People Power Origins
In 1988, as part of a project that later came to be known as PANDA (an acronym representing the Protocol for the Assessment of Nonviolent Action), Dr. Doug Bond began to lead an effort at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs to systematically assess the incidence of nonviolent struggle – also known as people power – throughout the world. Throughout the 1990s project members developed conceptual tools to advance their research, anchored around the PANDA protocol with its data lens sensitive to the contentious and coercive but not yet violent struggle in an effort to generate conflict early warnings on the likely escalation of volatile situations into violence.The purpose of this research project was to determine under what conditions contemporary nonviolent struggle anywhere in the world had been successful in effecting social, political, or economic change, or in resisting tyranny. To the extent that nonviolent struggle was found, evidence was also sought to determine whether this form of people power was spreading and if so, was it viable.
It is significant that this project’s systematic analyses of nonviolent struggle began well before the largely nonviolent revolutions that spread throughout Eastern Europe beginning in 1989. Indeed, the PANDA project was built upon the early, pioneering work of the late Dr. Gene Sharp, a Center Associate from the late 1960s through the early 1990s.
Several lessons became clear to Bond and his research team as they began to assess global news reports of nonviolent struggle. First, nonviolent direct action, no less than violent direct action, was reported in abundance, even by mainstream news media. Second, nonviolent direct action, like its violent counterpart, was variable in its outcomes, with the strategic performance of protagonists, as opposed to structural asymmetry, playing a pivotal role. And third, the tradition of human or hand coding of voluminous electronic news reports posed technical as well as conceptual research challenges.