Turning the Tide

Turning the Tide (TTT) is a training programme run by Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW, British Friends). It aims to help people use the power of nonviolence to ‘turn the tide’ of injustice, oppression and disempowerment and to build an inclusive, sustainable and fair world. They offer workshops, speakers, advice and resources.  They also publish a periodic journal, Making Waves.

The TTT website describes nonviolence thus:

Nonviolence is a way of actively confronting injustice. Not doing nothing, not responding violently, not running away; but struggling creatively to transform the situation. It's about doing conflict better; bringing about change without doing harm.

QPSW formally set up Turning the Tide in 1994.

In 1992, the QPS (former name for QPSW) Programme Co-ordinator, Catharine Perry, attended an international gathering of trainers in nonviolence, on behalf of QPS’s Peace Committee. It became apparent that Britain was some way behind other countries in terms of the amount of nonviolence training available. On her return, the Peace Committee embarked on a series of ‘nonviolence consultations’, to find out about nonviolence groups and activities around the country.

The idea of a nonviolence centre was mooted and in 1993, the ‘Centre for Nonviolent Social Change’ Exploratory Group, met. They defined nonviolent social change as a package of tools, methodologies and strategies for the waging of spiritually based political struggle (‘the Lamb’s War’), which seeks to minimise damage and care for all people involved. They noted that:

There are not just the two traditional responses to violence: ‘fight or flight’; there is a third way which requires careful analysis, a developed strategy and an understanding of power.

The idea of a fully-fledged centre for non-violence never came to fruition.  Instead, the Turning the Tide programme for training in non-violence was developed.

The Turning the Tide Gold Book of Strategic And Policy Decisions states:

The Programme was created at a time when activists from the 1980s were feeling powerless, public services were being drastically cut, with people feeling their jobs and their values threatened, many people were feeling totally disaffected with mainstream politics. There was a perceived need to pass on the learning from the peace movement of the 80s to the environmental activists just bursting onto the political scene.

Their website lists the underlying principles of their work as:
  • Being willing to take action for justice without giving into or mimicking violence
  • Respecting and caring for everyone involved in a conflict, including our opponent
  • Refusing to harm, damage or degrade people / living things / the earth as a means of achieving goals
  • Acting in ways consistent with the ends we seek
  • Being prepared to take suffering on yourself without inflicting it on others
  • Believing that everyone is capable of change and no-one has a monopoly of the truth
  • Recognising the importance of training so that nonviolence thinking and behaviour become part of our everyday lives.

They offer training ranging from one-day workshops and ‘networkshops’ (to build partnerships between organisations), to comprehensive year-long courses. Workshops cover topics such as nonviolence, power and change; spirituality and activism; campaigning and organising; working together; direct action; and building an alternative society.

Turning the Tide has worked with groups in Britain and around the world, including G8/G20 protesters, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and Peace Brigades International.

Turning the Tide has been working in Kenya since 2009, in partnership with the African Great Lakes Initiative and Change Agents for Peace International to help local activists stand up for human rights and social justice. Turning the Tide has also worked in collaboration with the East Africa Peace Building Programme, an initiative of QPSW (Quaker Peace and Social Witness).   They provide an extensive programme of training courses teaching non-violent direct action, as well as teaching several Kenyans to be TTT trainers.  This work complements programmes such as Alternatives to Violence (AVP), which teaches nonviolent ways of handling violent feelings, Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) which deals with individual and community trauma, and Transformative Mediation which trains people in mediation skills.

Further Reading and Credits