Nonviolence Handbook

Groups for Action

This chapter covers several aspects on working in groups. It introduces the concept of affinity groups, looks at our group process, describes the theory and process of consensus decision making, and finally looks at different roles in an action.

Humour and nonviolent actions

We usually use nonviolent action about serious problems. Thinking about an action in humorous terms may therefore seem to be a strange way to deal with the issue, and not your first choice. However, humour and seriousness may be much more closely related than at first they appear. Almost all good humour thrives on contradictions and absurdity, and nonviolent action often tries to point out the contradiction between the world as it is, and the world as we want it to be. Humour is powerful because it is turning the world as we know it upside down and escapes the logic and reasoning that is an inevitable part of the rest of our lives.

The challenge of protesting

People protest for many reasons but often it is because we are confronted with a situation to which we must respond and take a stand. The reality we face - be that our own or that of others - pushes us to act/react/challenge/change what we are experiencing and seeing. We forget to take into serious consideration the possible consequences of any such choice. Positive consequences are often empowering. Negative consequences can be disempowering. We need to think about them in advance to be prepared for the next steps but also so we are not surprised by them and suffer even more stress.

Sending the protest message

What makes a protest action effective? Organisers have lots of potential choices: what, when, where, how and who. Looking at how audiences are likely to respond to messages can give guidance.


Taken from "People Power and Protest Since 1945: A Bibliography of Nonviolent Action" Compiled by April Carter, Howard Clark and Michael Randle. The bibliography and a supplement are available on sale from Housmans bookshop or online at

H. Preparation and Training for Nonviolent Action

Campaign case study guide

We can learn much from other campaigns, examining how they organised to reach their goals. This outline, originally created to write case studies for WRI's Nonviolent Social Empowerment Program, asks for information to help us identify best practices in organising our own campaigns. It is also a reminder of what is important to understand in documenting those campaigns.

List of forms of actions

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

Stages of Escalation

When we develop and carry out a nonviolent campaign for social change, we need to go beyond publicizing and protesting injustices; refusing to cooperate with oppressors, and intervening nonviolently. We need to implement constructive programmes as well, in which we actually live the change that is our goal.

The Movement Action Plan

A tool for analysing the progress of your movement

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.

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