Helping to pave the way for democratic renewal in the United States and abroad
Deepening political polarization in the United States is a profound threat to the American people and to the very core of American democracy. As polarization worsens, it will continue to undermine the social fabric of the nation, drive Americans further apart, and make it more difficult to find collaborative ways to address urgent challenges.
To address this crisis, there is a pressing need to better understand the roles that psychological forces and identity-based polarization play to shape our fears, anxieties, and increasing distrust of each other.
With these insights, built on rigorous research and analysis, we hope to better understand the causes of social division and develop new approaches to strengthen social cohesion and American democracy.
STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY UPDATES
- NEW RESEARCH (October, 2022): Democrats and Republicans significantly underestimate opposing parties’ support for key democratic norms
- INTERVENTION RESULTS (September, 2022): Video designed to reduce toxic polarization named a top intervention by the Strengthening Democracy Challenge at Stanford University
To address these challenges, BC combines 30 years of conflict resolution experience with brain and behavioral science to understand the causes of social division and deepening polarization in the United States.
We conduct research, design and test new interventions with leading scientists and practitioners, and produce cutting edge publications that help shape new directions in the field of democratic renewal and social cohesion.
In partnership with leading social scientists, practitioners, and community leaders, we carry out research to better understand the drivers of toxic polarization, rising support for authoritarianism, and deepening social division. In addition to identifying the dynamics that shape our division, we design new, scalable interventions with the goal of strengthening democracy and social cohesion.
We design programming to reduce identity-based threats and support for political violence, and promote respect for democratic norms and institutions.
We further test and redesign interventions to support democratic norms, institutions, and reduce partisan animosity and support for political violence.
America’s Divided Mind
Following the release of the America’s Divided Mind report, Beyond Conflict expanded its focus on identity-based polarization to explore the range of psychological drivers of social division that threaten American democracy. Our 2022 report, Renewing American Democracy, distills the latest social science research on social identity and division into a practically focused frame. Much of our work is designed to apply social science to practical approaches toward transformational change and democratic renewal in the US and globally. Our current research and initiatives explore how to meaningfully reduce levels of identity threat in a way that increases the effectiveness of cross-group dialogue and negotiations and unpack how social identity conflicts impact an individual’s willingness to adhere to democratic norms.
Contested Histories: Memory and Repair
In partnership with the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation, among others, Beyond Conflict is spearheading a multi-year U.S. initiative focused on historical memory and repair. This interdisciplinary effort aims to identify the principles, processes, and best practices for dealing with public memorials and symbols of contested histories, ultimately producing a context-specific, evidence-based, and trauma-informed process for use by community leaders, institutions, historical commissions, and elected officials. The initiative will lead to the first-ever national conferences on contested histories in the U.S., in addition to producing an interactive digital resource hub, and provide strategic support for communities seeking additional guidance on conflict resolution at the nexus of contentious public memorials.
Movements for Social Change
Translating insights from clinical psychology, social psychology, and peacebuilding, this initiative explores how trauma—acute, chronic, and intergenerational—impacts the strategic and tactical choices of social movements. This includes efforts to expand understanding of the role of collective action in collective healing. In partnership with Humanity United, Beyond Conflict is also distilling learning from brain and behavioral science to develop evidence-based guidance for use by advocates globally to inform their messaging strategies concerning their movement’s overarching goals and chosen approach.