We conduct research and interventions to address polarization on social and digital media in contexts across the globe.
Our research explores both the positive and negative roles of social media in conflict contexts, developing a deeper understanding of its potential as both a conflict driver and a peacebuilding tool. Our interventions directly address polarization on social media, using non-violent techniques to foster a shift to constructive dialogue. Findings from this work continue to inform the key functions that digital technologies can play in peacebuilding and adjacent fields such as mediation.
The Commons is Build Up’s tested and successful intervention to address polarization in social media in the USA. We first piloted The Commons project in 2017. Throughout 2019, we ran a scaled-up version of the project, testing a variety of strategies, and our evaluation concluded that we have designed and tested a model that delivers results and impact at a reasonable cost and can be scaled. In 2020-21, we are adapting this model with an explicit focus around topics, events, and geographies relevant to the 2020 election and post-election period, and to scale it to reach more people.
Maskani Commons – a Kenya Digital Peacebuilding Initiative
The Maskani Commons is a collaboration between 6 public universities in Western Kenya, the Center for Media, Democracy, Peace and Security (CMDPS) and Build Up. The project adapted The Commons approach to digital conflict in the United States and contextualized it for Kenya. Sixty students received training and accompaniment as they intervened on polarizing issues of politics, ethnicity and Covid-19 on their own social media feeds.
Strategic Partnership with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue
Since 2020, we have partnered with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue to implement programs that address digital conflict in multiple contexts. In Libya, we conducted an analysis of social media behaviours, content and actors to determine how false information, graphic content, hateful and violent speech and polarization is expressed online and how it affects the conflict on the ground to inform future digital interventions. In Nigeria, we are working together to integrate social media in HD’s Conflict Early Warning and Early Response System (CEWERS). In Sudan, our collaboration aims to explore ways that social media could enhance inclusion in town hall meetings and political dialogue processes and online approaches to tackle hate speech, misinformation or incitement to violence.
Analysing refugee-host community narratives on social media in Lebanon
In November 2018, UNDP commissioned Build Up to conduct a comprehensive mapping and analysis of Syrian refugee-host community relations in Lebanon (including narratives, sentiments and amount of traffic) on Facebook and Twitter. The final report covers findings from a desk review, qualitative interviews and analysis of over 2.6 million Tweets and 14,734 Facebook posts and comments. Building on this analysis, the report also serves to identify challenges and opportunities for UNDP to integrate social media monitoring into its programming.
Strategy Support to Stonewall
As the UK’s leading LGBT rights organization, Stonewall often deals with conflict among diverse stakeholders. Build Up worked with Stonewall staff to analyze how conflict was showing up on social media and introduce a number of innovative policies and tools (including non-violent communications and social media listening) to strategize about how to overcome challenges in new ways.
In 2015, Internews launched NewsThatMoves, a news website for people who are displaced or seeking asylum, especially in Greece and the Balkans, that produces independent, verified information people can use. Internews contracted Build Up to design, develop and launch the NewsThatMoves site and related social media campaigns. We did this until August 2016; the site is now entirely run by Internews. The site has been recognised as a critical resource for refugees.
Cyprus Dialogue Forum
Build Up conducted a pilot design for the Cyprus Dialogue Forum to investigate whether and how an analysis of conversations on Facebook and Twitter could inform dialogue discussions.