WE ARE ON A MISSION
To innovate ways to reduce violent conflict between hostile groups
In the last decade, 90% of civil wars occurred in countries that already had a civil war in the last 30 years.
How people think —
GOOD NEWS: DEMOCRACY IS RESILIENT.
History shows that democracy and the will of a people are deeply resilient. To meet this moment, there is an urgent need to better understand the psychological forces that shape our fears, anxieties, outrage, and distrust of each other.
Intercommunal conflict is only increasing in the world. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, the frequency of ongoing intercommunal conflicts increased from 2019 –2020. These conflicts have resulted in the destruction of lives and properties, wrecking of livelihoods, displacement of people, fear and trauma of millions of people. What is more, the continuation of violent conflict has been recognized as an obstacle to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This has pushed policy makers to focus on preventing violent conflict more effectively.
Pairing traditional methods for strengthening democracy with an understanding of the psychology of what drives us apart can expand our collective imagination and shift social and behavioral norms to build sustainable social cohesion and democratic legitimacy.
Through collaboration with our local partners and pilot testing our assumptions, we diagnose the cognitive, psychological and behavioral factors that drive the specific conflict.
Through a locally-led process, we accompany our partners in designing behavioral change programs that address the identified conflict drivers. These programs aim at improving intergroup attitudes and behaviors to ultimately build and achieve lasting peace.
We redefine the original problem using research findings to scale up programming, and provide training and results to practitioners, policymakers and decisionmakers for better adoption of social and behavioral change factors in their contexts.
Our reports detail findings from our rigorous scientific research, presenting you with actionable, evidence-based recommendations and resources to understand and counter destructive, deepening division, and renew democracy in the US.
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CURRENT AND UPCOMING PROJECTS
Our research and programming is organized around three psychological underpinnings of democracy: (1) political tolerance; (2) support for the protection of civil liberties across all social identity groups; and, (3) public interest in participating in the process of government. Applying insights from, and developing innovations based in, brain and behavioral science is essential to resolving our current civic health crisis. To address these multifaceted challenges, Beyond Conflict combines relevant and rigorous applied research together with practitioner insights in a way that directly informs national-level policymaking and grassroots programming.
AMERICA’S DIVIDED MIND (ADM)
ADM explores the psychology of polarization and the core roles identity and perceptions play in our deepening divide. In addition to our ADM report in 2020, and its counterpart report, Renewing American Democracy, published in 2022, Beyond Conflict has developed and tested a series of media interventions designed to reduce toxic polarization. Among these include a video found by the Stanford Polarization and Social Change Lab to effectively reduce support for political violence, partisan animosity, and anti-democratic attitudes in a recent nationwide study. We continue to develop videos and online games to address misperceptions that Democrats and Republicans have on a series of issues and attitudes, including support for democratic norms, feelings of like and dislike, and dehumanization.
CONTESTED HISTORIES: Memory and Repair
In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation, among others, Beyond Conflict is spearheading a multi-year US initiative focused on historical memory and repair. This effort aims to aggregate and identify the principles, processes, and best practices for contending with public memorials to and symbols of contested histories, ultimately producing context-specific, evidence-based processes for use by community leaders, institutions, historical commissions, and elected officials.
PSYCHOLOGICAL UNDERPINNINGS OF DEMOCRACY
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 while distilling learning from brain and behavioral science to develop evidence-based guidance for use by advocates globally.
MOVEMENTS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
Beyond Conflict is constructing a novel, evidence-informed framework for increasing the effectiveness of democracy strengthening initiatives globally by focusing on the psychological underpinnings of democracy. A practical resource guide that translates the framework for use in programming will be developed for utilization by individuals and organizations planning, funding, and implementing related efforts.