"The master's tool
will never dismantle the master's house."
– Audre Lorde
Are you carrying a vision of transformative change? A vision of a world that works for all, where everyone's needs matter – including the needs of our planet?
If so, then you've probably also experienced deep doubts about how it could ever become a reality.
The status quo, as you may have noticed, is far more strongly rooted than most social change efforts. Even historic movements have fallen short of their founders' dreams… Some have turned into nightmares, perpetuating the same abuses of power they'd set out to stop. Today's movements are often in anguish over people calling out oppression and toxic power dynamics in their midst.
There's something crucial to be learned from this.
The social order we want to change isn't just an external force. It lives inside each of us and within our groups and organizations. If we seek social transformation without attending to those internalized systems and habits, we're likely to recreate something dismayingly familiar. The Who saw it in the aftermath of the 60s: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
Is it better to dig deep into your own psyche, undo socialization (the old boss), cultivate loving kindness, and teach others to do the same so they can be part of changing the world? Probably not. Social structures are incredibly resilient. No amount of inner work will change the rules of the game – it's more likely to enable you to adapt to the world as it is.
Is there a middle way?
Yes. It's called nonviolence. But not nonviolence as in "don't throw rocks at cops," or "be the change you wish to see." This is far a more challenging and practical kind of nonviolence. It focuses on the way you work for change, It's about weaving your core values into:
- How your organization functions;
- The way your campaign engages its opponents;
- How you reach out across movements; and
- What you do to embrace leadership and create a shared vision.
What needs does this course meet?
This course is designed to support individuals and groups in every aspect of working for social change, from internal alignment to external systemic thinking. The intention is to feed and nourish your:
INTEGRITY – ensuring that how you work for change is consistent with your vision, values, and goals;
EFFECTIVENESS – giving you tools to make the most of relationships and move forward collaboratively; and
SELF-CARE – helping you learn to engage with despair, overcome burnout, and create balance.
What makes this different from other courses in social change and activism?
- This course is not about techniques or specific strategies. Instead, it explores the core principles of nonviolence and how you can apply those principles in your approach to:
- Sharing a vision of change;
- Engaging others within and outside of change-oriented movements;
- Collaborating within groups for more effectiveness; and
- Designing and building campaigns for change.
Is this a Nonviolent Communication (NVC) course?
No, not in any traditional sense. Little to no time will be spent discussing communication techniques or learning how to speak nonviolently. On the other hand, NVC is a tool for applying Gandhian nonviolence principles to daily life. Miki takes those principles and applies them to every step on the road to social change. They are woven throughout the entire course, including her teaching methods for:
- Understanding nonviolence as combining power and love;
- Embracing the courage to face consequences and remain nonviolent;
- Choosing to see everyone's humanity regardless of their actions;
- Appealing to others' humanity and moral values;
- Aiming for solutions that work for everyone, including former enemies;
- Moving from opposition to a vision of possibility; and
- Maintaining an inner practice of nonviolence.
How will we work together?
This course is designed to give you the big picture, including all key building blocks for creating movements that are nonviolent to the core and capable of effecting transformation.
Each week's topic is rich and challenging enough to be a course in itself. To help you make most of this, Miki will be providing an abundance of reading materials. You'll receive a free electronic copy of her book, Reweaving Our Human Fabric, plus a packet of articles she has compiled in collaboration with the organizations supporting this course. You'll be invited to read specific, pertinent selections each week, and discuss what you've read with other participants on the course webpage. Our hope is that by taking time to absorb key concepts before the call, you'll be able to focus on applying them to yourself and your work – and explore the implications for your specific situation – during the call.
Part 1: Social Change and Nonviolence
When you think about working for social change, you probably envision familiar nonviolent tactics: lobbying, rallies, perhaps civil disobedience. For some activists, that's as far as nonviolence goes: it's a campaign tactic.
But the legacy of nonviolent heroes like Martin Luther King and Gandhi runs much deeper than that. These leaders embraced nonviolence as a way of life. They committed to not harming or shaming anyone – including opponents – and to taking huge personal risks in service of a vision. They brought potent tools to their resistance campaigns, dialogued across differences, and created new systems and institutions that embodied their values.
This course is an opportunity to connect with love, truth, and courage – the three pillars of nonviolence – and build your capacity for bringing them into every facet of your work. The moment your actions and values come into alignment, transformation will begin within your movement. The energy and vision you'll unleash will then spread to the people and systems you want to impact – even those standing in the way.
If you're already committed to a nonviolent life, you can expect to find new ways of putting your principles into practice! If you're attracted to activism and trying to discern where your path lies, this course can help you understand how to approach activism from the perspective of nonviolence.
- Gain clarity about how to work for change in ways that are consistent with your vision, values, and goals;
- Transcend feelings of despair and anger, and get inspired about what's possible;
- Become familiar with the history of nonviolence;
- Deepen and accelerate your social change work by recognizing your inner barriers (installed by society), and learn new practices for deconstructing them;
- Embrace a wholehearted commitment to everyone's humanity and needs, including those with opposing views.
PART 2: Working with Others for Change
How is it that a group passionately committed to shared goals and common values can still have a terrible time working together? Many movements for change – regardless of size – have been plagued with internal conflict, unacknowledged power plays, and bitterness. This course offers you an opportunity to apply the principles of nonviolence to how people in groups and organizations work together. You can learn to relieve and transform patterns that impede effectiveness, and to unleash greater capacity for collaboration and success.
- Learn to engage with conflicts productively, so that each point of friction becomes an opportunity for your community or organization to grow stronger and wiser;
- Develop the skills and mindset for open, loving, courageous dialogue, and discover how this can multiply your power;
- Understand group dynamics and develop specific skills that enable groups to function effectively;
- Find ways of stepping into power and leadership that do not compromise others' participation and wisdom;
- Learn to engage skillfully with your organization's "higher-ups" so that gaps in power and authority don't block collaboration or leave you feeling helpless and frustrated.
Part 3: Creating a World that Works for all
A lot of social change work begins as a reactive campaign. You see a problem and fight to correct it through a familiar push-pull struggle with the powers that be. This course offers you the chance to instead design campaigns that: 1) start from a positive vision; and 2) boldly blend your vision into every action, throughout and beyond your campaign. It includes recognizing that patterns of domination exist within social movements, especially social-structural power and the dynamics of privilege, which often tear up movements. Learning to face and shift these patterns nonviolently is an essential step toward building powerful alliances that can take on the largest systems in the world.
- Learn how to mobilize your privilege for the benefit of all – and move beyond guilt, shame, and defensiveness;
- Empower yourself to engage effectively with those in positions of privilege relative to you – without draining your own resources;
- Get ready to build alternative institutions that anchor and embody your vision on any scale;
- Mobilize the combined power of dialogue, constructive program, and nonviolent resistance in designing long-term campaigns for systemic change.
Who Should Take This Course?
This series is especially intended for three groups of people:
You've been practicing NVC and have experienced what nonviolence can do at a personal or interpersonal level. You want to explore how NVC principles can meet the wider world and facilitate social transformation – Marshall Rosenberg's ultimate vision.
You're a committed change agent: an activist, organizer, nonprofit staffer, intentional community member, or social entrepreneur. In this course, you'll get to take a step back from day-to-day stresses and strategies, and connect with the deeper values and sense of possibility that drive your work. The lens of nonviolence can refresh your sense of purpose, enable you to place goals within a much bigger picture of systemic change, and help you channel anger and grief productively without burning out!
You're feeling deeply frustrated. You see problems worsening both globally and locally, and everyone seems helpless to stop it. You may even be wondering if it's time to focus on your own life, build a bunker, or buy gold… If this describes you, rest in the knowledge that this course can bring you clarity about why change is so hard, what makes genuine change possible, and how to be effective when you take a stand and act from the three pillars of nonviolence: love, truth, and courage.