Activist Academy – Beirut 16/17 May 2014

PAX launched the Activist Academy in Beirut in May 2014. The Academy is part of the educational system of Peace Activism 2.0, a program aiming to support, inspire and improve the work of young activists.

The Activist Academy brings together activists that will take up both the role of teacher/trainer and student. During the masterclasses that are given, theory and practice are combined. During this academy in Beirut we spoke about the following topics: Cyber Security, Non-violent activism in a violent context, Live Broadcasting from the spot, Using Bambuser, audiovisuals in Activism & Preparing people to take direct action.

Many of the activists in our network joined our very first Activist Academy in Beirut. Our aim was to bring activists from all over the world together to learn from each other, to inspire and to connect. During the Activist Academy -surprise surprise – we focus on activism. How can we become more effective at activism? what tools should don’t we know yet but should we definitely learn about to become better activists, how do I reach out to large groups of people?

Marcell, an activist from Aleppo in Syria, gave a masterclass on non-violent activism in situations of violence and war. Concerning the extreme situations that activists are facing in Iraq and Syria, this topic is of great importance and relevance and was welcomed by all participants with great interest. In stead of writing an extremely large piece on what she exactly spoke about we recorded the whole masterclass. Watch it below!

Watch Marcell’s masterclass on non-violent activism in an extremely violent context below (only available in Arabic).


Wael Abbas – an Egyptian journalist, blogger, and activist – picked a very concrete and relevant topic: Live broadcasting from the spot. This included a concrete tutorial on using Bambuser, a live video streaming service that allows users to quickly and easily capture, share and watch live video broadcast from mobile phones or computers. The central question of his masterclass was: how can you record live happenings such as demonstrations, flashmobs and other live events in a way that many people can easily follow you while your images and recording are spread easily? Wael shared his experience during the Egyptian uprising in 2011 making it a lively, concrete and very interesting topic because Wael used Bambuser during the mass demonstrations against dictator Hosni Mubarak.

His 362 broadcasts have been viewed almost three hundred-thousand times. It’s a great tool for activists, journalists and civic journalists who want to document violations, demonstrations, etc. By the way, YouTube is developing such possibilities as well, click here for more information on that.

The Egyptian photo- and videographer Fadi Taher works for the Media House, a video production company in Cairo, and gives training on the use of video, photo and visuals in activism, which was also his aim at the Activist Academy. In his words: “The shape and form in which you present your message is closely linked to the effectiveness of that message. In order to improve that shape and form certain ground rules need to followed.” For those of you who have missed the Academy, meet Fadi!

For critical reflection Fadi keeps ten important questions in mind before recording:

1- Who is your audience?

2- Who has the power to create the change?

3- What do you want your audience to do?

4- What will convince them to take action?

5- What will be appealing, persuasive or interesting to your audience?

6- Who will your audience listen to and why? (the messenger)

7- How can you get your video material?

8- How will your video be integrated into your campaign or advocacy plan?

9- When should your audience see your video?

10- When, where and how your audience will see your video?

See it, film it, change it!

Edgar Khachatryan, director of the Peace Dialogue NGO in Armenia, shared his great insight on activism and strategy in his masterclass on ‘mobilising people’ – concerning the theory behind one of activists’ main questions: How do I mobilise people for my cause? He explained different approaches on how to mobilise people: goal based mobilisation and value based mobilisation. The first being a way of mobilization that mobilizes people according to a specific action and goal. The second approach mobilizes people who share the same norms and values. After discussing the topic of mobilizing people with activists from Iraq, Jordan and Syria, in working groups, the following tips were presented:

  • Start small
  • Achieve commitment with the people working voluntarily for you
  • Discuss your goals and reach the same understanding of the goals and issues you are mobilising people for
  • In order to keep people committed it’s important to be clear about the decision-making processes
  • Use diverse means when mobilising people
  • Set standards and criteria in order to measure success
  • Discuss the consequences of participating

The tips may seem open doors that were kicked in (and yeah, to be honest, some of them were)…but the interaction between the activists

Do you want so see some examples of succesfull mobilisation of the activists that were present during the first academy? Watch this flashmob – a campaign in Erbil of ‘We are all citizens’ in which activists address the division between groups and religious links in Iraq) – or watch this flashmob which addressed the monitoring of the free expression of the will of people in Vanadzor, Armenia during the election period.

Watch Edgar’s masterclass and be inspired! I know we were (which explains why everyone started calling him the professor):



Our network consists of numerous activists from all over the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Many of the activists that were present were not portrayed out of security concerns.

Nevertheless, the Activist Academy and our network are being developed as we speak but we always need more people to share our movement! Together we can become 1001 powers for peaceful change, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Do you want to be part of our movement? Get involved and follow us on Twitter [@peaceactivism] and Facebook.