2020 ICNC Moderated Online Course Assessment
ICNC offered the moderated online course “People Power: The Strategic Dynamics of Civil Resistance” which took place from October 1 to November 20, 2020. This was the ninth year that ICNC has run this course.
Read more about the 2020 course and assessments below.
Applications, Admission and Course Participants
In 2020, ICNC received 114 applications for the People Power online course. The quality of applications was high and it took several rounds of reviews to select the 66 participants who were invited to take part in the online course.
The 66 accepted applicants came from a wide range of backgrounds and countries, as shown in the graphs below. The largest number of participants came from Europe with 20, followed by North America with 19. South Asia and Southeast Asia had 9 participants combined, while Africa and South America & the Caribbean each had 7 participants. The Middle East and Oceania each had 2 participants. Below is a visual breakdown per region.
The accepted participants also came from a diverse range of professional backgrounds. The majority of participants had a background in activist/movement building, followed closely by a background in research and academia, and then by a background in NGOs, both internationally and nationally focused. Participants could choose more than one answer when selecting their background.
Before the course began, ICNC hosted two orientation webinars for course participants. Each orientation webinar contained survey questions asking participants what they hoped to gain from the course. In summary, participants indicated that they wanted to gain practical knowledge on how to organize civil resistance campaigns more effectively, as well as learning about general dynamics, concepts and cases of civil resistance. The participants also wanted to share their own on-the-ground experience with other learners. Below are the results from the two sessions’ surveys combined.
For the fifth year, ICNC had Academic Advisers who moderated the various discussion forums, adding an important value to the overall educational experience and a recognition to the course standing. The course moderators included: Dr. Véronique Dudouet, Dr. Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham, Isak Svensson, Dr. Cécile Mouly, Dr. Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, Dr. Steve Chase, and Bruce Pearson.
For the second year, ICNC had former course participants moderate the course. These were alumni from previous courses who brought unique perspectives. ICNC intentionally asked former participants from Africa and South America in order to bolster the conversation on civil resistance. Alumni moderators also provided summaries of the forum discussions in a particular module, highlighting key points made, debates taking place and core information that was shared.
Course participants also had access to the ICNC Mobile App, available on iOS and Android. By using the app, participants could download the course content and access it offline when they were traveling or if they were in areas with low internet access.
Module 1: Welcome and Introductions
In the welcome module, we laid out the objectives of the course. We discussed course activities, including forum posts, recorded webinars, readings, videos, webinar meetings and online discussions. We then introduced the participants and course organizers and moderators. We provided online learning tips to help participants make the most of the online learning experience. Finally, we introduced participants to the People Power Game: A Strategic Game About Civil Resistance, a computer-based simulation that participants play throughout the course, during which the player takes on the role of a strategic planner for a nonviolent movement.
Module 2: Foundation of Civil Resistance
In this session we laid the theoretical groundwork out of which this field has grown, digging into both data and the big picture. Virtually every day, somewhere in the world, there are people engaging in civil resistance. But what do we mean by this term? Do we all understand it the same way? How is civil resistance defined and spoken about in participants’ towns, communities, regions or countries? In this session we clarified the concept of civil resistance, looking into power that underlies people’s actions and considering the track record of civil resistance over the past 110 years, including the reasons behind its effectiveness. This module aimed to equip participants with data to share with others in their networks about the effectiveness of civil resistance, and to enable them to articulate what civil resistance is in a clear and concise manner.
Module 3: Historical Cases of Civil Resistance Around the World
In this module, participants engaged with the historical record of civil resistance, completing reports on two movements each that covered their goals, strategies, tactical choices, their degree of success, and responses to their movements. Participants used one of ICNC’s newest course features, an interactive timeline on the history of civil resistance, to complete this assignment. This timeline tool covers over 100 representative movements and campaigns from around the world, divided into four categories: national liberation, civilian safety and autonomy, defense and expansion of rights, and public accountability cases.
Module 4: Strategy and Tactics of Nonviolent Struggle
In this session, participants looked at what strategy in civil resistance is, and how it relates to tactics. We examined examples of different tactics, including cultural resistance tactics, and discuss tactical innovation, including strategic sequencing of tactics that enhance the effectiveness of nonviolent methods and campaigns. We also looked at the strategic importance of women’s leadership and participation in civil resistance for success and for maintaining nonviolent discipline. Finally, we explored different conflict analysis tools that help movements systematically assess and analyze the battlefield in which they are engaging nonviolently.
Module 5: Repression, Backfire, and Defections
In this session, we started with a discussion about repressive contexts in which nonviolent resistance movements take place, and the phenomenon of backfire when violence against unarmed activists boomerangs back to those who carried out the repression. We explored how civil resistance movements can optimize the impact of backfire and use it to their advantage. How does the side that uses repression aim to hinder potential backfire? We then discussed defections that often, though not always, occur as a result of the backfire effect. This module focused on understanding defections from one group — security forces — and explores conditions under which the defections might happen. It also explored how regimes often try to mitigate the likelihood of security defections, and strategies that movements might deploy to increase chances of loyalty shifts among security forces.
Module 6: Violent Flanks, Agent Provocateurs, and Maintaining Nonviolent Discipline
In this session, we looked at how movement violence, whether real or perceived, can backfire against our movements and make them smaller, weaker, and less effective. We first explored the negative impacts that are most likely when sincere activists organize violent flanks to achieve the same goals as a civil resistance movement, or when civil resisters choose to engage in violent activities alongside of their nonviolent actions. In addition, we took a detailed look at how power elites routinely use undercover “agent provocateurs” (an anglicized French term for “inciting agents”) to increase both the real or perceived violent flank activity within our movements to make our movements easier to defeat. Finally, we explored several methods for increasing the nonviolent discipline of our movements in order to increase their effectiveness and chances of victory.
Module 7: New Frontiers in Civil Resistance Studies
This module explored a variety of topics in the study of civil resistance, including: cultural resistance, faith communities and civil resistance, democratization and civil resistance, and civil resistance and corporate governance. These (and other) topics were considered new frontiers in the quickly evolving field of civil resistance studies. They are often seen as either under-researched or only now gaining significance in the analysis of nonviolent conflict.
Module 8. Final Course Evaluation & Learning Gains Survey
In the last two days of this online course we solicited participants’ views about the course and their learning experience. We asked about their learning progress, overall educational experience, assessment of the course content, interactions in the forums, and their personal engagement during the six-week period. This feedback has allowed us to improve our future online courses and make our teaching pedagogy on civil resistance more effective and more impactful on all learners involved.
Learning Gains Survey Results
Included below are the graphed responses to selected questions from the learning gains survey (conducted among the same group of participants that took both surveys) that demonstrate the extent of the knowledge gains from before and after the course.
The Pre-Course Learning Gains survey was completed by 64 participants and Post-Course Learning Gains survey by 44 participants. The comparative results from Pre and Post-Course surveys, included in the graphs below, are based on the responses of the 44 participants that filled out both surveys. You can use the links below to navigate directly to each graph. You can also view the full 2020 People Power Course Learning Gains Report.
- How actively involved are you in a civil resistance campaign?/How likely are you to join a civil resistance campaign because of what you learned in this online course?
- How actively involved are you in writing, researching, speaking or teaching about civil resistance?/After having completed the online course, how much more likely are you to engage in writing, researching, speaking, or teaching about civil resistance?
- How skilled do you think you are in planning or implementing a civil resistance campaign?
- If you regularly participate in civil resistance actions, how effective do you believe your actions are in achieving their stated goals?
- On the scale below, select the number that best represents your current knowledge of civil resistance or nonviolent movements
- On the scale below, select the number that best represents your view about how important you think nonviolent discipline is in a successful civil resistance movement
79% of respondents selected various degrees of inactivity (options 1, 2, and 3), showing that they were not very active in civil resistance campaigns.
95% of respondents said that they were more likely to join a civil resistance campaign, showing that their interest and desire to be more involved had increased during the course. No participant’s likeliness of joining a campaign decreased following the course.
2. How actively involved are you in writing, researching, speaking or teaching about civil resistance?/After having completed the online course, how much more likely are you to engage in writing, researching, speaking, or teaching about civil resistance?
56% of respondents selected low levels of activity (options 1, 2, and 3), showing that they were not very involved in writing, researching, speaking or teaching about civil resistance prior to taking the course.
95% of respondents said they were more likely to write, research, speak or teach about civil resistance than before the course.
12% of respondents selected option 4 (“skilled”) while 65% of respondents selected options 1 and 2, indicating that they thought they weren’t very skilled in planning/implementing a civil resistance campaign.
66% of respondents selected options 4 and 5 (“skilled” and “very skilled”) and only 2% of respondents selected option 2 (“not skilled”), showing that after taking the online course, they thought would be very skilled in planning/implementing a civil resistance campaign. None of the post course respondents selected option 1 and only one respondent selected option 2.
5% of respondents selected option 4 (“effective”) and none selected option 5 (“very effective”), indicating that almost the entire representative body of participants did not feel effective in the civil resistance actions they had taken before the course.
79% said that they believed their future civil resistance actions would be “effective” and “very effective” following the course, and no respondents felt that their actions would be ineffective.
15. On the scale below, select the number that best represents your current knowledge of civil resistance or nonviolent movements
88% of respondents selected options 4 and 5 and none of the respondents selected options 1 or 2, showing that, after the course, they knew substantially more about civil resistance or nonviolent movements.
Pre course survey:
63% of respondents selected option 5, showing that about 6 out of 10 thought nonviolent discipline was very important for successful civil resistance movements before the course began.
Post course survey:
88% of respondents selected option 5, showing that even more respondents—approximately 9 out of 10—now agreed that nonviolent discipline was very important for successful civil resistance movements.
Final Evaluation Results
The participant-led course also included a final course evaluation, in order for participants to provide feedback on the course content, self-learning community, course platform, and more. 34 participants completed the final course evaluation. Click on the links below to see the selected graphs for each section. You can also view the full 2020 People Power Course Final Evaluation Graphs.
2. Course content was comprehensive and balanced, and topics were well selected
97% of respondents selected options 4 and 5, and no one selected 1 and 2, showing that almost all of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the course was comprehensive and well balanced.
8. I would recommend this course to other people
10. I learned a considerable amount of new information about civil resistance
100% of respondents selected options 4 and 5, showing that they agreed or strongly agreed that they had learned a considerable amount during the course.
14. What did moderators do that was helpful to your learning and engagement with the course content? How can course moderators do better next time? What would you recommend course moderators do differently?
- “I really appreciated the moderators. Some really big names in this growing academic field! They asked good questions, reinforced learning with examples, and introduced new material germane to the modules. I would love to have individual conversations with each of them on their specific topics of research and experience.”
- “I really appreciated the role of the moderators, especially because thanks to their questions, or food for thought, we had the opportunity to look at things from different perspectives, or to ask ourselves questions that perhaps we would never have asked ourselves.”
- “They raise question to go further on the taught concepts of each module. In addition, it was more interesting trying to answer their questions than making summaries of the modules.”
- “I was very impressed by the discussion prompts and feedback from course moderators.”
17. The knowledge I gained from the course will be relevant in my current and future study/work/activities
100% of respondents selected options 4 and 5, showing that all of them agreed or strongly agreed that the knowledge from the course would be relevant in their current and future educational or professional activities.
19. How would you assess your own engagement with the course material, including participation in the course forums.
76% of respondents rated their own engagement with the course as “high” and “very high engagement” (options 4 and 5, respectively). No respondents marked their own engagement as “low” and “very low engagement.”
Tips for Future Participants
- “My tip would be to start early in the week of the new module – watch the videos and read the articles. You can have some time to let the new knowledge sink in and revisit later to post your comments. Post your comments as early in the module as you can! It is so much fun to have other participants respond to your thoughts and build on them or turn them upside down and to read what course moderators write. You will sadly miss this part if you do not post until the last minute. It is equally fun to read others comments and to engage in those discussion threads – this is the way we engage with each other in the course.”
- “Be curious and constant.”
- “I tried to start each module on the day it was released and would tackle a unit a day, which often meant that I had ample time to participate in forums responding to others over the course of the last few days of a module.”
- “I think if you read through the required readings and watch the videos, engagement comes easily. What really helped me was reading through the other participants contributions as well. They were learning experience in themselves.”
- “Though I have engaged in social moments for all my life, there are so much outside my limited knowledge and experiences. This course has considerably expanded my horizon and imagination about civil resistance. It has given me tools to work, ideas to think, and hope to continue what I have been doing.” – Benji
- “I was really impressed with how this course provides useful theory and practical tools, and enables discussion between people all of the world.” – Alison Leahy
- “A critical course for anyone serious about civil resistance.” – Anonymous
- “This course was comprehensive and well organized. I learned a great deal about civil resistance strategies and tactics. I plan to conduct research regarding civil resistance efforts and found this course provided a wealth of materials and lectures to enhance my understanding and provide me with the tools needed to conduct my research.” – Joann Hennessey, Ph.D. Candidate, Antioch University New England.
- “ICNC is the pioneer at the forefront of the field of nonviolent action, and this online course provides an essential platform for activists, scholars, and professionals around the world to connect and establish networks, learn cutting-edge research and best practices, explore and compare case studies from different sorts of campaigns in a variety of contexts around the world, and share their own experiences. I am grateful to have participated in this course, and I know the nuanced and actionable information I learned will allow me to improve my own activism and campaign involvement, teaching, and writing.” – Dr. Jeffrey Pugh, University of Massachusetts Boston
- “In ICNC’s course People Power I have learnt about many new areas of civil resistance, about historical and current movements, and engaged in really insightful discussions with participants, course moderators, and researchers. With the new knowledge and new perspectives that I have developed I feel both much more confident to discuss, train, and educate about civil resistance, and very motivated to explore these new areas deeper. I have connected with activists, researchers, journalists, and educators across the world and had a lot of fun discussing civil resistance together and at times shared frustrations of how questions only seem to lead to more questions and not to answers, but with great takeaways from all questions reflected upon together!” – Thea Pettersson
- “I ended this course not only with the fulfilment sense that I have learnt what nonviolent struggle is, how does it work and why does it work, but with the additional enrichment of having envisioned “a way of behaving and doing things” applicable to many useful things. Things that can help me and help others to better understand the world and how try to change it for better.” – Jordi Roca Zanuy
The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict thanks Carnegie Corporation of New York for generously supporting this and our other online courses between April 1, 2020-March 31, 2022.