Each month we bring you a nonviolence training workshop
based on the experience of the Nonviolent Action Training
project and INNATE.
here to view print version]
based on a workshop facilitated by Joanne Sheehan, assisted by Javier Gárate, for INNATE at Kilcranny House, Coleraine, in October 2008
The ecological crisis, and the many, disparate, green/ecological/environmental issues which are of concern, affects us all deeply and may be catastrophic for the poor of the world. How we can further our campaigns and the wider cause was the purpose of this workshop as originally run, using the skills and experience of Joanne Sheehan as facilitator. It was also a networking opportunity in two senses – bringing some of the experience from the peace and nonviolence movement and wider campaigning, plus networking between individuals from different geographical and campaign areas. The focus was firmly on ‘Eco’ nonviolence though anyone interested in nonviolent campaigning and strategising was welcome.
This workshop has been written up in ‘how to’ style (for use by any reasonably experienced facilitator) and is adapted from the original agenda for the workshop. As originally run, this workshop took place as a 25-hour residential (4 pm Friday – 5 pm Saturday) but could easily take place over a longer period, e.g. ‘all weekend’ if tactics were included. Flexibility is the name of the game; this workshop can be adapted as appropriate to the needs of your group, and what is given here is an edited version, by INNATE, of what actually happened in October 2008. Doing everything here (tightly timed at 9 - 10 hours, more if you allow discussions to develop far) could take longer than 24 hours with time for meals, sleep and social interaction – allowing sufficient time for these is important or participants will feel ‘hot housed’ without opportunities for informal meeting. Given that so many permutations of timing are possible, exact break times have not been included
There were 25 people on the original workshop; if there are less then either you may have more time for discussion, or items can be completed faster. If you want further assistance, or are looking for a facilitator to run a workshop like this, please get in touch with INNATE. Having it as a residential and at a place like Kilcranny House (accessible but apart from people’s lives) is good in that people are not coming and going.
This is written up as a ‘generic’ workshop and therefore suggests ‘breaks’ at particular points which may need moved elsewhere. You can also use games as appropriate which have not been given here.
Note: Many of the exercises used are described in the WRI Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns, these links and a few others (e.g. to workshops on the INNATE site) are provided below.
1. Personal and workshop introductions
Getting to know each other and the campaigns participants have been working on (including the goals, challenges and experiences.)
The facilitator outlines the plan for the workshop
Going around in a circle, each person says their name and something about themselves and issues they are involved in; an alternative is for the facilitator to throw an object (ball, cap etc) to the first person who introduces themselves, and they throw it to someone else anywhere in the group, who introduces themselves, and so on. [30 minutes] This can also be used (subsequently) with a name game, such as pattern ball; in a circle, the facilitator starts and throws the ball to someone saying their name, and they throw it to someone else anywhere in the circle, also calling out their name. This continues until everyone in the circle has done it (this is made easier if people hold up a hand until they have received the ball). It is helpful if the facilitator says it’s all right to ask someone their name when someone has forgotten. The last person throws the ball back to the facilitator who starts the process again of people throwing the ball in exactly the same pattern as before, but faster. This can be done a few times trying to get faster all the time.
Each individual writes two things they bring to the workshop, and two things they want from the workshop, on ‘post it’ type adhesive paper. Each person in turn brings up their pieces of paper and reads them out, or briefly explains what they have, as they put them on two large sheets headed “What we bring” and “What we want”. The facilitator can draw out groupings and conclusions from this after everyone has had their turn (or group comments later by moving people’s pieces of paper). [30+ minutes]
Exploring Violent and Nonviolent Campaigns
Participants are divided into groups of 5 (or thereabouts depending on numbers, perhaps 3 or 4 if numbers are under 20). Each group, on the word ‘go’, lists 10 wars as fast as they can, raising their hand when they have completed the task. The first group to complete the task is timed (from the word ‘go’). Each group is then asked to list 10 nonviolent campaigns (again being timed and indicating when they have completed the task). Almost invariably, listing wars takes much less time than listing nonviolent campaigns – we know our violence better than we know our nonviolence (the facilitator can draw this out without labouring the point). Each group is then asked to read out their list of nonviolent campaigns (not already mentioned) and these are written up on the flip chart. [12 minutes]
When this has been completed, the facilitator invites people who have been involved in particular campaigns (perhaps taking three different ones in turn) to share some information about them; how they went, what the strategy was, how things actually worked out etc. The facilitator can be strategic in choosing campaigns, and people who suggested them, which will best illustrate strategy and strategy in relation to Eco-Nonviolence, and particularly to include some which are local. [45 - 60 minutes, perhaps 15 minutes per example].
2. Principles of Nonviolence and Eco-Nonviolence
What do we mean by “Nonviolence”, what do we mean by “Eco-Nonviolence”? A discussion on how nonviolent principles and actions can provide a strategic framework for green/ecological/environmental campaigns.
Discussion on principles of nonviolent action
Small group discussion on nonviolent principles
Give all participants a copy of the 6 Principles (above), explain that they are an edited version of principles developed in relation to the US anti-nuclear power movement in working to close a nuclear plant, and allow people to read them and/or read them aloud. Divide participants into 6 groups (or perhaps 3 if less than 18 people) by getting each person to say a number in turn (up to the number of groups being formed) and tell each numbered group where to meet. Ask them to discuss the Principle written up for their number (i.e. group 2 discusses Principle 2), or a couple of them if there are less than six groups. Allow 20 minutes for the discussion. [25 – 30 minutes]
Take each principle for a spectrum/barometer exercise. Mark out the room between two points, ‘Completely agree’ and ‘Completely disagree’. Ask people to place themselves, physically, ‘where they stand’ on the principle. Ask people in different positions to share why they are where they are. Invite people to move if they change their minds during or after what someone has said. Allow time for different viewpoints and approaches to emerge. Introduce a break if needed or take one at the end. [6 x c.10-15 minutes = c. 60 – 75 minutes]
Ask what should be distinctive about ‘Eco’-nonviolence. This can be drawn out in the spectrum exercise or addressed separately. One way to do this would be to get people to pair off with someone they don’t know, or don’t know so well, to have a ‘speaking/listening’ exercise (3 minutes each way) before coming back into the larger group and listing points on the chart. Pick up on any interesting points that need expansion or clarification. [If doing separately, 15 minutes to having list, more time if discussing aspects of points made].
Another break or meal as required. Remember to build in a social element to allow people to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
3. Nonviolent strategy development
Overview of nonviolent strategy development and how to use exercises tools in the process of developing strategy.
Mission and strategic planning
Input by the facilitator on strategic planning, and the importance of it; the facilitator may want to have prepared what their introduction, if necessary by reading up on the topic (see e.g. below)
Points that can be made include:
We move from analysis to vision to concrete goal and then a strategy. Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How do we get there?
Two books worth looking at are: Gene Sharp, Gandhi as a Political Strategist, and Joan Bondurant Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict.
For Gandhi, the three elements of social change are political action (protest etc), constructive programme (building a new society in the shell of the old) and personal transformation (developing ourselves to be part of change).
Allow some discussion of this if time permits. [5-10 minutes spoken introduction + possible discussion time]
In this exercise, the roots of the tree, which small groups draw and label, are the roots of the problem; the branches and leaves, which are also drawn and labelled, are the consequences of the problem. Divide people into small groups of, say, four people and give 20 – 25 minutes for the task. Tell them one person needs to present their tree back to the plenary group. [30 minutes total]
The problem decided on the INNATE workshop on Eco-Nonviolence was “Ecological degradation of Northern Ireland”.
Bring participants back into plenary and get each group to introduce their tree. You can allow the spokesperson from each group to read out all points or ask them to concentrate on the most significant ones, but allow a few questions, if any emerge, about each tree. Make a list of the roots and consequences. Have a discussion of points made. [30 minutes]
Move back into the same small groups to do the same exercise for a ‘healthy tree’, (in the case of this workshop ‘Honouring the environment’) looking at possible solutions, both roots and consequences. Again get feedback to the plenary group and make a list, followed by discussion of points made. Allow development of interesting and important ideas outlined. [30 minutes]
Take a break or meal as needed.
Successful Social Movements
Use Bill Moyer's Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements as the framework for our discussion. In flow form this can be downloaded from here or in simple form from this site.
Allow people to read the eight stages and get to grips with it. Where time permits, you can take this further (e.g. as a spectrum exercise, “Which stage do you enjoy being at?”), see here for some possibilities. [Time: 10 minutes to read and initial questions, rather longer if doing in more detail].
Spectrum of allies
Who is on our side or can help us? Who could come to be on our side? Who is opposed? Define the size of different camps on the issue (which again you need to define) on a rainbow shape on the chart. Look at who might be moved sufficiently to become allies or fellow-travellers with you. If stuck in understanding where people are at and what they are thinking, a listening project may be a good idea – see http://www.listeningproject.info
Components of a campaign
Print this out to use as a handout, allow people to read it and/or read out some of the main points, before looking at one or more campaigns that participants have been involved in. Again, the facilitator should choose strategically. Did/Does the campaign follow these stages? Have some been missed or not necessary? Allow activists involved to outline and analyse. [30 – 60 minutes]
Take a break or meal as needed.
What are the best actions for our objectives?
Cross spectrum - This can be used, similar to the spectrum exercise but looking at effectiveness and ineffectiveness, to explore particular actions. [30+ minutes including some discussion]
Bringing it home
This is a concluding session to ‘wrap things’ up and, where appropriate, to plan further reflection and action.. If appropriate, include a timeline (what will be done by when) and ‘who’ will undertake or be responsible for particular tasks. [30 – 60 minutes]
Where it is appropriate, a further workshop looking at tactics may be appropriate, see
This further workshop would take a few hours.
Evaluation and goodbyes
Allow time for an evaluation, either on the chart, written, or both. If necessary, allow for mailing everyone each other’s e-mail addresses, if people want that, by circulating a sheet for people to put their addresses, being clear who will copy and send them out. Possibly finish with a closing exercise or game. But keep it short if people are already straining to get away…. [15 minutes]