Nonviolent Struggle: Why and How It Works: A Course Taught by 2017 ICNC Curriculum Fellows
Lilit Makunts and Lusine Arakelyan, 2017 ICNC Curriculum Fellows, developed and moderated an online course offering an introduction to civil resistance to Armenian activists and organizers. The course was conducted on the ICNC Online Platform, but included some face-to-face class meetings as well. Their course ran from October 2nd to November 20th, 2017
The information featured below was submitted as part of the fellowship requirements for the course and includes a detailed course proposal with clearly developed sections on civil resistance, assigned readings, assignments relevant to the subject matter and evaluation tools.
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About the Curriculum Fellows
Lusine Arakelyan is a founding member of the NGO Civil Consciousness. Currently she is also their Coordinator of Educational Affairs. Her bachelor’s degree is in Linguistics and Communication,with a specialization in Political Science. In 2015 she graduated from the Center for European Studies at Yerevan State University, where she was awarded the Master’s Degree of European Studies. As part of the Master’s program, she also studied at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. In 2012, she participated in the Brusov Student Movement, which was the first large-scale students’ movement organized in Armenia. Nonviolent action was the key element of success. After the foundation of Civil Consciousness, she has spent the last five years coordinating more than 100 non-formal education projects.
Lilit Makunts is currently an Associate Professor at the Russian-Armenian University in Yerevan. She earned her Ph.D. in Cognitive Linguistics specializing in Political Discourse. She teaches Sociolinguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, Discourse Analysis, and History of Nonviolent Resistance. After attending the ICNC-Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict in 2015, she initiated an academic course on Civil Resistance in the Department of Political Science in the fall of 2016. After about 8 years as a political board member in the Liberal Party of Armenia and the head of the youth organization (2004-2012) she realized that, without civic education and the development of people power movements, no substantial democratic changes can take place. Along with academic teaching, she works as a trainer on different civil society platforms
Course Title, Location & Abstract
Course Title: Nonviolent Struggle: Why and How It Works
Location: ICNC Online Platform
Course Abstract: This is an online seminar that aims at providing civil society representatives, political activists, trainers of non-formal education and students seeking knowledge of nonviolent strategies in civil resistance. Within the framework of the seminar, the concept of nonviolent civil resistance, its most successful practices around the world, and the reasons of why and how it works will be thoroughly introduced. The course will begin with the introduction of civil resistance, its historical background and will dwell upon the common misconceptions. It will discuss the mechanisms of movement formation and mobilization, as well as the factors of its sustainability. It will further discuss strategic frameworks for analyzing campaigns and movements as well as will explore issues of innovative and creative tactical choice. The importance of a well planned civil resistance will also be touched upon together with the long-lasting impact of civil resistance and its costs. The cases of various civil resistance movements in the Post-Soviet region and the main factors of instigation will also be discussed. It will focus on what can be done to make those efforts of civil resistance more strategic and effective.
Learning Gains Survey Results
The Learning Gains Survey aims to measure knowledge gains among course participants. Participants take the Pre-Seminar Survey at the beginning of the course and take an identical survey (Post-Seminar) at the end of the course. Included below are the graphed responses to selected questions from the Pre-Seminar and Post-Seminar Surveys. In general, the surveys illustrate a positive trend in the knowledge gains achieved by participants as a result of the course.
1.Grade your current knowledge of civil resistance or nonviolent movements.
At the end of the course participants felt much more confident about their knowledge of civil resistance/nonviolent movements than they did in the beginning. In the post-seminar survey, 26.1% felt absolutely confident, as compared to 4% in the pre-seminar survey. which was an increase of 22.1%. 56.5% of course participants felt more or less confident after the course, which was an increase of 36%. After the course, we did not have any participants who felt that they do not have knowledge or that their knowledge is little in the field.
2. Identify your comfort level speaking to others about civil resistance or nonviolent movements.
The absolute comfort level of speaking about the topic increased from 8% to 26.1%, which was an increase of 18.1%. The general comfort level also showed progress from 8% to 56.5%, which makes an increase of 48.5%. According to the figures of the post-seminar survey, none of the course participants felt uncomfortable with the topic.
3. Select the number that best represents your knowledge on nonviolent civil resistance.
In the pre-seminar survey 0% of course participants felt quite knowledgeable, whereas in the post-seminar survey 17.4% considered themselves knowledgeable. 28% considered themselves to be knowledgeable initially, after the course the figure increased to 65.2%, an increase of 37.2%. By the end of the course there were no participants who felt they don’t know anything or know very little about nonviolent civil resistance.
4. Grade the effectiveness of nonviolent campaigns over violent ones.
78.3% of course participants consider civil resistance to be very effective compared to armed struggle, which was an increase of 22.3%. However, there was a regress related to the figure of absolute ineffectiveness. Compared to initial 0%, 4.3% thought that it’s not effective at all.
5. Select the number that best represents your view on the statement that movements facing repression cannot succeed.
There was considerable progress related to the question about the effectiveness of movements that face repression. Accordingly, after the course, 0% of participants thought that if a movement faced repression, it would not succeed, compared to 16% before the course. Additionally, 60.9% of post-seminar respondents think movements that face repression can still be very effective, which is an increase of 24.9%.
6. Select the number that best represents your view about how effective strategic planning in social movements can be.
The opinion of the participants about the importance and effectiveness of strategic planning increased from 64% to 82.6%, which was an increase of 18.6%.
7. Indicate the number that best represents your view on the statement that violent campaigns can be more effective for democratic transitions than nonviolent ones.
In the pre-seminar survey, 76% of the participants strongly disagreed with the statement that violent campaigns can be more effective in the democratic transitions. This figure rose to 82.6% during the post-seminar survey.
8. Indicate the number that best represents your opinion about how effective nonviolent movements are against repressive regimes.
The results of the post-seminar survey show participants have become more skeptical about nonviolent civil resistance and its absolute effectiveness against repressive regimes. Initially 68% considered it to be very effective, which by the end of the course had dropped to 56.5%. However, 43.5% think it can be effective and none of them had doubts about it.
9. Indicate the number that best reflects your opinion on how effective nonviolent resistance can be in in the countries of Post-Soviet territory.
Both at the beginning and the end of the course, the participants believe that nonviolent resistance can be very effective in the Post-Soviet territory with 44% initially and 47.8% afterwards. The figure indicating that it is effective increased by 7.5% – from 36% to 43.5%. There were still some participants who were not sure or were more inclined that it’s ineffective with 4.3% each.
Final Evaluation Results
Included below are graphed responses to selected questions from the Final Course Evaluation.
1.Course content was organized and planned well
76% of course participants strongly agreed that the course was organized and planned well. None of the participants felt that the course was unorganized or planned poorly.
2. The goals of the course and its modules were clear
60% of course participants strongly agreed that the course and module goals were clear. None of the participants felt that the course and module goals were unclear.
3. Taking this online course was a positive experience
75% of course participants strongly agreed that this online course was a positive experience for them. None of the course participants felt that it was negative.
4. I now have more knowledge about civil resistance and its various topics than I had before taking the course.
36% of course participants strongly agreed, whereas 64% agreed, that they had more knowledge after the course about civil resistance.
5. I learned about civil resistance from other course participants.
24% of course participants strongly agreed, and 48% agreed, that they learned about civil resistance from other course participants.
6. The course met or exceeded my expectations
44% of course participants strongly agreed, and 56% agreed, that the course met or exceeded their expectations.
7. I would recommend this course to other people
- I was very happy to have such an opportunity to take part in these lessons. In my opinion, everything was excellent. I think it was just right.
- For me the course length is just right. The course content was very compact and rich, which was very good, and I want to say thanks for this. I think all the key topics necessary for getting knowledge about civil resistance were discussed.
- It was really a great experience to take part in these lessons. Each lesson was valuable, but I liked the one connected with Ongoing Civil Resistance Efforts in the Post-Soviet region.
- I was very impressed. I’ve learned new things, how to use peaceful disobedience, how to achieve it, and what successful student movements there have been. For me, the most valuable lesson was about strategy and tactics.
Three Month Follow-up Survey
A follow-up survey was sent to course participants three months after the course ended. This survey is intended to measure the long-term impact of the course. See below for selected graphs from the three month follow-up survey.
- 95% of course participants were interested in learning more about civil resistance, showing that the course created a long-term interest in the field of civil resistance. 0 participants indicated that they were less interested in civil resistance.
- All course participants had shared their knowledge on civil resistance at least one time. 40% of participants had shared their knowledge between 1-5 times and 35% had shared their knowledge between 6-10 times.
- 90% of course participants reported that their current engagement with civil resistance had increased. 0 course participants indicated that their current engagement had decreased.
- 55% of participants reported that after three months, the knowledge they had gained was more relevant/valuable than immediately after the course. 0 participants reported that their knowledge was less relevant/valuable.