Applying Cohesion Strategies in Practice
Once we have developed strategies that can target identity-based division, these must be transformed into real world projects. The below examples demonstrate ways in which identity-based strategies can be turned into practical applications to counter division and build peace and cohesion.
- Strategy 1: Building Public Dialogue (Adrienne Lemon from Search for Common Ground)
- Strategy 2: Self-Identification and Agency ( Tiffany Fairey, Photographer (KCL))
This example from Burundi in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide highlights the importance of building public dialogue. In Burundi challenges continue based on a lack of trust in the political system. SFCG tries to facilitate public spaces for people to speak about these issues. They also work with the media and public figures to encourage responsible reporting that does not reignite division or negative narratives.
Search for Common Ground is a peace-building NGO operating in 35 countries around the world. An example of how they approach peacebuilding through identity comes from Burundi. In Burundi, though a peace accord was signed between ethnic groups, challenges continue based on a lack of trust in the political system.
SCFG have been involved in creating platforms for dialogue, communication and diplomacy in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide. SFCG focuses on using perceptions and narratives to shift social norms. Being an external body offers impartiality, which can be useful for the people they work with.
SFCG has implemented the following strategies:
- Focused in a long-term sense on struggles that everyone has in common: such as economic issues and lack of access to education.
- Facilitated public spaces for people to speak about these issues together.
- Worked with the media and public figures to encourage responsible reporting that does not reignite division or negative narratives.
- Tried to strengthen intergenerational links in the community to foster long term change.
This example of working with marginalised communities to create photographic representations illustrates the importance of self-identification and agency. Communities whose identities have been fixed or thrust upon them by external labels or categories use photographic images to undermine and challenge these labels, as a strategy to create counter narratives and to reassert and define themselves.
Dr Fairey looks at the role of art and imagery in simplifying as well as pluralising identity, and the role of art and images in mediating identity. Her work is concerned with how art makes identities messy, and how it allows identities to be reimagined.
Dr Fairey works with marginalised communities whose identities have been fixed or thrust upon them by (often negative) external labels or categories. The main problem for communities is being defined by a single identity. For example, when a community was defined as “starving” through the use of famine imagery, they had less of a problem with the imagery and more of a
problem with being defined only through this lens, reducing them to being a hungry person and nothing more.
The capacity for self-identification is important and can be achieved through art-based mediums. Dr Fairey has implemented the following strategies:
- Encouraging communities to create their own photographic images to undermine and challenge these labels. Here images are a strategy to create counter narratives and allow those identity groups to reassert and define themselves.
- Fostering a youth project in the post-conflict Balkans, including the development of an online platform for youth driven citizen journalism, and a youth culture magazine.
- Working with London-based migrant youth who took their own photos to represent their journey from their own perspective, focusing on relatable elements of their everyday life such as shopping or studying.