In 2008, Erica Chenoweth published a study comparing 323 violent and non-violent civil resistance campaigns between 1900 and 2006. Among her findings:
- Non-violent campaigns worldwide were twice as likely to succeed as violent insurgencies.
- This trend is increasing — in the last 50 years civil resistance has become increasingly frequent and effective, while violent insurgencies have become increasingly rare and unsuccessful.
- Campaigns were successful once they'd achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5% of the population — and many succeeded with far less than that.
- Every single campaign that surpassed the 3.5% threshold was a nonviolent one.
- Campaigns that relied solely on non-violent methods were on average four times larger than the average violent campaign — and much more diverse and inclusive.
Erica presented her research at TEDxBoulder last month:
She's also posted an FAQ and a transcript of her talk along with links and footnotes.
Fantastic post on Demos on the importance of building power vs charity. I hate to give away the punchline (it's a short post—go read it now) but this really nails it:
“Certain kinds of everyday heroism will always be important and unavoidable, but the goal of a set of social institutions should be to destroy as many opportunities for heroism as possible. Heroism is only possible where some kind of tragedy is imminent. But a good social system snuffs out avoidable tragedies before they even have a chance of approaching imminence. In many cases therefore, the existence of heroism is actually a deeply troubling symptom of overall political dysfunction. It should not be met with adoration, but with horror and concern.”
I see this in design activism all the time. For instance, everyone loves when designers step up with charity. But there's important work for designers also in helping to build infrastructures (social, political, physical) to mitigate the impact of disasters in the first place.