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People Power

Deconstructing People Power

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

If you're interested in some of the nuts and bolts behind "people power," this short piece on nonviolent resistance is worth checking out. As my colleague Anne noted in her earlier post on coalition building, even the most amorphous-looking of crowds often have a strategy and discipline behind them that is based on core principles and smart organizational strategy. 

The article highlights three key ingredients for success: 1) overcoming fear and obedience/apathy; 2) targeted noncooperation; and 3) nonviolent discipline. Of these, the fascinating one to me (from a CommGAP perspective) is the first one: after all, this basically entails engineering a mass (and rapid) shift in public opinion under what must be, by definition, adverse circumstances. How does this occur when the government is able to literally pull the plug on major communication channels? Could it have something to do with the nature or robustness of the public sphere in the country concerned? I suspect it does, but unfortunately we do not yet have the tools or the conceptual frameworks to properly consider this question (from an operationally oriented development perspective rather than an academic standpoint). At the very least, it would be worth exploring how we might develop frameworks and diagnostics that would shed further illumination on these important events.

Quote of the Week

Antonio Lambino's picture

"... Empowering people means more than just giving them elections. It means enlarging their contact with government, and habituating them to the direction of their own affairs. People empowerment, by direct participation in government or by indirect involvement through NGOs, was the surest means of making government mirror the aspirations of the many rather than merely advance the interests of the few. 

It is on the work of people empowerment that I now devote the greater portion of my time... to put in the hands of ordinary people the quite ordinary, but organized, means of effecting major changes in their lives. 

This was the force that toppled dictatorships and tore down the Berlin Wall. Can it be made to build up? In the past, the idea was to give the people just enough political power to make a mistake at the polls; in the future, the idea should be to empower them to decide meaningfully, and throw the full weight of their numbers behind their choice. "


                                                                            - H. E. Corazon C. Aquino, 1933-2009
                                                                              President Of The Phillipines, 1986-1992
                                                                              Fulbright Prize Ceremony
                                                                              U.S. Department of State
                                                                              Washington, D.C., October 11, 1996

Photo credit: Lilen Uy, featured on the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism website