HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Academic Dean for Faculty Engagement
Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment


Nonviolent action (NVA) campaigns are more frequent now than ever before, yet we know comparatively little about how the demographic composition of nonviolent movements shapes their efficacy, in either the short or long term. Recent studies have examined how participation by key demographic groups—such as ethnic or racial minorities, women, and students—influence nonviolent campaign outcomes. But the effects of both youth and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer + (LGBTQ+) participation on NVA dynamics outcomes remain understudied. As both youth and openly LGBTQ+ populations are continuing to grow globally, it is important to better understand how their participation might be influencing evolving patterns of civil resistance in the 21st century. To that end, this report introduces the Women in Resistance + (WiRe+) dataset. This cross-national data collection effort extends the existing WiRe dataset, which documented women’s participation in civil resistance campaigns, with novel variables capturing global youth and LGBTQ+ participation in maximalist nonviolent campaigns from 1990-2020. Maximalist campaigns are those that seek to overturn the existing government, secede, or establish a newly independent state. In turn, this report provides a correlational analysis of this data that assesses both the causes and effects of youth and LGBTQ+ participation. Several major findings emerge from the analysis: • Youth frontline participation is associated with both an increased likelihood of campaign success and improvements to democracy in the post-campaign period. This latter relationship appears to hold even for campaigns that failed to achieve their initial, maximalist objectives. • Youth movements are no more prone to violent flank formation than movements lacking extensive youth frontline participation, yet they still appear to face more violent repression. This is especially the case when campaigns fail to achieve regime change. • Overt LGBTQ+ participation in NVA campaigns has been relatively rare until recent years. While findings are therefore preliminary, LGBTQ+ participation is strongly associated with youth frontline participation and the presence of youth organizations in social movements. • Although youth participation is associated with broad improvements to democracy (which may in turn bring about positive social change), neither youth nor LGBTQ+ participation is directly associated with improvements to material wellbeing for those groups in post-campaign periods, even if those movements succeed. These findings suggest that engaging young people can help NVA campaigns bring about positive change, even if they ultimately fall short of their maximalist goals. Policymakers and organizing leaders that seek inclusive democratizing impacts should therefore welcome youth and LGBTQ+ participation in protest movements, while remaining cognizant about the real risks of repression. At the same time, movements and their supporters should be more intentional about empowering youth and LGBTQ+ participants with the tools, skills, and enabling environment that these groups need, not just for their immediate participation in NVA campaigns, but also for sustained political advocacy in the years that follow.


Chenoweth, Erica, Zoe Marks, Matthew Cebul, and Miranda Rivers. "Youth and LGBTQ+ Participation In Nonviolent Action." USAID, January 2023.