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Josef Korbel School of International StudiesSié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security & Diplomacy



Civil Action and Violence

This program explores nonviolent action in violent settings, with a particular focus on non-state, nonviolent actors as drivers of security outcomes worldwide. Recent events in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere make clear that neither government policymakers nor various non-state actors on the ground have a good understanding of nonviolent action and its consequences for violence. Those on the ground rarely grasp the broader implications of their actions and high levels of government mostly ignore nonviolent actors, preferring to interface with their counterparts or relevant armed actors. Empirically-grounded research by scholars engaging with both governmental and non-governmental policy actors promises to address this lack of understanding and generate new innovations in theory and practice.

Project Partner

The program is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York as part of its "Rigor and Relevance Initiative" aimed at improving the transfer of research and expertise between higher education and the policy world in the area of global affairs.

Research Project

The core research project is an original, comparative investigation into the effects of nonviolent action by non-state actors in conflict settings. The nonviolent action of non-state actors— local civilians, local and transnational businesses, and transnational NGOs, (including advocacy and implementing organizations)—affect stability in conflict zones and the prospects for post-conflict development and governance. The project analyzes the behavior of these actors in contexts of civil war to better inform efforts to shape security environments, reduce asymmetric violence, and create conditions for long-term peace and stability.

This project includes nine case studies about civil action in violent settings:

Research Team

  • Deborah Avant, Professor, and Sié Chéou-Kang Chair
  • Erica Chenoweth, Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard University 
  • Rachel Epstein, Professor
  • Cullen Hendrix, Professor
  • Oliver Kaplan, Associate Professor
  • Timothy Sisk, Professor

Building a Research Community

The project aims to cultivate an engaged research community producing and disseminating research focused broadly on the array of actors and strategies in violent settings and their consequences for violence and resilience. Learn more about our:

In order for engaged research to become fully embraced by academia, the Sié Center is also developing guidance for considering policy relevance in tenure and promotion processes. 

Policy Dialogues

The program includes a number of events to facilitate engagement between academic and policy communities at all levels. Video recordings from many of these events are available: 

In addition, a research seminar series fosters discussion on works-in-progress, with the aim of establishing an ongoing exchange between members of the academic community at the Josef Korbel School and innovative researchers from other institutions. 

Policy Engagement

The project is moving the academy closer to the policy world both substantively and procedurally. This engagement model rests on a central premise: pathways from research to policymaking—and from lesson learned back to research—are outcomes of interactive learning and knowledge sharing among these communities. Scholarship is critical to informing policy, and vice versa.

Furthermore, we define policymakers broadly to include not only formal government decision makers, but also a broad array of non-traditional, non-state actors -- such as leaders and activists in business and civil society. Our work creates and strengthens our linkages with these non-traditional policymakers and between them and government actors. 

To these ends, the Sié Center:

  • Makes rapid response funds available for faculty at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies to travel and engage with policy makers on current events.
  • Publishes Quickfacts and Policy Briefs to translate research into actionable steps for policy makers.
  • Publishes the weekly blog Denver Dialogues, hosted on the award-winning Political Violence at a Glance, to connect current events with academic research. 

Case Study Policy Briefs and Author Videos


How development actors can support non-violent communal strategies in insurgencies 

Basque Country, Spain









Doing Business Amid Criminal Violence: Companies' Strategies in Monterey, Nuevo León


Northern Ireland

The Impact of Civil Action on Levels of Violence: Comparing Communities During Northern Ireland's Troubles