A Review by Rivera Sun
“When everyone knows how to plan, you start to get strategic behavior.”
These words from Ivan Marovic serve as my mantra as I facilitate trainings in strategy for nonviolent campaigns. When I met Marovic at the James Lawson Institute in 2014, he impressed upon me that everyone should understand strategy, not just a handful of campaign organizers or hardcore activists. His experience in the leaderless movement of Serbia’s Otpor! showed him that when the populace has a widespread working knowledge of basic strategic principles for civil resistance, the chances of successful – and strategically sound – campaigns increased.
Today in the United States, we are facing so many pressing issues that the movement of movements could quadruple in size and we’d still be scrambling to address them all. What we need isn’t just more hands-on-deck; it’s better strategy.
Fortunately, Marovic’s new book provides an excellent resource for improving the strategic wisdom of our campaigns. I’ve been a resistance manual junkie since before I wrote The Dandelion Insurrectionand its accompanying study guide to making change. As a trainer, I read everything that comes out on the market, for better or for worse. I despise handbooks that limit citizen action to the song-and-dance routines of calling senators, signing petitions, and donating to electoral campaigns. I tear my hair out reading the innumerable books that talk only about protest actions. I’m always on the lookout for manuals with a rigorous understanding of the disruptive, non-cooperative, and visionary potentials of civil resistance.
Marovic’s highly pragmatic, exquisitely useful book, The Path of Most Resistance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planning Nonviolent Campaigns, was published by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) this year. (A downloadable pdf version has been made available here.) As an activist and a trainer, I highly recommend this resource. It is perfect for all of us who are working for change, designing a civil resistance campaign, or training people to think strategically.
I have spent the past four years teaching people from all walks of life two things: what is nonviolent struggle and how can we make it work for our causes? Ivan Marovic’s new book guides the reader through a step-by-step approach to figuring out the nuts-and-bolts of making change. He combines old classics (like Spectrum of Allies and SWOT charts) with new understandings. He offers new tools in integrated ways, showing you precisely how to take your analysis work and plug it into a comprehensive framework for campaign design.
And he does it with a lot of humor and wisdom.
“I identified a need in the field for a step-by-step guide allowing individuals to break down a complex nonviolent resistance campaign into a series of manageable steps. A comprehensive guide which would include resources, lesson plans, tools, etc.” – Ivan Marovic said in a recent webinar talk about the book.
As an appetizer to reading his book, I also recommend watching the webinar from his book launch. His introductory remarks include many gems of strategic wisdom and several of the highly-illuminating slides are not in his book. In addition to being an engaging speaker, one of Ivan Marovic’s gifts is boiling down complex ideas in understandable – but not oversimplified – ways. He compares strategy for nonviolent campaigns to cooking: if you’re a master chef who knows your ingredients and the nuances of cooking, you can improvise. If you’re like the rest of us, you might want to get to know the fine art of cooking before you try to cater a 100-person dinner. Nonviolent struggle is an equally complex field – with high stakes and a lot of risks – and when it comes to planning campaigns, a lot of us don’t have much experience. Ivan Marovic’s book is to activism what America’s Test Kitchen is to cooking: he distills knowledge from thousands of tests and case studies into basic principles for us to cook up change. And then he goes a step further and puts it into nuggets of chapters that we can use as strategic planning exercise with our friends and fellow change-makers.
Check it out. Try it out. Put this step-by-step guide into practice. If you’re tired of going to the same old boring protests, this book is for you. If you’re up against impossible odds, this book is for you. If you have passion and no idea what you’re doing, this book is for you. Strategy is for everyone . . . and so is The Path of Most Resistance.