Publications — CANVAS


Handbook for Working with Activists (2017)

This CANVAS-publication aims to teach organizers to activate and work with what once was OTPOR’s biggest resource – young and motivated people. This work will teach organizers how to increase the number of activists and how to constantly teach them new skills. From the recruitment of new activists, through an introductory conversation, up to the actual trainigs: this work covers it all. Using the experiences gained in the Serbian struggle for a democratic transformation almost two decades ago, this handbook combines theory with practicle examples, for organisers to easily adapt the manual in their daily practice: fighting for sustainable change!

CANVAS Core Curriculum

The CANVAS Core Curriculum covers aspects of theory, planning, and organizational considerations of strategic nonviolent conflict. The curriculum begins with a methodology to determine a vision for what should be changed in society; examining how political power derives from the consent of the people; and identifying the “pillars of support” that uphold a ruling system and can be targeted with strategic nonviolent action. In the second section, the curriculum covers strategic development of a movement, including how to develop clear and effective messaging and targeted communication. Finally, the third section focuses on challenges that come up in nonviolent movements, such as how to ensure effective leadership, responding to repression by creating “decision dilemmas” for an opponent, and managing important resources. All of these lessons together provide an important overview of the lessons and principles that are fundamental to CANVAS’s work and valuable reading for anyone seeking to build a successful, strategic nonviolent movement.

A Brief History of OTPOR!

A brief and engaging chronology which traces the beginnings and evolution of Otpor! – the movement which frequently made it unavoidable for the Serbian authorities to embarrass themselves publicly and turned going to prison for protesting a sought-after badge of honor for an entire generation of Serbs. At the same time, it inspired unprecedented solidarity and unity on a large-scale and mobilized this sentiment to effect a political transformation.

50 Crucial Points

This practical step-by- step guide takes you through the vital stages of organizing a nonviolent movement for social change – strategic planning, early implementation, and responding to ensuing repression from the regime without jeopardizing the movement’s goals and legitimacy.

It illustrates how activists could advance their causes like entrepreneurs develop their ventures – starting from a thorough assessment of the environment they would need to operate it and envisioning how they could maximize their impact- and provides you with tested tools for implementing this approach. These include an analytical framework for evaluating the movement’s capabilities and how they measure up to the regime’s, templates for organizing events which gain media visibility while minimizing the risks for participating activists, and expert tips for creating a targeted message which resonates with the shared values of the larger population. It will teach you how you could forecast the counteractions of the government with better accuracy and plan a response.

In addition, it sheds light on how power truly operates in society and what motivates people to join and sacrifice for a movement, topics which are as easy to overlook as they are necessary to consider if a movement is to be ultimately successful.

Making Oppression Backfire

Ever wondered what memorizing a few songs together with your friends or having your grandmother repeatedly call the police from home may have to do with nonviolent resistance?

This short book explains why, in the uneven struggle activists almost always face, knowledge and preparedness are paramount. By accepting that oppression is an inherent, constant, “occupational hazard” and fear- a natural response which can only be mitigated through obtaining information and certain precautions, activists can actually take steps to make the enemy work in their favor and galvanize support from a wider base.

The first such step is creating a dilemma, a situation in which the regime can either do nothing and appear powerless or resort to repression, violate the shared norms of the community, and alienate even more members of society. Making Oppression backfire presents case studies and tips for recognizing the issues which will resonate with your audience the most, teaching you how to pose such challenges to an unjust regime at a minimal cost.

Another is taking care of the movement’s foot soldiers – the most vulnerable actors on the ground which are simultaneously the most valuable asset. Here, measures to ensure a high morale among the movement’s activists in the face of oppression and adequate support from the outside once it occurs are vital. You will learn how simple actions such as signing can help turn detention into a less grueling experience and how pressure from other citizens impedes a prison’s functioning, together with a number of other effective tactics. Lastly, the publication demonstrates how to ensure a return on your efforts and sacrifices – by quickly generating publicity, both domestically and internationally, and safeguarding the truth of your actions from the regime’s propaganda machine.