Nonviolence Resources


1 April 2012. Around 2am 800 peace activists from more than ten European countries gathered near NATO headquarters in Evere, Brussels. 500 people tried nonviolently to enter the NATO compound.About 20 activists succeeded to enter the military site, 483 people were arrested. At the main entrance of the NATO headquarters 300 supporters cheered the intervention teams.

Javier Gárate

After living for nearly seven years in London, for the first time ever I was inside the grandiloquent Houses of Parliament - which I have seen from the outside so many times during my daily cycle commute. The occasion was the presentation of a new documentary entitled: “How to Start a Revolution” by Ruaridh Arrow, with Gene Sharp and Jamila Raquib of the Albert Einstein Institute as guest visitors for the Q&A session. The event was organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues. I often get invitations from the Parliamentary Group and don't remember another including the word “revolution” – I guess it's not a word used much in Parliament. This caught my attention, so I opened the email and saw that actually the event sounded quite promising. The fact that Gene Sharp himself was going to be present made me finally decide to attend.

I am so tired as the last 2 days have been very intense so excuse me if this is a bit rambling. The evening of 6th March was a busy time as the town was called for an emergency meeting to decide what to do as the dynamite was to be delivered the next day. The Mayor called on the whole village to come out with their cars and lorries and block the roads early the next morning to try and stop it being delivered. I heard later that around 20 vehicles were used by the village and several hundred people blocked the road at 2 or 3 places.

Placheolder image

Back to table of content

It is important to document campaigns so people can learn from them. Just as we have learned from the nonviolent campaigns of people throughout time and around the world, documenting our own struggles and stories may help people in other times and places. This guide, created for WRI's Nonviolent Social Empowerment case studies, can be used by an individual or group to determine the information needed to construct a case study of a campaign. This guide can also be used to remind us of what we need to consider in organising a campaign.


Nature of the campaign - what was/is the issue? when did it start/finish? Geographical and (brief) historical context Participants - who (analysis of class, race/ethnic, gender, religious group, age, sexuality, ability, other) - did this change at different phases of the movement?


Starting point Were there (have there been) distinct phases? Were there particular moments of expansion? What were the peaks? What were other key events?


Was there a public profile of wanting to avoid violence? Was there a declared public policy of nonviolence? If so, what was meant by nonviolence? Was there consensus around this? What kind of differences around this? What measures were taken to implement a policy of nonviolence? Was there nonviolence training? Were there nonviolence guidelines? Was the campaign seen as shifting the values of society more towards nonviolence? Were there particular sources of inspiration for types of action or ways of organising?


What use was made of official channels, lobbying, electoral processes, constitutional mechanisms, and with what impact? How was the mainstream media used? What role or influence did they have? How did they try to develop or use theit own public media or alternative media? With what impact? Did the campaign try to establish alternatives? Were they meant to be temporary or permanent? What happened? What kind of means did they use to build a movement culture or sense of connectedness? To what effect? Did they use withdrawal of cooperation as a tactic? At what stage? With what effect? Did they try to directly disrupt of obstruct an activity they were campaigning against? At what stage? With what focus? With what participation? With what effect? How did they use conventional means of protest? How did they combine them with other methods?


Did the campaign agree on a formal structure? What informal structures played an important role? Was the campaign concerned to have a participatory structure of organisation and decision-making? If so, how were people trained in the process? How did the campaign link with other groups/movements? What importance did you give to coalition-building? With what criteria for alliances? How did the campaign address the needs of activists to learn, to grow, to rest, to sustain their commitment? How did the campaign address the possible contradiction between the needs of security and the desire for participation? What kind of repression did the movement expect to face? What provision did they make to support the people most affected? Did the campaign have a clear time frame and concept of strategic development? How did the campaign develop its resources (human, social, economic)?

Goals and outcomes

What were the initial goals? How have the goals evolved? Why? Was it an aim to empower participants? In what way? How were the goals framed - eg with what type of slogan? Was there the flexibility to revise goals, eg to respond to particular events, or to build on success? How did they expect the institution holding power of those who 'benefit' from being dominant to change? (eg to be converted, to accommodate some of your demands, to be coerced into accepting the demands, or to disintegrate/dissolve) To what extent did they achieve their goals? - short, medium, long term With what side effects? - positive and negative Did their adversary make any mistakes that significantly helped their cause?


All the questions have some kind of link with empowerment. This concluding section returns to some themes but with more focus. Answers need to encompass the dimensions of power within, power-with and power-in-relation to.

Who was empowered? to be or do what? (to join in, to share responsibility, to take

initiative, to maintain their activism)

What contributed to this sense of empowerment? (eg training, group confidence,

achieving strategic goals)

How did the experience of different phases of a movement affected the sense of


What about people involved who did not feel empowered? How were strategies of empowerment discussed / constructed? personal, group,


Was any participant/group disempowered - how? How did this effect the campaign?

Placheolder image

Back to table of content

Gene Sharp researched and catalogued 198 methods of nonviolent action published in The Politics of Nonviolent Action, 1973. These methods are broken into three broad classifications: Protest and Persuasion, Noncooperation, and Nonviolent Intervention. These are further grouped into sections. The full list is available on this wiki page or at


1. Protests and Persuasion

Demonstrations – Many people expresses what they want by walking together in the street. –For example the demonstrations 15 February 2003, which was the biggest anti-war demonstration ever. There were demonstrations in more than 600 cities around the world. Just in London two million people demonstrated.

Protest lists – Signing your name on a list to express dissent with a certain politics, for instance a protest against Swedish weapons exports to the USA and UK during the Iraq war.


2. Non-cooperation

Boycott – To refuse to buy merchandise or a service to show dissatisfaction with the one selling it. For example the boycott of South African products during the apartheid regime. First individuals and organisations started to boycott South African merchandise and after a while entire countries boycotted South Africa

Strike – To refuse to work. For example during the first Intifada, the Palestinian resistance that started 1987, most Palestinians refused to work for Israelis. Israel lost a lot of money when they didn’t have access to cheap Palestinian labour and the economy stagnated.

Political non-cooperation – The refusal to do military service or to perform an extradition. War Resisters International is one of the organisations that supports those that want to refuse to do military service.

Refusal to cooperate – For example during the second world war Norwegian teachers refused to follow the Nazi curriculum for schools. They were sent to concentration camps because of their disobedience, but most of them were taken back when the Nazis understood that they wouldn’t give in.


3. Intervention

Blockades – To place your body in the way of something. For example Israelis and international solidarity activist that get in the way of Israeli bulldozers that are about to demolish Palestinian homes.

Preventive Presence – To protect endangered persons in conflict areas. For example peace observers in Mexico, Israel-Palestine or Colombia.

Plowshare Actions – To openly disarm weapon and to be willing to take your sentence. For example the disarming of Trident nuclear submarines in Scotland.

Placheolder image

back to table of content

View version in print edition of the Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns

A tool for analysing the progress of your movement

Silke Kreusel and Andreas Speck

Activists often feel disempowered, although their movement is doing well and on the road to success. Understanding the way a movement works and recognising its success therefore can empower movement activists and groups. The Movement Action Plan (MAP), developed in the 1980s by Bill Moyer, is a good tool for this, as it describes the eight stages of successful movements and the four roles activists have to play.

Strategic Assumptions

MAP is based on seven strategic assumptions:

1. Social movements have been proven to be powerful in the past, and hopefully they can be powerful in the future.

2. Social movements are at the centre of society. They are based on society's most progressive values: justice, freedom, democracy, civil rights. Although they oppose the state or the government, social movements are promoting a better society not working against it.

3. The real issue is “social justice” versus “vested interests”. The movement works for social justice and those in power represent vested interests.

4. The grand strategy is to promote participatory democracy. Lack of real democracy is a major source of injustice and social problems. In the fight for the movement's goal – the right to conscientious objection in Turkey, or stopping road construction in the UK – developing participatory democracy is key.

5. The target constituency is the ordinary citizen, who gives power to powerholders by consenting to them. The central issue in social movements is the struggle between the movement and powerholders to win the support of the majority of the people, who ultimately hold the power to preserve the status quo or create change.

6. Success is a long-term process, not an event. To achieve success, the movement needs to be successful in a long series of sub-goals.

7. Social movements must be nonviolent.

Eight stages of social movements

A movement begins without knowing it. In Stage I, business as usual, the main aim of movement groups is to get people thinking, to show that there is a problem.

The next step is to show the failure of established channels (Stage II). Using hearings, legal processes, participation in administrative proceedings, and so on, the movement has to prove that these institutions won't act for the people to solve the problem – that people will have to act themselves.

This leads to ripening conditions (Stage III) for the development of a social movement. People start to listen and form new groups, small civil disobedience actions start to dramatise the problem. The powerholders get a bit irritated, but mainly go on as usual.

If the movement does its homework well (organising new groups, networking and coalition-building) it can take off (Stage IV) after a trigger event. This might be organised by the movement – the occupation of the construction site at Wyhl, Germany, in 1974 triggered the German anti-nuclear movement – or something done by the powerholders. The trigger event leads to massive demonstrations, large campaigns of civil disobedience and extensive media coverage. Although the movement has won a lot of public sympathy the powerholders usually won't give up at this stage.

This often leads to a perception of failure (Stage V) by many activists. This is enhanced by decreasing participation in movement events and negative media coverage.

But at the same time the movement is winning over the majority (Stage VI). Until now, the movement has focused on protest; now it is important to offer solutions. Nearly three quarters of society agree that there is a need for change. It is now important to win the struggle over the kind of change to be made. The powerholders will try to cheat the movement, increase repression, play tricks (the German government now trying to send nuclear waste to Ahaus instead of Gorleben: see page 6). The movement must aim to stop the tricks and promote an alternative solution.

Actual success (Stage VII) is a long process and often difficult to recognise. The movement's task is not just to get its demands met, but to achieve a paradigm shift, a new way of thinking. Just to turn off all nuclear power plants without changing our view on energy only moves the problem from radioactivity to carbon dioxide (but is a success anyway). Just to get some women into the office doesn't change the structure of a patriarchal society.

After the movement wins – either by confrontational struggle or a long-term weakening of the powerholders – the movement needs to get its success implemented. Consolidation of success and moving over to other struggles (Stage VIII) is now the movement's task.


Four activist roles

Activists have many different tasks at the eight stages. They cannot all be done by one kind of person, and typically you can identify four main types of activist. All need to be present and work efficiently for the movement to succeed.

The rebel is the kind of activist many people identify with social movements. Through nonviolent direct actions and publicly saying “no”, rebels put the problem on the political agenda. But they can be ineffective by identifying themselves as the lonely voice on society's fringe and playing the militant radical. Rebels are important in Stages III and IV and after any trigger event, but they usually move over to other ripening movements in Stage VI or later.

Reformers are often badly valued in movements, but they are the ones who prove the failure of existing channels or promote alternative solutions. However, they often tend to believe in the institutions or propose reforms too small to consolidate the movement's success.

Citizens make sure the movement doesn't lose contact with its main constituency. They show that the movement acts at the centre of society (teachers, physicians, and farmers participating in the Gorleben protests), and protect it against repression. They can be very ineffective when they still believe in the powerholders' claim to serve public interests.

The change agent is the forth and somehow key role in any movement. They promote education and convince the majority of society, they organise grassroots networks and promote long-term strategies. They too can be ineffective by promoting utopian visions or advocating only a single approach. They also tend to ignore personal issues and needs of activists.

What's up now?

Social movements are complex phenomena: they don't follow the MAP like a road on the map. But trying to identify the stage of your movement and the kind of activists involved helps a lot in recognising success and in developing future. If you are lost on the track – check the MAP!


Originally printed in Peace News, No 2423, March 1998

Javier Gárate lecture at the Irish School of Ecumenics on effective nonviolence in the 21st century, given in Belfast on October 13, 2011.

Link to the talk:

The Global Nonviolent Action Database includes brief accounts of nonviolent action campaigns from more than 200 countries. Initiated by George Lakey, it has been set up through Swarthmore College and can be accessed at

The ever-expanding database already includes:

430 cases (and growing) of campaigns from around the world that used nonviolent direct action. 35 cases of people's struggles for democracy against domestic dictatorships an additional dozen cases of people's struggles against repressive regimes of occupation

This is a newsletter for the international peacecamp “War starts here” in Luleå, Sweden the 22nd to 29th of july 2011.


1. International seminar
2. Participating organisations
3. Portraits of resistance
4. War starts here 1. International seminar

During the month of February (2011) I visited India. Why India? People go to India for different reasons, many are attracted by its cultural and natural diversity, or for a spiritual journey, with the aim of getting a new yoga certificate, etc. Last year I also visited India, that time organising the International Conference - “Nonviolent Livelihood Struggle and Global Militarism: Links & Strategies” - where I had the opportunity of working together with the people who would again host me, this time for a full month, and open their doors for me to live and follow them around wherever they went. Initially my hosts were my dearest friends Anand, Michael and Swati, but it got extended to the whole Mozda collective, Daniel, Krishnakant, Lakhanbhai and many others. Last year I was very impressed by the work of Anand, Michael and Swati (in short “trouble makers”) that I decided that it would be good to use my sabbatical month with them. I was particular interested in how you combine doing resistance work with constructive programme and all these within a day-to-day life reflecting this ethos.

Subscribe to Nonviolence Resources