CANVAS Case Study – Belgrade University

From http://www.canvasopedia.org/files/various/Nonviolent_Struggle-50CP.pdf

“During three months of everyday students’ protests in 1996-1997, money accounted for less than 20% of the material resources needed for this huge operation in Belgrade. University buildings served as office space, as did homes of parents of well-off students. Cab drivers provided transportation for free to students, and they got gasoline from anti-regime gas stations for free. Print shops provided over half-a-million flyers and informational material free of charge. Volunteer firefighting brigades provided students with loudspeakers, while a popular music club provided
key communications equipment by allowing the students to use their speakers for student meetings.”

The material resources used in the three months of protest at Belgrade university show a fantastic coalition building system in which the student protesters were able to build support bases and attract resources (non-financial) from those support bases to accomplish their 90 days of protest. I think that money is often an over-valued commodity, meaning that the things that you think you need money for may often be procured without the financial resources. The human and social capital associated with many protest movements allows protesters and their supporters to work their networks and get stuff that they need without paying for it. While money may be a necessary component to buy things, the Belgrade university case study shows that for three months of daily protest, financial resources accounted for only 20% of their total material resources. A fantastic example that clearly depicts how you don’t need a lot of money to host a long-term protest even though you think it might be necessary. Sometimes, partnerships and donations are more productive than money. For example, if the volunteer firefighters donated equipment to the protest, they must have also been present in some capacity to ensure the safety of the participants and their equipment. By building a broad coalition of support, the Belgrade protesters did not only get the things they needed for free, but they expanded their network and grew their base by asking people to participate in ways that were unexpected. A cab driver may not want to rally during a protest but he can participate by offering free rides, brilliant idea.

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