Building the Bridge to Peace: Reframing Peace and Peacebuilding

As the humanitarian crisis unfolds in Ukraine, now is the time to have a conversation about global peace and peacebuilding. The FrameWorks Institute, Alliance for Peacebuilding, and PartnersGlobal joined forces to deliver evidence-based recommendations for more effective narrative strategies that build public understanding and support for peacebuilding. The new brief includes:

  • Existing mindsets around peacebuilding
  • Research-based framing recommendations
  • Ideas for applying these frames in discourse & debate

The ongoing work of building bridges across divides must continue if we hope to create a world where conflicts are addressed without resorting to violence. Shifting the narrative of peacebuilding won’t happen overnight. But aligning messaging and consistency within the peacebuilding field will help the public and policymakers better understand what peacebuilding looks like in practice and why it is a productive mindset and policy option. | For access to the full report, please click HERE or read below:


by Julia Roigj and Liz Hume   November 10, 2020

2020 has been a historic and tumultuous year in the United States. The pandemic, mass mobilizations for social justice, and a bitter and polarizing Presidential election finally culminated in the highest voter turnout in our country’s history. While 74 million Americans are celebrating Biden and Harris’s election, 70 million Americans are not, and many are filled with existential dread.

Reflecting on President-elect Biden’s message of healing and unity, what will it take for us to come together? It feels impossible after the last four years of vitriolic divisiveness. However, the deepening divisions in the US have been building long before the 2016 election. According to a report from Brown University this year, the US is polarizing faster than other democracies. If we are indeed at an inflection point, as Biden declared in his acceptance speech, then we must decide how not to cause harm and also contribute meaningfully to depolarization. Building a peaceful society will require addressing the structural inequalities and grievances that drive conflict and polarization AND prioritize restoring relationships and rebuilding trust.

Here are four ways Americans can start building peace today:

1. None of us are immune to the dynamics of polarization. A progressive celebrating the Biden win called on his Twitter followers to reach out to at least one Trump supporter to offer empathy and to find an issue of common ground. He received thousands of outraged responses declaring “the other side” irredeemable. Polarization experts believe in-group and out-group dynamics in a polarized society cause all of us to become the most extreme versions of ourselves, assigning increasingly sinister motives to all those we consider as “other.” Outrage makes us feel closer to our in-group. But each of us can interrogate the effects of polarization on our perceptions. We should now seek our connections as parents, as music fans, or as sports aficionados irrespective of our political leanings.

2. Bridge-building can make polarization worse. Bridge builders can fan the flames of polarization by giving a platform that fuels polarized viewpoints. Researchers caution against efforts to build bridges in deeply polarized environments but rather advise highlighting stories of everyday people who do not necessarily reflect either extreme. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) also tweeted after the election: “So many Trump voters are also working families and believed that he would improve their lives. We must see that they are hurting and fight attempts to divide us as we work to rebuild our beloved nation.” She did not receive the same vitriol, most likely because she highlighted the commonalities of working families trying to improve their lives and called out the people seeking to divide.

3. Time to complexify the narrativeWe all draw on deeply entrenched narratives that our unconscious mind often manifests as common senseWhat is a narrative? They are “a foundational framework for understanding both history and current events, and inform our basic concepts of identity, community, and belonging.” Many live by deep narratives of freedom, faith, and patriotism, while others bring to the foreground narratives of historical oppression, systemic racism, and runaway capitalism that drive inequality and injustice. The divided mainstream and social media also fuel misinformation and can exacerbate seemingly black and white narratives. For example, a viral video of a young man in a MAGA hat in front of the Lincoln Memorial in a perceived confrontation with a Native American man received intense public outrage before a fuller picture of the incident emerged. A peacebuilding approach to social justice must include a commitment to interrogating our own biases, acknowledging different ways of making sense of the world, and promoting more complex narratives that are factual and inclusive of diverse lived experiences.

4. Instead of calling out, calling in: Some activists are already questioning our new President-elect’s focus on national healing as a moderate’s suspicious call for “civility” — or code for not making too many waves in the fight for systemic change. Human rights activists will and should continue to work tirelessly to confront insidious racism, misogyny, xenophobia, anti-gay and transgender discrimination, and inequality in our society. And yet, during this time of such polarization, we must seek to uncover healing tactics for the change we want to see that brings more supporters to our cause(s).

There is a need for human rights activists and peacebuilders to reflect together on how to “call in” those who could join our coalitions and refrain from “calling out” potential allies who may make mistakes or don’t hold the same world views on all issues. For example, a mistake in calling someone by the wrong pronoun is an opportunity for education and dialogue. No one responds well to being criticized or belittled without the follow-up of how they can better understand and participate in societal change on which we agree. Peacebuilders stand up for what is right, but we do so in a way that recognizes the power of restorative justice, what is redeemable in all of us, and the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings.

PartnersGlobalthe Alliance for Peacebuilding, and Humanity United are launching a new initiative to unite Social Justice Activism with Peacebuilding through applied research on polarization, narrative engagement, and taking lessons from effective depolarization initiatives in other deeply divided countries. This inflection point will require all of us to self-reflect on the role we are playing and will continue to play in healing our nation.

Julia Roig is the CEO of PartnersGlobal and the Chair of the Board of the Alliance for Peacebuilding. @Jroig_Partners

Elizabeth (Liz) Hume is the Vice President of the Alliance for Peacebuilding@Lizhume4peace

  February 3, 2020

PartnersGlobal President & CEO Julia Roig discusses the organization’s Engaging Narratives for Peace research and approach. She explains that social change agents must acknowledge their own cognitive biases and mental models in order to avoid further polarization and isolate potential allies. The right narrative framing, however, can help build connections and create change.

She also explores how narrative engagement can contribute to Restorative Advocacy when our goal isn’t to change others’ narrative understanding or identity, but rather to “complexify” narratives, especially in the public sphere. Read more about their work here:

Julia delivered this talk at a Nov. 2018 event convened by Oxfam at the Ford Foundation in New York City.The event brought together a creative, diverse and wide-ranging group of organizations, networks and movements experimenting with the idea of using narratives to open civic space. Watch the full panel here:

  September 24, 2018


PartnersGlobal and the Alliance for Peacebuilding welcomed representatives from multiple industries and organizations to reframe the narrative of peace and peacebuilding.

22 September 2018 — Washington DC: PartnersGlobal, with the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP), hosted an array of global organizations, including co-hosts Generations for Peace and MBC Amal, to celebrate the International Day of Peace at a music-filled “Narratives For Peace” event. Held at SAP Innovation Hub in New York, the evening highlighted the power of creativity to shift narratives, recognizing the pressing need to reframe the importance of peace and peacebuilding for a broader public audience.

On hand were representatives from the United Nations, along with non-profit and private organizations from various industries, including entertainment, marketing, media, the arts, and peacebuilding. Participants spent the evening together to expand the conversation of building peace to a more diverse range of active participants. The celebratory reception gave those present an opportunity to engage with potential new partners in an energetic, dynamic, and creative setting.

In alignment with the event’s focus on young people and the arts, the “Narratives For Peace” event also debuted an original song by 15-year-old Lynn Hayek, a rising Lebanese pop star. Accompanied by a Platinum Records music video depicting youth engaged in peacebuilding programming, the song described the role of unity in building hope for a peaceful future. Lynn was accompanied by the United Voices of NY Gospel Choir, showcasing a diversity and unity of musical styles and cultures. The audience also enjoyed a mix of world music by DJ Warp throughout the evening.

Julia Roig, President of PartnersGlobal said, “It is imperative that we improve the ways we frame the narrative of ‘peace’ so that we can bring in more allies to support a peacebuilding agenda. In doing so, we can create a groundswell of peace-loving citizens and organizations around the world that not only believe in peacebuilding, but also work together to achieve it.” She added, “The International Day of Peace invites us to reflect on the many ways to enhance the values of peacebuilding within a broader sector of society—joining forces to amplify compelling narratives through our diverse voices is one important step we can take in this direction.”

Liz Hume, Acting CEO of AfP, shared, “When we talk about peace, we must recognize that the involvement of everyone—even those not directly involved in a ‘peacebuilding’ industry—is vital. When we unite together using our strengths, we find a broader range of methods available to share the important message of peace, including narrative, poetry, art, and more. Inspiring peace is one of the fundamental principles of constructing the peacebuilding concept in different societies, regardless of context or setting. Peace in these varying contexts helps reach different groups, serving our mission in building sustainable peace worldwide.”

The Narratives For Peace event was held during the ongoing 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which runs through September 27th. PartnersGlobal and AfP are active proponents of Sustainable Development Goal 16 to achieve Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions by 2030, working closely with the Global Alliance for Goal 16 together with the UN Development Program.