“Many do not grasp that nonviolent direct action requires preparation, planning, strategizing, recruiting, and all the things that you need to do to have a campaign, including fierce discipline. This doesn’t happen spontaneously. It has to be done systematically.”

Teaching the Strategies of Organizing Nonviolent Direct Action

The James Lawson Institute draws lessons from past and present civil resistance movements around the world to discern what kinds of strategies, tactics, and methods are effective for people organizing movements and waging civil resistance campaigns. We will learn from case studies, theoretical frameworks, participant exercises, planning tools, academic research, and each other.

Photo: Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service

Multi-day Institute Sessions

The Reverend Dr. Lawson, his advisors and staff host multi-day strategy sessions for experienced organizers. Below you will find programs and images from previous institutes as well as information on the next Institute in Los Angeles. Fill out an application to join us this autumn.

Autumn 2017 Institute

2014 Institute

2013 Institute

Together we will change the world.

From Past Participants…

James Lawson Institute Alumni speak about how their participation deepened their understanding of history and the strategic use of nonviolence in organizing campaigns.

“I have dedicated my life to the cause of race and equality in this country. One of the greatest tools I have gained in this work started within the walls of the James Lawson Institute, the focus on nonviolence and appreciation for diversity has had a life-changing affect over me. I believe that JLI is an opportunity for those who consider themselves Change Agents to gain a deeper understanding of the real work that has to be done to transform the world.”

Jerry Elias Peña
JLI Alumnus

“The James Lawson Institute was an amazing experience that gave me the opportunity to learn invaluable life lessons about movement building and organizing while connecting me with a community and mentors who have supported me in countless ways.”

Katrina L. Rogers
JLI Alumna

“At the James Lawson Institute I learned how to be an Upstander as the strategic nonviolent campaign of the many rather than as the isolated act of one moral individual.  To be an Upstander is to act with moral courage to resist those who seek to demonize or diminish others based on their faith, race, gender, orientation, or birthplace.”

John Steitz
JLI Alumnus

Our Team of Scholars and Activists

Presenters and faculty teaching Dr. Lawsons methods of nonviolent resistance

Rev. Dr. James Lawson

Founder and Convener

Dr. Mary Elizabeth King


Daniel Lee, MSW

Project Manager

Saqib Bhatti


Dr. Cynthia Boaz


Kevin Connor


Philippe Duhumal


Paulina Gonzalez


Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock


Dr. Tom Hastings


Hardy Merriman


Jamila Raqib


Austin Belali


Marcia Hale


James Hayes


Cristina Jimenez


Carinne Luck


Jeff Ordower



Past presenters and scholars such as Cynthia Boaz, Philippe Duhamel, Jack Duvall, Paulina Gonzalez, Tom Hastings, Mary King, and Hardy Merriman along with the Reverend Dr Lawson himself, and other contributors have been working over the last few months to bring the new iteration of the institute to life. Daniel Wayne Lee (JLIer 2014) is also part of the planning group.