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]
lWhat is violence? What is nonviolence? This is an opportunity
for individuals to explore within a group what they feel are
the greatest nonviolent actions/activities and the worst examples
of violence, as well as what lies between. It is an opportunity
to concretise what nonviolence means. It is also an opportunity,
through looking at the 'best of nonviolence' and the 'worst
of violence' to assist people to look clearly at where they
can be most effectively involved - "If I consider that
the greatest form of violence/that the greatest example of
nonviolence then I think it is clear where I should get involved......"
0. Any necessary introductions.
1. Workshop overview; the point of the exercise
and what we're going to do. Participants should be clear at
what point they will be asked to share in the group.
2. Taking one first and then the other, let
the group brainstorm different kinds and examples of violence
and nonviolence, including the following areas (these are
included here as a "facilitator's check-list" so
that no important areas are missed - they are not intended
for sharing with the group but rather to help the facilitator
draw out ideas from them). Write up each brainstorm list on
a flip chart sheet to be visible by all.
- armed violence, locally and internationally,
by armies and paramilitary/civilian groups.
- family violence including child abuse, violence
against partners/domestic violence.
- other inter-personal violence including
robbery, mugging, street fights, murder, and rape (the last
may also fit in the previous category).
- structural violence (of unjust economic
systems, powerlessness, poverty and effects of poverty,
- violent action for political causes,
reactionary or progressive.
- work for justice locally,
- work for peace globally,
- work for third world agencies and those
promoting a just international
- work to preserve our ecosystem.
- anti-sectarian and anti-racism work.
- other work to advance humanity and humanitarianism
Examples of 'violence' and 'nonviolence' should
be listed in separate brainstorms. With most people ideas
on 'violence' come easier so this is usually best done first,
before 'nonviolence'. Particularly with nonviolence the facilitator
may need to allow time for ideas to develop and assist the
process by pointing to general areas which people might want
to consider. While the idea of a brainstorm is to hold off
on discussion and assessment of ideas until later, some leeway
may need to be given in developing 'nonviolence' examples,
if oriented towards expanding the list. The more concrete
examples coming up that people are familiar with the better.
Facilitators need to make their own judgement
about how long to allow each brainstorm run. It will vary
considerably from group to group, but 7 - 12 minutes for each
might be reasonable; it can be brought to a halt when the
facilitator thinks enough areas have been covered and enough
examples generated. The brainstorm sheets need to be left
on display for the next part of the process.
3. Each member of the group
is asked to draw a rainbow shape on an A4 sheet of paper (or
facilitators can photocopy such a shape for everyone); if
preferred it can be simply done as a straight line across
the page. As individuals, people are asked to fill in a representative
selection (say a dozen or fifteen from each brainstorm list)
on the "Violence/nonviolence spectrum', going from the
most violent on one side (say left - make it clear which)
to the most nonviolent on the other (say right). The facilitator
can demonstrate what is being asked of people on the flip
chart. If there are too many examples brainstormed, the facilitator
should clearly state not to try to fit them all in. The time
needed should be judged from how people are getting along
but something around 15 minutes for this stage may be sufficient.
4. If time permits, members
of the group can be asked to form pairs to share what they
have chosen as examples of violence and nonviolence, and where
they have placed them, and why. This should be one person
sharing after the other for perhaps three or four minutes
5. In plenary the group then
shares where different people have put things. This can be
done by asking everyone where they have placed particular
items, e.g. 'nuclear war', 'rape', 'anti-sectarian work',
'green actions' or whatever. Or else each person in turn can
be asked to share briefly where they have placed things. The
latter is more feasible in a smaller group and can perhaps
best be done by asking "What most surprised you about
where you placed things?".
6. If there's time there can
be discussion of items which have been placed in very different
positions by people; why did one person put it here, why did
another person put it there?
7. Another option is to try
to take one or a selection of a few items and try to reach
consensus on where to place them. If there isn't full consensus
the outer rim of the chart can be used to indicate dissenting
8. People can also be asked
"Where do you stand in the spectrum?" and "Where
would you like to be?" although this may be easier in
an 'activist group' where people would already have awareness
of issues of violence and nonviolence. This first question
can be shared initially on a one-to-one basis, giving each
person in turn a few minutes to speak about themselves. This
can then be followed by collective sharing of where people
would like to move.
9. Concluding remarks; The
facilitator may need to point out that this is merely an exercise
which is contrasting some very different actions and kinds
of behaviour in a way that is not confronted often in everyday
life. Its point is principally in bringing our minds to focus
sharply on violence, nonviolence, and what can be included
within these terms. It may help us to assess where we are,
or could be, involved in work for nonviolence, peace and justice.
It may be a good idea to do a closing round in the group allowing
everyone a very short comment on the workshop (as normal,
people can pass if they don't want to say anything).
10. The conclusions of the
workshop could be used as the basis of further exploratory
work, particularly if there was relative agreement in the
group about what issues need to be addressed. For example,
the Nonviolent Tactics Workshop (on INNATE website) could
be used to explore possible action on a particular issue.
Timing; Absolute minimum of
60 minutes for doing Numbers 2 - 5 above; 90 minutes would
be more reasonable; up to 150 minutes or more if doing a fuller
programme based on the above.
This exercise was developed by the Nonviolent Action
Training project from a 'Peace seekers spectrum' (produced
by Joan and William Sinton of Quaker House in Belfast in the
mid-1980s) which had categories already filled in from 'warfare'
on one end to 'pacifism' on the other.