social change | February 06, 2013

Srdja Popovic: People Power Drives Non-Violent Movements [VIDEO]

Few people can speak about revolutionary action in a way that is inspirational, yet humorous. Srdja Popovic, however, is one of those few. He is able to discuss the life-changing work that his organization CANVAS (Centre for Applied Non-Violent Action & Strategies) is doing to topple dictatorships without casting a completely somber mood over the audience. In his talk at Syracuse University in New York, he uses his unique mix of humor, charisma, and wit to explore the power that exists in non-violent protest. As he tells the audience, people power is a force that is stronger than violence if wielded effectively.

You don't have to be a part of a political institution or a major NGO to elicit change, either. "When you look at a non-violent movement," he says in an interview after the talk, "their biggest advantage compared to a violent movement is you can literally recruit anybody: young people, old people, retired people." What's more important than who you recruit, he adds, is that you can find a place for everybody. It's not just about having people signed up for your movement on paper that makes you successful. Rather, it is using every member to their full potential to make sure each participant is active in the movement. He suggests following a model of recruitment, training, and action: find the most eager volunteers, train them to understand your movement's motives, and then find a place for them within the movement.

From the age of 19, Popovich has considered himself to be an activist. His efforts are internationally recognized— especially his work with the youth movement Otpor! that helped displace the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. He now trains others in the art of non-violent protest and teaches the important role that humor and people driven movements can have in creating meaningful change. In his talks, he shares powerful examples of his personal experiences. He advocates for the use of unity, planning, and discipline to drive non-violent movements forward and make the world a more democratic—and less violent—place.

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