nonviolence training.


Thankyou all for your rich insights and reflections.


pru gell



Noviolent Direct Action at the USA Supreme Court


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 Spanish.
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.

Greetings from,

Yola jb


Conflicts in the classroom, conflicts in the world - Tools for the regulation of these conflicts.
Conflictos en el aula, conflictos en el mundo - Herramientas para su regulación

Complexities of unity

Unity can certainly be a very important strength, but ...

there are some other issues.

1.'Unity' can stifle creativity and dynamism

Unity was one of the main strengths of the Kosovo Albanians in their nonviolent struggle in the 1990s. At times, however, that meant marginalising some of its most creative figures, and it produced strategic inflexibility.  This unity was at first based on K-Alb solidarity but it was in a matrix of ethnic polarisation and antagonism. 

The K-Alb leadership was increasingly concentrated in the far-from-transparent hands not of the LDK - the party led by Ibrahim Rugova - but of Rugova himelf and a handful of key advisers.  

The K-Albs needed not just unity but  organisational forms that were more open to decentralised initiatives and where there was constructive and democratic debate.


2. 'Unity' can spread hatred. 

Especially  in a situation of ethnic conflict - and this touches on many struggles for self-determination - a nonviolent struggle should try to build relations across ethnic boundaries.  Sometimes that might have a short term pay-off, in terms of weakening the aggressive enemy leadership or reducing the reliability of their security forces, but always it will have long-term benefits in preparing future coexistence. 


3.A nonviolent 'alternative' can threaten to undermine 'popular unity'

Where an existing popular movement is engaged in armed struggle, nonviolence might appear to threaten unity and challenge its legitimacy.  An armed movement is quite likely to be suspicious of advocates of nonviolence as somehow questioning the movement's legitimacy and of being CIA-or-whatever tools trying to create a rival leadership.  

The decisions around constructing a nonviolent strategy in those circumstances are complex.  And I think have been wrestled with by a number of other contributors here. 


4.Issues about working in coalition

There are a set of issues that groups need to address upon joining a coalition.  Some of the debate in this forum is about strategy for groups with a mass following, but I think these issues on coalition equally affect groups without a mass following - groups that might be in a different stage of their development.   Such issues are well worth exploring in training workshops.

* It is usually easier to get unity around what we oppose than what we actually want, a fact that has consequences if your opposition is "successful".In the name of "unity" and "focusing on the main issue", some coalitions exclude issues where the public is not yet convinced.

* Any group seeking common denominators in a coalition needs to define its bottom line: Which items on its own agenda are  'essential' for its participation in a coalition, and which 'non-essential'? 

* What is the potential and what are the problems of pursuing independently the items - or methods - that the coalition won't take up? 

* How wide do you want to make the coalition?  a) in terms of goals of other groups, b) in terms of the methods pursued by others 

* What would make your group withdraw from a coalition? 

* What risks would you take in pushing other groups in the coalition to their limits or detaching their leaders from their constituencies?

I think a relatively simple way of organising this type of a discussion in a workshop would be as "Barometer" exercises.  The trainer prepares a set of concrete choices, and asks workshop participants  to position themselves along an axis from "accept" to "reject", discussing their thinking, moving position when an argument influences them, themselves raising new choices that might clarify decisions.  


Howard Clark, Madrid



Complexities of unity


I'm very glad that you raised these points. I especially want to add to what your wrote about  working in coalition.

A great in-depth case study on our New Tactics website looks at how the Coordinadora in Peru works in coalition and provides excellent insights in how they have been able to maintain the coalition for over 20 years. Here's a brief quote from the overview and link:

"Among the strengths that have made the Coordinadora a significant
reference point for the defense and promotion of human rights in Peru,
and throughout the Americas, is the ability to make innovative
political decisions while maintaining its unity, adhering to principles
that guide their actions and utilizing mechanisms to find agreement
about priorities in order to act with coordination because 'together we
are stronger

I also wanted to say that I really like your idea of using "barometer" type excercise. I've used the "Spectrum of Allies" tool concept to build a "human" spectrum of opinion that I think might be along the same lines of what you're proposing. I'd like to hear more about your idea.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

measuring effectiveness


Thanks to everyone who replied to my earlier post. As a student, your experience, opinions and thoughts are much valued.

I am drawing heavily on the work of Mary B. Anderson and Lara Olson's "Confronting War" ( ) . I find their matrix on page 56 to be very helpful. The basic premise of their argument is that for nonviolent peace work to "stick" in needs to penetrate or impact the socio/political level- not only the individual/personal level. They also note that while having "many people" as part of the process, "key people" must be on board in order to have a lasting impact.  Do you agree with Anderson and Olson's argument?


Supporting nonviolence intention and principle through Words

Peace Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR), Cluj-Napoca

  Dear Participants of the New Tactics Dialogues, 

 As I was reading these comments and posts I was also thinking what is missing and I can contribute to.

As I reflected on that, I remembered something that my colleague Bianca and me many times address in our discussions ... words. It is so easy to use hurtful words and also words can bring so much joy and happiness to us.

In my training for nonviolent action I was very privileged to be part of a Nonviolent Communication training with Marshall Rosenberg. Even if I am not using the specific recipe of that particular communication tool, it opened my eyes to the power of words and to the awareness of words and I would not pass out on opportunities to experience more of the great experiences which this tool can bring out. 

 Indeed I have witnessed a few of the openings and revelations some people had using this technique and at the same time recognise that it is one way of many of training for nonviolent communication.

We at PATRIR also support and are actively engaged in the movement for creating Ministries and/or Departments of Peace. I have been Secretary to the international network since its inception. Nonviolent Communication has been part of this movement and a wonderful experience was at the annual Summit last year when the facilitator was a trainer in Nonviolent Communication, Miki Kashtan. What was great is that she was quite open in using the recipe and it did not have the unnatural feeling that you may sometimes get when you hear NVC. She continued this May in the African Regional Summit for Ministries of Peace being invited by those who were in Japan and were quite moved with the technique and wanted to share it further. 

I started sharing with this tool that one could have in the bag and I stress the importance and the energy of words.

There are linguists out there  that are only focused in peace language and practitioners in nonviolence for whom words are an alive part of their nonviolent action.

With respect to Peace Linguists I have had brief email exchanges with professor 

Francisco Gomes de

was a Professor of Applied Linguistics, English, and Portuguese at the Department of Letters, Center for Arts and Communication, Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil, from which he is now retired. He is also co-founder, past President and Consultant, Associação Brasil América ( A pioneer in the emerging areas of Applied Peace Linguistics and language learners and teachers linguistic and crosscultural rights. Co-founder of Brazilian Linguistics Association and of Brazilian Association for Applied Linguistics. Most recent books: Comunicar para o bem. Rumo à paz comunicativa (Communicating for the good. Toward communicative peace), published by Ave Maria, São Paulo,2002 and Criatividade no Ensino de Inglês.A REsourcebook, published by DISAL, São Paulo,2004.




The word recipe


This sounded so intriguing that it sent me looking for more information on Marshall Rosenberg and The Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Here is the link to the Nonviolent Communication Guide that can be downloaded from their website.

It's a simple stated - but very profound - model of communication. As stated on the website - "Both sides of the NVC model: empathically listening and honestly
expressing, use the four steps of the model: observations, feelings,
needs, requests."

Definitely worth checking out - thank you Corina for bringing it to our attention.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

More about how to get past the unnatural feeling of the recipe

Linda Sartor, Nonviolent Peacefore

 I'm interested in knowing more about how, Miki Kashtan was able to use the
recipe of NVC without the unnatural feeling.

I'm also interested in how people from other parts of the world than Europe and North America take to NVC. 

translating NVC to other cultures

Hi Linda,

I have been training with PBI projects in Latin America and Asia for about 15 years. more recently, I've done a some trainings for Nonviolent Peaceforce and Kurve Wustrow.

PBI's Asia projects have been very proactive in getting Asians on the teams, and so we have seen how NVC "goes over" with some of the cutures there. I have also taught it in the presence of folks from various regions of Africa.

The short answer is, yes, it's a very western/North American/European/...-centric model. Still, it has good value. Personally, I have found it has worked really well in all walks of my life (including with people who aren't peace mvt people). So, I continue to experiment with ways to make the translation work.

I think how you introduce this concept to international groups is very important. It's pretty understandable for suspicion to run high. I start with a brief intro on communication being a two-way street and then say something like: "When you communicate, you are trying to acheive a goal of some sort. Right? So, it helps to have lots of tools to reach your goal, in case the first one or two don't work." Then I casually put NVC out there as one tool that I have found useful in communication, especially in interpersonal conflict when it's harder to have good conversations. "So, we will review NVC and if you like it use it, if some of it seems to have value, use those parts, if you don't like it, don't use it. It's just another tool." This humble approach keeps me from sounding like some sort of know-it-all trainer snob and takes the edge off trying something new.

 I have taught people to recite the formula and try using it even though it sounds weird. I just encourage them to try it even though it seems odd. Once they get the hang of it (the concept and it's pieces), we tell them to use their own words, but try avoiding saying "you" at any point.

 In Asia, instead of "I statements," people tend to use "we statements." This seems to be acceptable to people I have worked with from a few places like Indonesia and Timor, Nepal, Sri lanka, India, Thailand, Japan and the Philippines. Some Africans like this better too, though hard to generalize.

I continue to like the tool, but I keep it as one in a large repitoire. of course, we spend lots of time soliciting tools/formulas/methods participants have used and found successful. The point is not to do it "my way," the point is to have successful communications with your team mates, and everyone around the team.

Winnie Romeril

RE: [New Tactics Dialogues: Training for Nonviolent Action] tran

Ugandan democracy activists will be meeting at a large Ugandan event in Orlando, Florida during the last weekend of August (Labor Day Weekend) and they will include Ugandan Parliamentarians and&nbsp;political party leaders from&nbsp;various&nbsp;opposition parties&nbsp;.&nbsp; We are very interested in&nbsp;finding a facilitator&nbsp;for a&nbsp;training session&nbsp;to engage our leaders in dialogue to promote change through&nbsp;non-violence&nbsp;in relation&nbsp;to elections.&nbsp; <BR>
The last two presidential&nbsp;elections in Uganda (2001 and 2006) were steeped in blood, controversy and fraud and each time the opposition went to court and obtained a Supreme Court decision that the presidential elections were fraudulent.&nbsp; Each time however the court failed to overturn the result in the interest of 'stability.'&nbsp; We expect the election in 2011 to follow a similar pattern and are afraid that if activists are not prepared to engage in non-violent action we may witness ugly scenes like those that happened in Kenya early this year repeated next door in Uganda.&nbsp; <BR>
If there are&nbsp;experts among you&nbsp;that would kindly facilitate&nbsp;a half-day session please contact me at <A href=""></A> <BR>
Many thanks for all the educational information that we are receiving from participants.<BR><BR><BR>
<DIV><FONT color=#0000ff><FONT face="Lucida Handwriting, Cursive" size=3>Anne Mugisha</FONT><BR></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Comic Sans MS" color=#0066cc size=3><FONT color=#0000ff size=2><FONT face="Lucida Handwriting"><A href="" target=_blank></A> </FONT></FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Lucida Handwriting" color=#0000ff>2011 OR NEVER!</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face="Comic Sans MS" color=#0066cc size=3><FONT color=#0000ff size=2><FONT face="Lucida Handwriting"></FONT><BR></FONT>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</FONT><BR>&nbsp;<BR><A href="" target=_blank><FONT face="Lucida Handwriting, Cursive" size=3></FONT></A>&nbsp;</DIV>

Sharing tools to other cultures

Hi Winnie,

I really appreciate how you've outlined the way you introduce NVC to groups in other parts of the world. Perhaps it especially resonates for me because this is also the way I introduce tools to groups. There really are a wide variety of excellent tools available. This dialogue has also clearly shown that more are being developed in the field - many of which are being developed by the wonderful resource people in this dialogue!

The more tools we have in our "training tool box" so to speak, the more flexible and versatile we can be to meet the needs of the group, context and culture in order to share tools that will both resonate and facilitate the group in their process at any given time. 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Conflict resolution on a diverse team

Linda Sartor, Nonviolent Peacefore

Hello Winnie. Did you ever do a training for Nonviolent Peaceforce in Sri Lanka (NPSL)? I have been on field teams there since 2003, but I was never there during one of the NVC trainings. Despite the training in NVC in NPSL, I have not been aware of it being implemented at all in the field teams, which are deliberately designed to be diverse. Perhaps some team members were utilizing parts of this tool; but if so, it was never obvious to me. What I found instead was that some teammates objected to the tool as being too European American.

 I am not attached to which tool is used, but I do think that it is a good idea for teams to agree how they will work with a conflict.before they find themselves caught in one. Yet in practice, I have not yet found a way to even have the conversation to come to that aggreement that is not European American centric. It seems even just the desire to come to such an agreement is White.

Online bibliography at


Kristin has asked me to tell you about the online bibliography on nonviolent action you can find at which I'm very happy to do. In 2006, April Carter, Michael Randle and I compiled People Power and Protest Since 1945: a bibliography on nonviolent action, published by Housmans in London, with about 1,000 entries.  Then in March 2007 we produced a supplement, primarily on the Colour Revolutions.  And now we have added about 180 entries to an "online update", using basically the same structure as the printed bibliography. 

It seems to be a very useful resource for students and others wanting to do case studies of nonviolent action.  We intend to carry on updating in this form for another year, and then we'll completely re-organise the bibliography as a searchable online database, sortable with keywords, etc.  

 If you look and see some omissions, please tell me.  Having only just discovered the "tactical notebooks" on this excellent site, I haven't yet integrated them into the update.  



Online bibliography resource


Thank you for sharing this wonderful resource with us. I'm thrilled that you'll incorporate our "tactical notebooks" into this incredibly rich resource.

I'll send you the reference for one of the first resistence movements of multinational corporations - the Nestle boycott. I didn't see any references to that campaign in your bibliography. That is another example of a movement founded on a tactic- boycotting - and finding that it accomplish much more than it set out to do.

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager


Nancy - please do.  The Nestle boycott was really important.

Personally, I maintained the boycott for several years after it was called off.  Even now I prefer to go without than buy Nestles - but I concede to my children when I'm in our village and the only ice cream is Nestle.  


Dealing with Repression

Non violence being a way of life, I see two levels in the broader nonviolence one is that personal change that begins with you because you can not give out what you do not have yourself and two is aimed at the wider society. As one moves from theory to pracitice in a process that some of us call the process of solidarisation,  we bring in many other acotors into play and one advantage in this is you consolidate through reaching out a broad base of experiences and skills. A practical example is my experience where as we plan for action with the risks in mind, we think of reaching out to first aiders incase people get injured in an action sometimes even doctors, we reach out to advocates just incase people are arrested and even have some consolidated fund which sometimes bail people out and the worst is to take care of people' s funeral expenses and help their families when they are gone. This is what we've done in the past and somehow I have seen it giving people some kind of encouragement and confidence to be part of such process. I am also alive to the fact that sometimes this is not enough and incase my other colleagues have other exeperiences I would be willing to benefit from there sharing.

Oluoch Dola

Chemchemi Ya Ukweli

P.O.BOX 14370 00800 Nairobi, Kenya

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

Freedom Charter - an excellent Example of Vision of tommorow

Thank you for mentioning South African struggle freedom charter. As few of us has already mentioned, Vision of Tommorow, which comes before the strategy is developed should be participatory developed, and should include key groups from the society in its development. This is usually achieved thruough training movement representatives to LISTEN to the people.


"Freedom charter" has it all - clarity, sound and even "manifesto" type of language which has moved thousands. CANVAS and other educational institutions strongly underlines "Freedom Charter" as a perfect Case Study for understanding of Vision of tommorow pfenomenon.


Training Tools and Processes

Shaazka Beyerle, The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Hello everyone. For those visiting the online dialogue, I’d
like to share with you some good educational tools on people power, and
nonviolent strategies and action available from the International Center
on Nonviolent Conflict. Stay tuned tomorrow for info on books! To inquire about
copies, you can write to:

Documentary filmmaker Steve York has made four excellent

“A Force More Powerful: A Century of
Nonviolent Conflict
,”(2000) -- a
three-hour documentary series, explores one of the 20th century's most
important but least-understood stories - how nonviolent power has overcome
oppression rule all over the world. It consists of six segments focusing on the
Indian independence movement, Danish resistance to Nazi occupation, the U.S. civil rights movement; the anti-Pinochet
struggle in Chile, the South
African anti-apartheid struggle; and the
Solidarity movement in Poland.

There is also a very useful study guide, from which workshop
discussion sessions can be designed:

A companion book of the same name by Peter Ackerman and Jack
DuVall is also available. It chronicles and strategically analyzes 14
nonviolent movements in the 20th century, from the known to the
lesser known.

“Bringing Down a
(2002) – Recipient of the Peabody Award, it documents the
spectacular defeat of Slobodan Milosevic in October, 2000, not by force of
arms, as many had predicted, but by an ingenious nonviolent strategy of honest
elections and massive civil disobedience in which a nonviolent youth movement
called OTPOR played a catalyzing role.

Two lesson plans are available. They are designed to extend
and reinforce the concepts presented in the film, and were written for high
school instruction in government, political science, history, sociology, and
other social sciences.

A Force More Powerful
and Bringing Down A
are available in the following languages: Arabic,
Burmese, English, Farsi, French, Indonesian, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish,

and Vietnamese. A Force More Powerful is also
available in Italian. Other language versions coming soon
Nepali, Uzbek, and Khmer.

Confronting the Truth (2006) – When
bloodshed ends, political agreements are signed, and peace is restored, the
past still remains. In the last 15 years, a number of countries emerging from
political turmoil have chosen to move forward into the future by looking back.
They believe the unspeakable truths of massive human rights abuse can't simply
be forgotten: they need to be aired and acknowledged so that victims can regain
their dignity and society can be rebuilt. By telling the stories of truth and
reconciliation commissions in Peru,
South Africa, East Timor and
this 73-minute documentary reveals how commissions work, what they can and
cannot achieve, and what impact they have on the communities they serve.

LANGUAGES: Confronting the
is available in Arabic, English, Serbo-Croatian and Kurdish.

(2007) -- Just after 2 a.m. on November 22, 2004, the
call went out: “The time has come to defend your life and Ukraine. Your victory depends upon
how many people are ready to say ‘No’ to this government, ‘No’ to a total
falsification of the elections.” It was shocking enough that Yushchenko had
been poisoned -- and nearly killed-- while on the campaign trail. When reports
came in of blatant voter intimidation and damaged ballots, people were
outraged. In freezing temperatures, over one million citizens poured
into the streets of Kyiv and took up residence there for 17 days…

.LANGUAGES: Orange Revolution is available in English and


Excellent resources


Thanks for putting this list of resources together for us. I had not known that the books "A Force More Powerful" and "Confronting the Truth" were available in so many languages. That's great! 

Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager

Training tools and resources

Shaazka Beyerle, The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

 In follow-up to past postings about educational tools, such
as documentary films and the “A Force More Powerful” nonviolent strategy game,
I’d like to share with you some good books. They provide innovative models and
cases studies. They can be useful resources for facilitators of workshops, as
well as for nonviolent strategists and planners – who like to read… Please do
visit all the websites of the resource practitioners for this online dialogue,
as we collectively provide information for many educational tools and
resources. But there are a few books that you might not necessarily have come
across that potentially could be of interest.

 Mary King  -- Quiet Revolution:
The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance
(Nation Books

King presents the remarkable and previously untold account of the first
intifada as a massive nonviolent social mobilization. The Palestinians’
deliberately chosen methods for resisting the Israeli occupation effectively
debunk the widely held notion of the first intifada as violent. A decades-long
spread of knowledge about nonviolent strategies throughout Palestinian society
shaped the uprising, which was years in the making, not a spontaneous rebellion
as press accounts led many to believe. Joint Israeli-Palestinian
committees were the earliest harbingers of a political evolution underway,
and stood in contrast to the PLO's military doctrine of “all means of
struggle.” Once under way, the
intifada’s ability to continue despite harsh reprisals relied on thousands of
“popular committees,” often started and run by women, to sustain communities
under curfew or on strike.

Brian Martin -- Justice Ignited:
The Dynamics of Backfire
(Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). Attacks can
backfire on attackers—sometimes spectacularly. In March 1991, an observer
videotaped several Los Angeles
police beating Rodney King with their batons. Shown on television, the beating
caused enormous damage to the reputation of the police and led to the chief's
resignation. This incident and others, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the
1965 surveillance of Ralph Nader, prove that all sorts of attacks can backfire,
from torture and massacres to job dismissals and reprisals against
whistle-blowers. Through numerous detailed case studies, Justice Ignited
presents the first comprehensive treatment of the dynamics of backfire, as it
reveals the most promising tactics for causing the backfire of unfair attacks.
Understanding backfire—both promoting and inhibiting it—is vitally important
for activists and everyone else who wants to be effective in the face of
injustice. [Hardy mentioned the Martin’s backfire model a couple of days ago.]

Kurt Schock -- Unarmed
Insurrections: People Power Movements in Nondemocracies
(University of Minnesota
Press 2004)

Schock pinpoints reasons for successes and failures of
nonviolent movements. He compares the successes of the antiapartheid movement
in South Africa, the people
power movement in the Philippines,
the pro-democracy movement in Nepal,
and the antimilitary movement in Thailand
with the failures of the pro-democracy movement in China
and the anti-regime challenge in Burma. He develops a framework that
identifies which characteristics increase the resilience of a challenge to
state repression, and which aspects of a state’s relations can be exploited by
such a challenge.

Kristina E. Thalhammer, Paula L. O'Loughlin, Myron Peretz
Glazer, Penina Migdal Glazer, Sam McFarland, Sharon Toffey Shepela, and Nathan
Stoltzfus -- Courageous Resistance:
The Power of Ordinary People
(Palgrave McMillan 2007)

During times of grave injustice, some individuals, groups,
and organizations courageously resist maltreatment of all people, regardless
of their backgrounds. Courageous resisters have assisted others in
such locales as Nazi-controlled Europe throughout the 1930s and 40s, Argentina during the "Dirty War" of
the 1970s, Rwanda
in the 1990s genocide and Iraqi prisons in recent years. Using these and other
case studies, this book introduces readers to the broad spectrum of courageous
resistance and provides a framework for analyzing the factors that motivate and
sustain opposition to human rights violations.


Training tools and resources: repression

IN response to Shaazka's post recommending several excellent books on nonviolent struggle i would like to offer a two participatory and experiential training tools (below) around creating resilience in the face of repression. The first tool is based on Thalhammer's book The Power of Ordinarty People and looks at the processes of becoming a courageous resister (someone who takes action against injustice at some cost to themselves and their close associates and sustains this resistance over time).


The second tool is based on Schock's book: Unarmed Insurrections and explores in an experiential way how decentralised network structures can be more resilient in repressive contexts.

I also want to recommend Robert Burrowes book, The Strategy of Nonviolent Defence. It is very dense in parts but well worth persevering with. Burrowes combines both the principled nature of Gandhian nonviolence with the pragmatic hard headeness of Clauswitz to generate some unique contributions to strategic nonviolent struggle. 


Jason MacLeod, The Change Agency

The Journey Objectives 

  • To understand how people become courageous resistors
  • To reflect on your own experience of taking action against injustice and becoming a courageous resistor

 Time needed 60 minutes Resources needed Paper, pens and crayons and handouts: “Factors Leading to People Becoming Courageous Resisters” and “The Journey to Becoming a Courageous Resister: Decisions at Crossroads” How it’s done 

  1. Closed eye mediation (see the section on training methodology and tools for more information about closed eye sessions). Ask people to think of a time when you personally took action against injustice at some risk to yourself and/or your friends and family. What was the situation that you put yourself in order to address injustice? What inner resources or personal experiences did you draw on to do that? What networks helped or supported you?
  2. Ask people to reflect on that experience. Write up the three questions above and then invite people to draw something that reflects their response and experience in relation to the three questions about.
  3. Share drawings in small groups. Harvest in a large group.
  4. List: the preconditions that enabled people to take action, the networks that supported people to take action, and ways the context also supported action.
  5. Generalisation. Share insights from the book Courageous Resistance: The Power of Ordinary People (see the handouts) – what courageous resistors are and how people become courageous resistors.
  6. Application: Ask people to think of an injustice. One you have been aware of but have not taken action to address. Identify which crossroads you are at and what your next step is.

 Other notes What is a courageous resistor? A courageous resistor is defined as a person who voluntarily engages in other-orientated, largely selfless behaviour with a significantly high risk or cost to themselves or their associates. Second their actions are the result of a conscious decision. Third, their efforts are sustained over time (pg 5).  Three factors influence how people become courageous resistors: preconditions, networks, and context (see the handout: “Factors Leading to People Becoming Courageous Resisters”). The journey to becoming a courageous resistor involves facing a series of crossroads in which decisions need to be made. Alternative pathways lead to people becoming bystanders or perpetrators. People first have to become aware of the issue. The second crossroad is that the issue it has to be interpreted as an injustice. The third crossroad is that the person needs to accept personal responsibility and identify possible choices for action (the fourth crossroad). The fifth crossroad is taking action and the sixth crossroad is sustaining action over time. All of these paths transform the person, networks and the context. (See the handout: “The Journey to Becoming a Courageous Resister: Decisions at Crossroads”) Where this tool comes from 

Jason MacLeod. Taken from material in Courageous Resistance: The Power of Ordinary People, by Kristina E. Thalhammer, Paula L. O'Loughlin, Myron Peretz Glazer, Penina Migdal Glazer, Sam McFarland, Sharon Toffey Shepela, and Nathan Stoltzfus, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

The Wink and the Generals Objective 

  • To introduce theory about the resilience of decentralised network resistance structures

 Time needed 60minutes Resources needed Enough small cards with the word “Freedom” written on them, handouts: “In Repressive Contexts Decentralised Network Structures Facilitate Resilience” and “Building Resilient Movement Structures”  How it’s done Firstly, get everyone to form a large circle (it is important that everyone can see each other). Ask for 2 volunteers (in a group of 30-40, 1 for a group of 20 or less). Explain that everyone lives in a repressive society and that you are all deeply involved in the struggle for peace, justice and human rights. However, this person (point to one of the volunteers) heads up the state intelligence services and this person (point to the other volunteer) is a general in the army. Their job is to destroy the movement using before you succeed in carrying out your strategy. Your job as leaders and activists is to carry out the strategy before your movement is destroyed and stay alive. (One of the trainers now takes the General and the head of the intelligence services outside and explains the rules of the game and their task – to destroy the movement by catching anyone winking – see below). Explain that you have set up an organizational structure to support your movement. Your leader is a charismatic, smart, outspoken and fearless activist. He is supported by an executive of (up to 5 members for large groups, and 1-3, for smaller groups). Select the leader and the executive. This leader and the executive have developed a finally crafted strategic plan of action that they believe will achieve the goals you have all been struggling for. Their challenge is to communicate the strategy to all the activists before the intelligence services and army destroys the movement. Here’s how the game works: The leader needs to pass on the strategy to each member of the executive. The “strategy” is passed on by “winking” – and the “wink” has to be seen by the person it was sent to. The leader needs to pass the “strategy” to all members of the executive first. Once this has been done the leader and the executive can then pass the “strategy” on to other activists. Activists can only receive the “strategy”, they cannot pass it on. Once an activist has received the “strategy” they can turn over their card (hand out cards) so that the “Freedom” can be seen. Make sure that the ‘Freedom” is not seen until you receive the “strategy” (the “wink”). The leader and executive cannot turn their card over until the entire strategy has been passed on the rest of the movement. If, however, the head of intelligence or the general sees anyone “winking”, they and the person they were winking to, are removed from the game.  Ask for any questions. Demonstrate how the game works. When you are sure that everyone understands start the game. The game continues until the strategy is passed on to everyone in the movement or the movement is destroyed. Debrief. Then replay the game. Choose a new head of intelligence and general and take them outside. Choose with new leaders and a new executive. But this time tell the activists (not the head of intelligence and general) that the rules have been changed. This time there is no one “leader”. Instead all the members of the executive are leaders. They start the game with the strategy and can “pass on” the strategy to other activists. Once an activist has received the strategy s/he can also “pass it on” to others. Make sure everyone understands then bring in the new head of intelligence and general and start the game. Debrief Generalisation questions: What are the differences between the two organizational structures?What minimized the resilience and effectiveness of the first structure?What maximized the resilience and effectiveness of the second structure?In what way is this game similar to what has happened in x context?What are the lessons from this game for movement in x context? 

Go through the handouts: Building Resilient Movement Structures and In Repressive Contexts Decentralised Network Structures Facilitate Resilience.

 Where this tool comes from Jason MacLeod (based on the game wink murder



Resisting opression - role of leadership


In our Serbian experience, and experience of CANVAS trainers from few successful struggle, key issues in dealing with oppression were:


1. Finding, Using, and  Creating Political Space (this one was pretty well explained in one of Hardy Merriman`s great posts


2. Overcoming the effects of fear; and motivating people when fear is high; understanding that fear is natural, together with set of techniques how to deal with it may be found in chapter : Fear and overcoming its effects in CANVAS Core Curricullum, avaiable from this website.


3. Role of leadership – this is the issue I would like to put some food for thoughts, coming from presentations CANVAS has developed with our  friend Robert Helvey and discussed with dozen of groups operating in opressive environment:


INTRODUCTION: The more dangerous and oppressive the regime, the more importance of leadership becomes evident. Because people are intimidated, they are fearful of expressing themselves in their opposition to repression and desire for reform.

Someone, either an individual or a group must give voice to their dissent.


Demand for cappable leadership grows when the  movement is under opression.


Basic points of the importance of leadership under extreme oppression:


--Having a “spokesperson” for their views, lets them know they are not alone and that someone or some organization is fighting on their behalf.


--A leaders provide an example of defiance and courage to oppose repression.


--A leader can convince the public that there is a way to end tyranny, but the public is needed to make it happen.


--A leader can encourage the public to follow the example of expressing dissent.


--A leader can serve as a magnet for pulling support from society.


--A leader cannot lead from a computer.


--A leader in an oppressive environment must lead from the front, not from the rear. That is, risks must acknowledged, minimized through careful planning—and taken.

 -- Leaders are vulnerable part of movement under repression, they will be targeted by your opponent in order to be demoralized, discredited, corrypted or arrested. Make sure movement is prepared for such an attack.


Topic locked