Organizing Non-Violent Change: Effective Campaigns

Organizing Non-Violent Change: Effective Campaigns


A campaign is a campaign; it is the tool for achieving the objective of a war. Every war is fought by a series of campaign, and every successful campaign constitutes a milestone on the way to wining the war.

 Ethnologically, the expression is derived from the military register as a calculated cause of action aimed at facilitating a greater cause of action for which it is waged. Every campaign is thus a serious step in the prosecution of a cause.

 In this paper, I appraise the status of campaign as a tool for prosecuting non violent struggle towards peaceful change. In the remaining part, I examine the content and structure of an effective campaign and conclude by taking a peek into post campaign considerations. It is my considered opinion that a well planned campaign I bound to achieve set goals, and that such alone is useful as a tool, in the prosecution of non violent change in modern society.

 The expression campaign can cover every cause, but is in this paper used only to mean protest marches as an instrument of change.


Change, this said, is the only thing that is constant in human affairs. Change will come when it will, and no effort can stop that reality, but sometime, the reality is that change needs to be caused to come immediately. This is particularly so in political societies and may other social circumstances.

 Non violent change which is the pursing of positive and progressive change by active, persistent, provocative ******* ****** satyagriya and confirmed by its consciences adaptations by Marthin Luther King Jnr, Nelson Mandala and the Dalai Lama of Tibet, it is the prosecution of a full blown war, aimed at achieve the same goals which in other climes, are achieved by Monumental blood shed. It is as effective and painful as war, sometimes executing the supreme price from its leaders, but in all far less expensive, possibly bloodless and best of all, achieving a reconciliation of positions that really leave no victor and no vanquished, but only new converts and counction.

 Non violent struggle requires certain basic elements to succeed. Those who must undertake this cause of action must:

  1. be committed
  2. be prepared to make sacrifices
  3. be prepared to suffer inconveniences
  4. be consistent
  5. Conviction as to the necessity of the cause.


Prosecuting non violent change usually takes any of four major means. These means includes:

  1. Speaking out
  2. Civil disobedience of unjust policies
  3. Non violent protest marches and
  4. Picketing
  5. A major instruction of the modern state, is the near monopoly of the means of communication to the mass of the people. The control of speech has been used to muffle counter views, struggle opposition and impose government views on the powerless individuals that constitute the citizenry. Speaking out against a public policy is therefore a means of conveying to the public, alternative views, the fallacy or flaws of the policy and enlightening them to make informed choices.

         Speaking out against unfair policies has one major instrument deployed by both Gandhi, and Marthin Luther King Jnr in the Indian and Black American struggles. Its Zulu expression “Buwa” was also used by the Anti-Apartheid campaigners in South Africa to publicise the crimes of the regime and canvass for desegregation of the state policies. AIT’s focus Nigeria has been another beautiful example of this tool I Nigeria.

  1. Civil disobedience is the determined decision to refuse to obey an unjust law. It is a tool used in peacefully fighting for change of such unjust laws. Its partakers, like conscientious objectors, willfully disobey the law in question and willingly undergo the prescribed punishment without intent to change their position after imprisonment. At trials in court, they would categorically admit disobeying the law, and state clearly that the law is unjust and that they would never obey it.

         Gandhi Lunched this tool in South Africa and later in the Indian American and South African struggles, to break the colour bar. The idea behind this tool is that when a state faces the option of imprisoning or punishing repeatedly, a large section of its population, it would get weary and realize that the policy is either unpopular or impracticable and accordingly consider reviewing it.

  1. Non violent protest marches are public marches organized by peaceful change agents, to express with a collectively louder expression, their opposition to the public policy in target, and sensitive the larger section of the citizenry on the ills of the policy and the need to change it. Rallys give vice and visibility to the otherwise voiceless and invisible in society. In coming together in their mass, they are more noticeable, their view better communicated and their cause, better fought. It is one of the most popular tools in modern times, and has been used in virtually every country to protest draconian, unjust, unpopular or dictatorial policies, even in closed societies like China, Tibet and Nigeria under Military rule.

         Effectively organized protest marches are most likely to embarrass or expose the flaws of the target policy so much that even the state would feel morally bankrupt to continue the policy, and so it in most cases elicits change of policy.

  1. Picketing is a form of protest in which partakers block the entrance to the target institutions premises, obstruct their ability to conduct business in the respective day and compel them to consider listening to the protest and effecting reforms. More popularly adopted in industrial disputes, this tool was also a retable tool in the Anti Apartheid campaigns in South Africa and was effectively used in forcing major compares in Europe and America to close shops in South Africa and withdraw their support for the Apartheid regime.


Modern society is highly industrialized integrated and large corporations and commercial ventures have enlarged as a consequence, into very large multi/trans national entities with such structure and reach that dwarfs any individual – citizens or community. this has been made worse by globalization which has created and set global trends and agenda for nearly every issue in modern times and compelled all to think globally while acting locally.

 The consequence of the above trend is that the world has become a smaller village with the mega media houses picking out every event and leaving no hiding room for perpetrators, but it also has some other serious consequences, it dwarfs man and boxes both he and his local effort into inconsequence and invisibility. As the world grows more globally so individual house effort shrinks towards oblivion and impotence.

 Diminished man brought with it. Diminished visibility and expression and with this came the strong need to reinvent the human angle presence in public policy formulation. The obvious answer was in aggregation of human effort, man coalescing into groups, because the means to corresponding raise the fallen man back to existence and relevance.

 Group actions as public marches amplifies the voice of the participating persons, beyond the shunker level of their individuality and better places the cause for while they march in focus for attention.

 The effectiveness of every campaign depends upon the planning and execution. A properly planned campaign will commence at the right time and place, proceed with the right momentum, hit the target and make the projected impact.


As earlier stated, a successful campaign begins from the stage of planning, a campaign without adequate planning will end up either badly, counter predictive or liable to be disposed with ignoring.

A campaign that is to be effective must undergo the following stages:-

  1. Identify the ultimate goal of the campaign
  2. Set not the immediate objective of the march
  3. determine the right target of the march
  4. determine the right constituency for mobilization
  5. determine the right way/instrument for mobilization
  6. determine the best venues and routes and
  7. determine the best way to deliver the message
  8. have a plan b in the event that the campaign is disrupted.
  9. A campaign must identify the ultimate goal which it is planned to help achieve. Such identification is important as that will inform the decisions to make at the other stages of planning.
  10. It must set the immediate objective to be attained by the very campaign. For instance, a campaign to ultimate procure a peaceful electoral reform can have as immediate objective the sensitization of the populace on its necessity, or the conviction of the government, that the yearning is serious and from a wide spectrum of the society.
  11. If as in the above example, the campaigns is for electoral reform, it must determine who or what is to be impacted by the immediate campaign. What policy is the target of the campaign.
  12. organizers must also identify the right constituency to mobilize for the campaign.
  13. The organizers as well as the instrument for such mobilization.
  14. They must identify the best venues or routes for holding the campaign. In doing this, they must consider the nearness to the target group and the ability of the campaign to attract the required attention of such target group.
  15. Again they must determine in advance, the best method to communicate the message, for example, a message need not necessarily be communicated by speech, it could be by letter delivery, it could be by acts or any other means.
  16. Finally, organizers must preempt the reaction of the state and ensure that there is a plan B in the event that the main plan is frustrated by the state. For example, hey must consider what to do it.
  17. Violence breaks out from any section of the campaign, by being prepared to certain and restrain it before it spreads.
  18. The state provokes participants by convincing than to tolerate and refuse to be driven to violence which will provide opportunity for forceful disposal.
  19. The state obstructs the campaigns, they must have plans for retreating, reorganizing, resuming or re-outing the march.


A campaign as I have said is a campaign, in military affairs and in non-violent change causes, their importance remains the same. In the preceding part. I have outlined steps that must be taken to make a campaign effective. These steps must be followed religiously to avoid failure.

 By way of last wards, a successfully executed campaign must be accomplished by a post campaign audit, in the larger interest of the ultimate goal for which the campaign is a part.

 Organizer must therefore conclude by appraising the campaign with a view to identify the pit falls and high points of the campaign. They must take stock of the possible successes recorded with respect to the set goals of the campaign.

 This stock taking will enable the organizers prepare better and improve on the next campaign in the struggle.

 It is my conviction backed by history, that any campaign that follows these patterns will certainly be successful. In any case, it is not optimal to organizers of campaign because those who must cause change to occur by peaceful and non violent methods must be thorough.

 Thank you for you audience.


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