“Nonviolent Political Activism”
Course Description: Understanding conflict is a crucial life skill. Unbridled, poorly managed conflict plays a leading role in most social problems. Yet, suppressed conflict can be equally damaging – enabling dysfunctional, unjust or oppressive social structures to endure. In these situations, we need more conflict, but we must also manage it well. There is growing interest in People Power or Nonviolent conflict specially after it has shaken the world in 2011-starting from Arab Spring all the way to Occupy Movement in US and protests in Putin’s Russia. This course brings practitioners and theoreticians to a seminar on understanding the real nature of nonviolent social change over 6 days (40 working hours), students will study the principles and practicalities of non-violent conflict with two of the youth activists who helped topple the undemocratic regimes of Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic having since worked with pro-democracy and anti-corruption nonviolent movements from 46 different countries..
This course, ideally for students interested in democratization, international development, conflict management, human rights and security studies, focuses on the phenomenon of nonviolent conflict and explores how nonviolent movements are shaping national, regional, and international relations. Since the beginning of 21st century number non-democratic regimes were removed from power by organized, civilian-led nonviolent movements. In Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), and Ukraine (2004-05), Maldives (2008) , Tunisia and Egypt (2011)opposition movements challenged governmental tyranny and electoral fraud – and won – using variety of nonviolent tactics such as demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience and non-cooperation in a strategic fashion. Opposition groups and movements in Yemen, Syria, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Russia, Iran, Burma, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories are currently engaged in nonviolent struggles for basic rights and freedoms – the outcomes of these conflicts have yet to be decided. Issues of social justice gave birth to number of “We Are 99%” or so called “Occupy” movements in number of US cities, but also across Europe.
The course will address the following questions: What is people power? What was the impact of nonviolent movements in history? What are the main misconceptions about it? Why do certain civilian-led struggles succeed while others fail? What are key strategic considerations for groups that choose nonviolent struggle? How are authoritarian regimes responding to civilian-based challenges and how are nonviolent actors dealing regime crack-downs? What roles have new media and communications technology played in past and current struggles? How have external actors (including foreign governments, NGOs, and transnational solidarity activists) influenced local movements – positively and negatively?
Course will analyze historical and contemporary cases of civilian-led struggles, including movements for civil and political rights, struggles against dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, and movements for self-determination and against foreign occupations.
In addition to the assigned readings, segments of two award-winning documentary films, A Force More Powerful and Bringing Down A Dictator, will be shown and discussed during course as well as number of video clips from other struggles.
- Developing a vision of tomorrow
Developing a vision of tomorrow—helps groups to create a vision that unifies. Additionally, a vision that will attract new supporters for social and political change, that does not resort to guerrilla warfare or armed struggle. The vision of tomorrow broadens the appeal of collective nonviolent action, attract a wide range of interest groups in the society to an understanding of nonviolent solutions, and help to co-opt their opponent’s crucial supporters. Envisioning exercises are powerful tools because they lead to an understanding of the connection between the means and the ends, which need to be brought out early.
Exercise: Students create their own vision of tomorrow for their group or movement.
Presentation of exercises
Each group presents their vision of tomorrow;
- Analyzing power in society
Pluralistic theory of power—defines a basis for viewing political power and some of its sources. A relational view of power is that it rests on popular consent, and that no system can stand without the cooperation of the people.
- Pillars of support
Addresses the issue of what key groups may support a nonviolent movement’s opposition, and what key groups are available to support nonviolent mobilizations. Discusses how to shift the loyalties of your target group’s supporters so they can be mobilized by you.
Exercise: Students analyze the pillars of support in their own societies.
Presentation of exercises
Addresses why different people in society obey; even when unhappy with the status quo; Understanding why people obey is an essential part of figuring out how to get them to use the central methods of non-cooperation.
Exercise: Students analyze obedience patterns in their own societies and create a basic plan to get individuals to change their obedience patterns
Presentation of exercise
- Power graph
Explains how visually to depict societies so the students can discern patterns in societal behavior, what nonviolent movements and mobilizations might have achieved, and what plans for future campaigns might be most practical in accomplishing goals.
Power graph and exercise presentations
Activity: Students create a historic timeline of a situation, real or imagined, and chart the ways in which it can change over time. Students analyze how a graph can tell them about what should be the next logical step.
- Mechanisms of change
Addresses how nonviolent action can create change in societies, such as persuading governments to change policies, officials to change their behavior, systems to respond to popular grievances, forcing others to share power, or bringing about the end of practices or starting new institutions.
- Methods tactics of nonviolent action
Explains three major classes of classic time-tested methods of nonviolent action; (protest and persuasion, non-cooperation, nonviolent intervention); Discusses the variety and sequencing of methods available for collective nonviolent action and gives a systematic process for selecting methods.
- Cost Benefit Analysis of Tactics
Students examine cost and evaluation of various tactics regarding key resources in political and social campaigns: Time Money and Human resources required for various tactics.
Planning tactics and presentation exercise
Explains psychological characteristics of fear and techniques in overcoming the effects of fear. If movement intends to succeed, they must understand the methods and techniques used to overcome the adverse effects of fear. Removing or reducing fearful stimuli and anticipating surprises, through improved understanding and developed skills and discipline, have proven to be effective.
- Dilemma Actions
Addresses how a nonviolent movement can create action steps that can put the target group or opponent into a dilemma so that whatever choice is made, the adversary or target can be compromised or forced to change.
Dilemma Actions exercise and exercise presentations
Activity: Students design their own dilemma actions for a movement or issue.
- Introduction to propaganda and targeted communication
Insight into importance of targeted communication, analysis of most important target audience, elements of message, messenger and feedback, and development of communicational plans.
- Tools and types of targeted communications and importance of Branding
Branding in Serbia film
Addresses the “carriers” of political and social message, means to select best suitable messengers (media) importance of using symbols and branding in nonviolent struggle
Practical exercise in developing communication
Presentation of exercise
- New Media in Nonviolent struggle
Addresses new development in media evolution and importance of new media and social networks in civil mobilization and nonviolent struggle, spatially in “citizens journalism” from oppressed societies.
- Plan Format
Addresses the format for creating a strategic plan, including goals and objectives. Explanation of the exercise
Exercise, Groups create plan format
“Nonviolent Political Activism”; New York University, School of Continuing Professional Studies, M.S. in Global Affairs; New York, USA; January 21-25 2014
Instructors: Srdja Popovic and Slobodan Djinovic
Number of students: 5
Understanding conflict is a crucial life skill. Unbridled, poorly-managed conflict plays a leading role in most social problems. Yet, suppressed conflict can be equally damaging – enabling dysfunctional, unjust or oppressive social structures to endure. There is growing interest in ‘People Power’ or ‘Nonviolent conflict,’ especially after it has shaken the world in 2011, starting from the Arab Spring though Mediterranean summer, all the way to the Occupy Movement in US and protests in Putin`s Russia. This intensive, practitioner-taught course is devoted to understanding the real nature of nonviolent social change. Students will explore how nonviolent movements are shaping national, regional, and international relations and study the principles and practicalities of non-violent conflict.
It will address questions such as: What is people power? What was the impact of nonviolent movements in history? What are the main misconceptions about it? Why do certain civilian-led struggles succeed while others fail? What are key strategic considerations for groups that choose nonviolent struggle? How are authoritarian regimes responding to civilian-based challenges and how are nonviolent actors dealing with regime crack-downs? What roles have new media and communications technology played in past and current struggles? How have external actors (including foreign governments, NGOs, and transnational solidarity activists) influenced local movements – positively and negatively?