* Canvas: A group of Serbian activists which founded the Centre for Applied NonViolent Strategies, better known as Canvas, an organisation that trains activists around the world in how to successfully overthrow a dictatorship.
Canvas says it only works with groups with no history of violence: for example, they have refused to work with Hamas or Hizbollah. But they count Georgia, Ukraine and the Maldives (where they helped dissidents end the 30-year rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom) as success stories, and work with activists from nearly 50 other countries, including Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma, Venezuela, Belarus and, recently, Tunisia and Egypt.
Canvas is run by two best friends from the Otpor days, Srdja Popovic, 38, and Slobodan Djinovic, 36.
|Canvas founders Slobodan Djinovic and Srdja Popovic in front of the well-known logo
Djinovic founded Serbia’s first wireless internet provider and gives half of what he earns to keep Canvas afloat. (The other half comes from various NGOs and the UN.) They were 18 and 16 when the savage Yugoslav wars began in 1991, old enough to know that they needed to get rid of Milosevic. Now, they want to take their knowledge and pass it on to the world.
This is done with a staff of “four and a half”, dozens of trainers around the world and an office on Gandhiova (as in Gandhi) Street in New Belgrade. In one corner sits a Canvas worker who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to Tunisia aimed at helping the new leaders into a peaceful transition post-Ben Ali. There is a whiteboard listing places they are targeting next.
It looks more like a Seattle coffeehouse than a revolutionaries’ hive. How, I ask them, have they managed to spread the word from this tiny space to Tahrir Square? Why are people talking about them in Yemen and Algeria?
“When people hear the Serbs are coming,” laughs Popovic, “they want to see us, they want to hear how we did it. We can tell them what worked with us, what did not work in Georgia, what worked in Ukraine. We feel a responsibility to share our knowledge.”
from FT via @lissnup