Kingian Nonviolence – Attack forces of evil not people doing evil

This weeks principle may take some unpacking for many of us, maybe especially for those committed to nonviolence who might have rejected ideas of evil and hear ‘attack’ as violent. I’m grateful for the encouragement to start where I am and explore my current felt sense and ideas around these words…

For me ‘evil’ is tied up with the idea of ‘bad intention’. As I grew up the focus was on naming (and sometimes shaming) the intention behind an action, and on admitting my actions were ‘bad’, rather than focus on hearing the impact. For some of us the word ‘evil’ brings up concepts of fixed right and wrong, of bad actions and bad people, and associations with religion and authority.

Similarly while in ‘attack’ there could be ideas of violence, there is also a strength and conviction, with the object of this being the forces (structures, beliefs, systems, habits), and not people. This is an active and proactive strength, finding the energy and courage to do the work that needs to be done to reduce harm.

Something like “dismantle and upgrade systems and institutions doing harm, rather than blaming individuals” lands more easily in me in this moment. AND there still seems something valuable about inquiring into my relationship to these words, maybe reclaiming them with a new understanding. As I think about systems and beliefs that lead to harm, systems that really don’t meet the needs of many, and that actively oppress, might that be a new understanding of ‘forces of evil’?

I loved Roxy and Cathy’s unpacking of this idea during 50 days for peace, at the same time as encouraging people to find the words that resonate for them, and allow others to choose differently. And so from there, in words that speak to you, how you might complete this sentence?

I want to find the strength to attack forces that [do what] by [how].

Some things coming up for me…

  • “I want to find the strength to dismantle systems and structures that threaten our shared conditions for life, by reimagining ways forward where all can thrive.”
  • I want to find the strength to challenge and dissolve ideas of fixed right and wrong, by supporting groups to connect to their needs and find more creative solutions.”

As we each focus our attention on what matters most to us, bringing the skills and strengths we have, something new and more attuned to needs seems more likely to emerge.

Community and accompaniment

All of this is a lot to ask, especially for those recovering from trauma or still facing oppression and violence. Another key concept from this week is to understand the need for support and resourcing ourselves for the fight . We need to find accompaniment – develop our own capacity to accompany ourselves, and to seek support. We need to find community – to lean on each other and know that we will all have different capacity to show up in different ways at different times. We need to find what resources us – coming from gratitude, time in nature, time to rest, music, friendships, pets, touch, whatever helps us reconnect and recover.

Personal and systemic

I’m so grateful too for reminders to notice both systemic and personal layers in this. There can be a tendency for some of us to focus on the personal (especially with an NVC lens), and miss the systemic. If a person is talking about pain related to the systemic, there might also be personal pain, but to go only to the personal can be painful, and also not feel safe if there is not consent.

I remember several times in working in homelessness partnerships people who had experienced homelessness talking about the injustice around housing and support, and anger around how people are treated for not being in work, and sometimes the focus has gone to their personal circumstances. I’m grateful for this clarity, to discern the personal and systemic, and be aware of the level someone is speaking at – an edge which I am still learning to work with.

Systemic change

In this intersection between the personal and systemic there is opportunity. Systems are created and maintained by repeated behaviours (including compliance and silence), and systems are changed by new behaviours. So what might nonviolent action that changes systems look like in the contexts we are in?

Kathleen brought in research by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J Stephan that points to the success of nonviolent resistance, and some of the attributes needed…

  • A large and diverse population of participants sustained over time
  • Capacity to create loyalty shifts in groups that support current systems/institutions
  • Creative imaginative methods of resistance
  • Organisational discipline to face direct repression without going to violence or collapse

There is much to unpack in all of this, and I’d love to spend more time pondering all of this with others as we head into whatever comes next.

Up next – Principle 4: Accept Suffering without Retaliation for the Sake of the Cause to Achieve the Goal >

Kingian Nonviolence – Beloved Community is the Framework for the Future

Beloved community is a vision of a world where all are included in the circle of care, where all needs matter. So the work in this part is to wonder about the current edges of our care, where it is not easy to see the humanity of others, and to include our own needs, to really check if we are leaving out anything of ourselves. And then to ask if we have the systems, processes, skills and support we need as a community or society…

  • Where are the edges of our care?
  • Where do we hold blame (for others or ourselves), and what might the mourning be underneath?*
  • How do we make sure always that our own needs are included, and check for real willingness?
  • How do we set up restorative systems that support us to reconnect when there is tension?

(* I’d highly recommend checking out more of Sarah Peyton‘s work around blame and mourning – you can find a detailed version of the ‘Transforming Blame into Mourning’ process here.)

An important reminder for me came from Roxy Manning‘s sharing, that there might be situations where we need to say to people in our lives “you are still part of my community but I won’t let you harm us” – Beloved Community has to include us and our families, our own safety. I enjoyed these questions posed: When you consider the invitation to live in beloved community:

  • In what circumstances do you exclude yourself? What needs does this meet?
  • In what circumstances do you exclude others? What needs does this meet?
  • How would it serve you to strive to include yourself or others more in the circumstances you named?

We will have moments of ‘I just cant do it’, where needs for safety, understanding, care, rest and others are at risk, where it feels really challenging, and we need support to find the next step.

“If you are not struggling to love people, if you are not trying to build understanding with those you disagree with, then you are not really doing the work of building Beloved Community. The work of building Beloved Community is understanding that we’re not trying to win over people, but to win people over.”

Kazu Haga from ‘Healing Resistance’

It’s important for me to know that while I so want a world where all needs matter, and wish for everyone to want that too… and to know that’s not the reality, I can’t expect anyone else to, and this is part of the work.

Coming up next – Principle 3: Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil >

Revolutionary Love – Love Our Opponents

The core wisdom of this section of the Revolutionary Love compass is ‘Tend the Wound‘ – an understanding that underneath tension, conflict and division is so often hurt that has been left untended. We go first to ourselves, to see if we need to rage first, before really checking in with ourselves whether we are ready to listen to understand opponents, and then be ready to reimagine together.

Again it feels such an important reminder that this work is to be done in community, that we will all play different roles at different times, and can honour where we are and not feel we need to do all of this ourselves.


In many of us, rage is something we might not be comfortable with, or might skip over to get to action or to try and find empathy for the other. The lesson of this part of the compass is tending our own wounds by finding ways to express our rage in a safe container, and allow our bodies natural response to the hurt, with whatever support we need to do that.


When it really feels safe to do so for us, in our bodies, there is a choice to step towards our opponents with curiosity, to listen to understand their perspective. This is the work of listening for the wound in others – taking in different perspectives, alongside rather than instead of our own, so that we have the possibility of finding solutions that can work for all.


When we tend to our wounds and connect to the wounds in others, we have the possibility of reimagining institutions that could work for all. Some of the institutions might need to change, others to be dismantled and created again from scratch.

In each of these steps i feel hope, that there is a possibility, a map, that doesn’t try to jump over the hurt, and that also gives a way forward to create the new.

Next up: Love Ourselves >

Kingian Nonviolence – Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people

Kingian Nonviolence has been developed from the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, and contains a depth of practice captured in six principles. My connection with it has been greatly supported by Kazu Haga’s excellent book ‘Healing Resistance’, and by the ’50 days for Peace’ course I’ve been part of through the start of this new year. Here’s a little taste of each of the six principles, (I’ll be adding one each week)

Principle 1 : Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people

Nonviolence is not an easy path. It is beautiful and rewarding, and it can take courage to actively resist harm, to choose to step towards action when others are in harms way. Here are some questions to start that exploration…

  • Where do you see violence in the world? Where do you see people being harmed by actions, words, systems, decisions about where resources are directed to?
  • Where are there opportunities to stand not only in solidarity but as an accomplice to reduce this harm?
  • What scares you about standing up to violence? Where might you need support to find the courage to do this?
  • Where do you need to find care for yourself, stand back, trust others will be there to prevent harm when you need to rest?
  • Where have we made unconscious contracts with ourselves to behave certain ways to meet needs, regardless of the cost to ourselves? (you can find out about unconscious contracts here)

I’m really grateful to Roxy Manning for this extended awareness of different forms that violence takes, and opportunity to review where in my life these show up…

Up next – Principle 2: Beloved community is the framework for the future >

Revolutionary Love – Love Others

Valarie Kaur’s beautiful brilliant Revolutionary Love Project compass offers an orientation and practices to find love for others who are experiencing harm, love for our opponents, and love for ourselves.

Absolutely core to this work is understanding this is something we do as community – to know we all have different roles to play in each moment, and to trust our body as a guide to what is right for us.

Revolutionary Love Project Compass

I’d highly recommend following the content at, or the brilliant series that is US based but applicable to all at The People’s Inauguration. Here is a taster of what you can find there…

Love others – See no stranger

How do we cultivate our love for others, our willingness to take action to protect what is at risk of harm?

How can we look at any other living being with the mindset ‘you are a part of me I do not yet know’…

Revolutionary love gives 3 practices…

1. Cultivate wonder

Seeing others with wonder, being curious about their story, what breaks their heart, what they want and care for.

“I am defining wonder as letting in a sense of awe and openness, deep curiosity. It is to look upon the face of anyone or anything and say ‘you are a part of me, I do not yet know’. Its an orientation of humility. Wondering about another person, their thoughts and experiences, their pains and joys, their wants and needs, gives us information for how to love them. It’s how we have learned how to love our partners, our children, our friends. Now when we wonder about those who we would otherwise see as strangers, let even them inside of our circle of care, then wonder becomes an act of revolutionary love.”

2. Grieve together

Whose grief have we not let into our hearts? When we come together to grieve, to hear someone else’s story of heartbreak, and let in their pain, we are saying ‘you grieve, and you do not grieve alone’. This is part of how we love others.

3. Fight together

From wonder and grieving together, we can notice and honour the impulse from inside us to fight against injustice, to take action, to prevent harm, to show up in active solidarity, to be there as an accomplice from a place of love.

“To fight is to choose to protect those in harm’s way. To fight with revolutionary love is to fight against injustice alongside those most impacted by harm, in a way that preserves our opponents’ humanity as well as our own. When we fight for those outside our immediate circle, our love becomes revolutionary.”

The fight impulse is natural, ancient and fundamental. It shows us what we love, and gives us the energy and the impulse to protect it. When we come to this fight from a place of love, without denying anyone’s humanity, we can fully move on this path of living nonviolence and loving others.

Up next… Love our opponents >

Living Nonviolence

Underpinning everything i do is a commitment to nonviolence, and to creating a world where ALL needs matter, where we can ALL thrive.

The path of nonviolence was embodied for many by Dr Martin Luther King Junior, and practiced in many contexts around the world. At the core is a commitment to standing up against harm and for justice, whilst staying open to the humanity of opponents.

Two hands of nonviolence

This has been illustrated by my friend and collaborator with this image of two hands – it says “I won’t co-operate with injustice”, AND “I see your humanity”.

Nonviolence is not ‘not being violent’ – it is a commitment to act from a place of seeing our interconnectedness, a path, a way of being in the world. It is a path of active peace, a courageous way of being in the world, a willingness to show up in solidarity with and as an accomplice to people who are being harmed by acts of violence of any kind, while recognising the common humanity of all of us including our opponents.

While the principle might be easy to understand, the practice is challenging and something that takes effort and needs support. Along the way I have explored several frameworks and tools, and found three in particular super helpful. In this series of blog posts, I’ll explore a little the beauty of each, and maybe inspire you to find out more…

  1. Kingian Nonviolence – The legacy of Dr King lives on in six steps and practices, brilliantly supported by Kazu Haga’s work ‘Healing Resistance’.  
  2. Revolutionary Love – A beautiful rallying call for these times developed by Valarie Kaur – a compass and set of practices to support us to fight for justice with love.
  3. Nonviolent Communication – An understanding of the underlying common human needs behind all our actions, and with tangible practices to transform the habitual patterns of our minds, words and deeds.

There is so much here to explore and I am curious to see what lands. I’ll be posting on each of these topics over the coming weeks so follow this blog if you are interested!

Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

Back in 2015, in a time of transition in my life, someone reflected back to me “you don’t seem to have much awareness of your feelings – i notice you tend to say you feel good or bad”. Even my own feelings were something i had learned to judge. This simple statement sent me into a deep journey of reflection and self connection that has radically changed how I experience life. Here is a little of what stands out from that journey…

For me, the shift starts with noticing and welcoming all parts of myself, and of others. I don’t always have the space or conditions or awareness to do it, and that too needs gentleness and compassion.

I also began to realise that we are not separate, that we are interconnected, and I want to live in a world where all needs matter. I care for other people’s needs and my own in the same breath, and want us to look for strategies that will work for all, so we can all be free and well and thrive.

A key part of my journey has been discovering Nonviolent Communication (NVC), developed by Marshall Rosenberg.

A core shift i found through NVC was to realise that all of our actions are attempts to meet human needs that we all share – that violence is a ‘tragic expression of unmet needs’. He shows how we experience pleasant feelings when our needs are met, and unpleasant feelings when our needs are unmet, and are socialised to focus on strategies to meet those needs. We will find any strategy we can to get our needs met, especially when we are in pain (emotionally or physically), or not feeling safe. Often these strategies are found when we are young and we continue them as patterns in our lives, long after they serve us. Often we don’t even know what motivates our actions, it’s just what we do, how we are.

Much of our communication and thought patterns centre on these strategies rather than the feelings and needs underneath, and this is the root of many of our conflicts and inner struggles. When we can connect with our feelings and needs and those of others, we come back into connection and from there are more able to find strategies that work for all. We can also reconnect with our choice and autonomy, to make requests, to say no, and to go to mourning when our needs aren’t met rather than to blame.

This is a world beyond right and wrong, where we see our judgements are patterns of our mind that hide within them beautiful needs that want attention. NVC gives us a new understanding of our inner worlds, and tools to help us understand ourselves and communicate in way that is more likely to bring connection. Often it is understood as a language, a set of steps that can aid communication, but at the core is an intention to move towards a world where all needs matter, and to connect at a deeper level with ourselves and each other.

Marshall’s work builds on a legacy of nonviolence movements, the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King and many more who see that prioritising the needs of some over others is violence, that nonviolence is not about ‘not being violent’, but an active resistance to injustice, and an intention to see the humanity of all. The personal, interpersonal and systemic are all relevant and interconnected here. For more on the systemic side of this work, i recommend checking out NGL and Miki Kashtan’s writing, starting here.)

So what does this have to do with groups and social change?

I work in and alongside many different groups and organisations working for social change, and so often following the beautiful intention and common purpose of the groups is made difficult because of all the internal and inter-personal struggles that emerge. Especially with such urgency in our work, with the multiple crisis looming from climate change to racism to inequality and homelessness, we can feel as if there is not time for our own needs, and for listening to where others are struggling, that we have to push on.

I see the cost, in burnout and exhaustion, in conflicts and tension that goes unresolved, in people sensing they are being excluded and devalued, in ways of working that centre some needs over others. I see how groups try to care for each other, to include all needs, but don’t know how, and often miss each other. I feel sad when people leave movements or push themselves beyond what feels good, when it seems it’s ok to sacrifice some for the sake of the cause. I so value the vision of nonviolence and ‘Beloved Community’ – all needs matter, including our own.

And so, I am passionate about bringing this understanding, my energy and many of the brilliant tools out there to support groups. It might be explicitly NVC we want to bring in, to find easier ways to communicate what is going on and work out requests. It might be more about finding decision making tools that work for all and value outliers so that the needs of people who are often marginalised are included. It might look like exploring different ways to find solutions so that people who have more capacity in visual arts, metaphor, story telling, body sensing or movement can bring in all their insights alongside those whose strength is more in thinking and analysis. And it might be supporting conflict resilience – stepping towards conflict with care, setting up restorative systems or bringing in mediation or restorative circles.

If you are interested in how nvc can support your organisation, please get in touch. You can also find out about nonviolent communication (nvc) offerings in the north of England here.

Find out more

There are so many fantastic people out there developing the work Marshall started, and freely available resources to learn from. Below are links to some resources and some of the people I most enjoy learning from…

You could also attend an NVC training, find a practice group or start one near you.

Let me know if you would like any support.

Inclusive decisions with Convergent Facilitation

So often working in systems change we seem to hit limits in our ability to collaborate when we are coming with different perspectives and priorities. It can seem like we are in different realities, stuck in a polarity, too hard to find a way to togetherness in the challenge.

We might try to hear and value different perspectives and share power, yet it can feel frustrating and even impossible to try and find a way through to reach consensus, and sometimes people walk away, or resort to going back to how things were, or settling for small tweaks rather than the bigger changes we dreamed of.

I feel really fortunate to have met Miki Kashtan and got to know the process she has developed called ‘Convergent Facilitation’ which offers a different way forward. The key difference is pausing the conversation and getting really clear on what all the needs are, what matter to each of us, and then shifting to a creative thinking phase where we collaborate together on finding solutions that meet all the needs we have named. From there we can make a truly inclusive decision that all in the group have genuine willingness to go forwards with.

I have since used it with groups including GM Homelessness Action Network, and Extinction Rebellion UK and love the creativity and togetherness that comes with this different way of finding next steps that work for all, and am keen for more people to experience it.

How does Convergent Facilitation work?

I learned an analogy for this process from Paul at Navigate that i like – making a list of ingredients and checking for allergies; coming up with recipes using all the ingredients; and then agreeing together on a recipe that really works for everyone – explained here and included below…

Phase 1: Finding criteria (listing ingredients and identifying allergies)

The first part of the process involves hearing from different perspectives what is important, what matters about this for different people, and finding a set of criteria that they all agree to. In this process, the criteria are called ‘noncontroversial essence‘ – detailed enough to contain the essence of what matters, broad enough that all in the group are willing to adopt the criteria. This alone builds trust and a sense of working together towards a common goal.

Phase 2: Creating proposals (exploring possible recipes)

The next phase is a common mission for the group, to creatively explore ideas for meeting these criteria. Objections are invited in, seen as a gift to the group, a way to see another valuable perspective that was missing, the gold that makes what is agreed more likely to work.

Phase 3: Making a decision (choosing a recipe that all can say yes to)

In this phase, we look for willingness from everyone in the group to adopt or adapt a proposal that works for all. We rate and analyse the proposals as a group, to find a good place to start, and then seek objections to see if there are criteria that are not met, and get suggestions from the group to improve it. This process continues until there is genuine willingness, or an alternative decision is reached.

In addition to building trust, and enabling groups to find a way forward through complexity, what i love about this process is how it gives people an experience of a different way of being together, to know that it is possible to find solutions that work for all, that it can be win-win. It also surprises me when i see that setting specific criteria actually invites more creativity and togetherness rather than constraining anything. Wrapped into all this is awareness of power and privilege, making sure everyone is empowered, that their needs and concerns are heard and valued.

Find out more

I would love to see more structures and organisations opening up to making decisions together, beyond consultation, to deeper collaboration, and I am curious to understand what the blockers are. Here’s one example from the GM homelessness network.

If you are facing challenges around making decisions that work for all, feel free to get in touch.

I’m not busy!

I’m not ‘busy’. I’m not ‘knackered’. I’m not ‘back to back’. Dare I say that?

I have made conscious choices to do less, have more space, say no to things that are no longer heartfelt… and yet in this space things come up – what does this mean for me sense of value and self-worth?; am I doing enough?. Inner criticism feeds on ideas that to be loved and worthy you should be contributing endless deep beautiful work (and always busy), knowing that there is much to do and much urgency. Sometimes I collapse under that, believe i am not enough, that if my life was worthwhile i would have more to offer. Sometimes I don’t see what i can do that’s useful, heartfelt and authentic, and there is some shame.

Yet when i check, it seems like wisdom to allow space for reflection and integration, to wait and rest until i see more clearly what to do.

This is my practice with shame – speak it aloud and see that the world doesn’t collapse when I admit what is already true. I feel my body tense up as i type, can i admit this in public? Yes, it is true, honest, and also kind of exciting, freeing!

I’d love to hear any reflections, if any of this resonates – how is it for you when you stop being busy?

Originally posted on – an initiative to support collaboration, based in Hebden Bridge.

Wisdom in times of uncertainty – Theory U / ULab

TheoryU and ULab developed from two decades of action research at MIT, and now hosted by Presencing Institute. It is a theory, framework and set of tools to build capacities we need to address the root causes of the social, environmental, and spiritual challenges we face.

A core component of ULab is working with the future as it emerges, tuning into deeper sources of wisdom – in ourselves, in others, in the collective field. It is both mysterious and scientific, and unlike anything else i have come across! I followed the ULab 1.0 course back in 2016 and found a place where social change, research and spirituality came together with a kind of mystery and an inner shift that felt significant.

I have since used ULab in a few different contexts, most recently connecting change makers in GM through GM Transformation Lab, and we are now exploring the potential for using this to bring policy makers and grassroots organisations together around systems change in GM (Greater Manchester).

I’m also following #GAIAJourney which is a ULab offering for connecting globally during the pandemic. There are people from projects all over the world (not just from Europe and Americas, which is often what is the reality when something’s called ‘Global’) – I have been in breakout rooms with people from Colombia and Uganda and Brazil and Japan and everywhere in between, groups working on so many different things from systems to individual change to local communities from health to farming to economics to alternative finance to democracy to growing food to education. I follow with wonder at this evolving movement that has come together so quickly in response to a time of great uncertainty.

If you are interested to find out more about TheoryU and ULab, and explore how it might support you and your organisation to see your next steps and emerging future, please get in touch.

Read the full post on (an initiative to support collaboration, based in Hebden Bridge).