non-violence + 3.5%

How many people does it take to change an organization or a society?

Minority groups need 25% to influence the majority in a society. But it only takes 10% if the group is committed with unshakeable belief. Inside an organization, the right mix of people requires only 3% to influence 85% of their colleagues. There is more information about these figures here — 25-10-3

Harvard University Professor Erica Chenoweth’s research is influencing protest movements with her findings — in first being non-violent, and secondly understanding how many people have to get involved with the movement. In the USA this would be just over 11 million people. In Canada it would be 1.3 million.

“Looking at hundreds of campaigns over the last century, Chenoweth found that nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns. And although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.” —BBC: The 3.5% Rule

These percentages are like the network effects when a good or service has more value the more that other people have it or use it. At a certain number of users or customers, the industry leader is in an unassailable position. For example, once Facebook reached a certain number, it was impossible to directly compete with the company, and it became a monopoly. So understanding the numbers is mission critical, for capitalists as well as change movements.

“There weren’t any campaigns that had failed after they had achieved 3.5% participation during a peak event,” says Chenoweth – a phenomenon she has called the “3.5% rule”. Besides the People Power movement, that included the Singing Revolution in Estonia in the late 1980s and the Rose Revolution in Georgia in the early 2003 … Chenoweth points out that nonviolent protests also have fewer physical barriers to participation. You do not need to be fit and healthy to engage in a strike, whereas violent campaigns tend to lean on the support of physically fit young men … Violent movements, on the other hand, require a supply of weapons, and tend to rely on more secretive underground operations that might struggle to reach the general population. —BBC: The 3.5% Rule

The only protest I have ever attended, for early French Immersion in school (2008)

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