Nonviolent Social Movements – why do we need them?

May 5th

Within all families, societies and communities there are disagreements and conflicts.

Conflict can be engaging, and fruitful, not just negative and destructive.

For example re-generation plans that are turned down because they are not seen as the best option by a community could lead to a new method for a group to have a voice in the new plans, or a disagreement over the washing up could help a group to identify what their priorities are and create a new method for resolving future disputes.

But…sometimes there is a conflict with a risk that the participants, and others around them, could get drawn into a destructive, even violent, spiraling situation where the conflict resolution mechanisms in the wider society must intervene – for example when there are threats of violence we can call the police and engage with the legal system, or divorced parents can use mediation services when they can’t agree on the care of their children.

These are our most common ideas when we think of conflict in our societies – that we resolve it ourselves or with the help of others, and that it can be helpful or destructive.

There is another option though….what if the conflict is not yet widely recognised, or people don’t yet realize that they are a participant in a conflict?

For example Do we really need new roads? What action should be taken to stop climate change? Should we tear down old buildings?

For those people who see the issue as a conflict of ideas, interests or resources, they must take action to increase the level and number of people engaged in the conflict….when doing this nonviolently they are building social movements (or community groups or NGOs or other similar term).

Given the increasing number of social issues we are seeking to address in the UK, it is reasonable to expect that there are conflicts within and among them, and for those who feel passionately about it, who want to build a conflict, build a social movement, or understand how they work, then we have a half dayschool at Leeds Met on Sunday May 5th.

Knowing how to build a social movement, overcoming the challenges, how to keep going when it seems too difficult, and how to celebrate the small victories will all be explored.

Speakers include Mil Rai, Editor of Peace news Sylvia Boyes, activist from trident Ploughshares, Dave Webb, chair of CND and Emeritus Professor at leeds Met University, and Rachel Julian, community activists and lecturer in peace studies at Leeds Met University.

Everyone is welcome. A poster is available.

To book please email

References for further study of nonviolent social movements include:

People Power and Protest since 1945: a bibliography of nonviolent action
compiled by April Carter, Howard Clark and Michael Randle.

Available at
Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements
By Bill Moyer. Published by New Society Publishers 2001