Nonviolence: A more successful approach

Nonviolence is a practical and effective strategy for change and provides guiding principles for peace as a way of life.

Time required
  • 1 hour per discussion topic (up to 2 hours)
relevant sections of “a global security system: an alternative to war”
Discussion Goals & Objectives
  • Understand basic concepts and strategies of nonviolence
  • Consider the effectiveness of nonviolent strategies vs. violent strategies in creating sustainable change
  • Explore nonviolence as both a strategy and way of life
Introducing Study and Action Partner Anthony Grimes, Director of Campaigns & Strategy – Fellowship of Reconciliation

Anthony Grimes is an adopted “nephew” and mentee of the late Dr. Vincent Harding – co-author of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech “Beyond Vietnam.” Anthony roots himself in the tradition of the black-led, prophetic, freedom movement, while building new democratic and artistic possibilities.  Anthony works for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), which, since 1915, has carried on programs and educational projects concerned with domestic and international peace and justice, nonviolent alternatives to conflict, and the rights of conscience. FOR promotes active nonviolence and has members from many religious, spiritual, and ethnic traditions.  You can read Anthony’s full bio here.

Discussion Guides

Two discussion topics/guides are presented below. Each discussion should take approximately 1 hour. You are invited to do both and follow any sequence relevant to your purposes. If you are to choose only one discussion we encourage you to start with “Discussion 1 (Essential).”

Discussion 1 (Essential)Nonviolence – A Pragmatic Choice

In preparation for this discussion watch the introductory video by Anthony Grimes (above) and the TEDx talk by Erica Chenoweth (below); read the corresponding sections of AGSS; and familiarize yourself with the additional resources (below). (Total 60 min)

The success of nonviolent civil resistance: Erica Chenoweth at TEDxBoulder


“Nonviolent Resistance is the most creative and powerful mechanism for social change we have ever seen.” –Anthony Grimes

Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan have documented that nonviolent resistance is twice as successful as armed resistance and has resulted in more stable democracies that are less likely to revert to violence. And while this makes nonviolence a logical, strategic and pragmatic choice, nonviolence also provides a complementary moral framework that reminds us that we are shaped by our deeds and actions and asks us “what kind of people are we going to be when the violence is done?”

  • What arguments do you find compelling for nonviolent resistance as a pragmatic alternative to violence? How would you construct an argument to convince those leaning toward violence to consider nonviolence instead? (20 min)
  • Anthony Grimes suggests there is a false divide between practical/social and moral aspects of nonviolence. What might be the pros and cons of approaching nonviolence from a purely strategic standpoint? Is it possible that a moral stance might exclude some from participating? And, what are the benefits of a holistic approach (strategic and moral)? (20 min)
  • Skim a few case studies in the Global Nonviolence Action Database and review the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. What are some successful approaches/cases that demonstrate a holistic approach, moral approach or purely strategic approach? Are there any strategies or cases that you think might violate your moral code? What criteria might you suggest for determining strategies and actions of nonviolent resistance? (20 min)
  • Anthony Grimes encourages concerned citizens to join a practicing, organizing, community. The best way to learn is to observe and be an engaged ally with those involved in the daily struggle for justice. Find and join a “beloved community” in your town or city, get your hands and feet dirty, learn how to be an effective ally, and practice nonviolent resistance.
  • The Global Nonviolence Action Database.
    This tremendous learning and research tool, developed by George Lakey and students at Swarthmore College, provides free access to information about hundreds of cases of nonviolent action for learning and for citizen action. The database contains campaigns that have reached a point of completion. The cases are drawn from all continents and most countries. People are shown struggling for human rights, economic justice, democracy, national and ethnic identity, environmental sustainability, and peace.
  • 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action – by Gene Sharp. Practitioners of nonviolent struggle have an entire arsenal of “nonviolent weapons” at their disposal. Listed in this document are 198 of them, classified into three broad categories: nonviolent protest and persuasion, noncooperation (social, economic, and political), and nonviolent intervention. A description and historical examples of each can be found in volume two of The Politics of Nonviolent Action, by Gene Sharp.

Discussion 2 (Going Deeper):  Nonviolence – the foundation for peace

In preparation for this discussion watch the extended interview with Anthony Grimes (below).  (Total 60 min)

Extended Interview: Anthony Grimes


In this extended interview, Anthony Grimes explores more deeply the possibility of nonviolence as a way of life; identifies nonviolence as the foundation to alternative systems of justice; and illuminates the significant and overlooked role of nonviolent resistance in the daily lives of the oppressed.

  • What mindsets might need to be confronted or developed to engage in nonviolence as a way of life?
  • Anthony identifies community policing efforts and other mechanisms for protecting communities nonviolently. How can nonviolent principles be effectively incorporated into systems of justice? What nonviolent, alternative systems for justice might be established?
  • Anthony observes how black communities and other oppressed groups, on the rare occasion when they meet violence enacted by the state with violence, are deeply scrutinized. However, living daily under a system of institutionalized racism and structural violence, the responses of black communities throughout history have been overwhelmingly redemptive and nonviolent. How might we effectively and nonviolently challenge, as FOR does, the complicity of our government and institutions in perpetuating and sustaining direct and structural violence against its people?
  • Anthony Grimes suggests meditating daily on basic goodness. Who is it that you want to be?   Consider developing a daily personal meditation to support you in the development of those inner moral resources necessary for engaging in the external political work of nonviolent resistance.
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