The project "STOP - Storytelling against Polarization" is a 28 months Erasmus+ strategic partnership for adult education involving 5 organizations in 5 countries: Storytelling Centre (NL), Kepes (HU), La Xixa Teatre (SP), Sagapò (IT) and Hasat (TR).
Context and Needs
Most Europeans believe their countries are more polarised than 10 years ago, and people increasingly perceive and describe politics and society in terms of “Us” versus “Them.” This phenomenon has become especially prominent in the countries of this consortium (the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Turkey) in the last decade.
The more polarized a society, the more people view difficult issues through a tribal lens rather than in terms of the common good of all. People grow less able to comprehend opposing views, they get increasingly prone to regarding dissenters as incompetent and depraved, or at worst motivated by bad intentions.
Despite growing polarization, common grounds still exist and this can give hope that creating an efficient intervention is possible. People belonging to opposing groups often overestimate their differences ("false polarization”), believing that the two groups are farther apart in their views than they actually are.
There is a need for tools that can effectively deal with intergroup conflicts, that offer low-barrier and cost efficient ways to engage ordinary citizens more meaningfully, that create opportunities to foster empathy by exposing people to others with different backgrounds and beliefs to their own.
Our intention is to develop methods and materials that could be used to reduce polarization in the local communities. The developed methods/materials should be easy to sustain and to be upscaled and useful for a wide range of adult educators, organizations, or even by the general population (without the need for trainers/facilitators).
The main methodology of the project is Storytelling, which we consider a powerful tool to tackle intergroup conflicts because:
- It gives equal status for participants (no story is more important than another)
- It provides a platform for ongoing personal interaction between participants
- It can offer a common goal towards which all participants work for (to better understand their relationships and the factors that shape it)
- It gives opportunities for the participants to uncover shared identities
- It can focus on the discovery of core beliefs and values and participants can create new narratives by the help of which they reframe their positions
- It gives space for individuals to share their experiences in a way that touches others on a personal level
- It helps to build trust between participants and raise their interest in each other
- It avoids theoretical debates, exchanges of beliefs about how lives should be lived – that could raise resistance and hostility
- It offers techniques to deal with topics that divide groups in a non-offensive way
on polarization that explores the differences and similarities in the narratives, attitudes, values, fears, wishes, needs of people belonging to different „tribes” in the participating 5 countries
A Method Book
on how storytelling can be used to combat polarization, offering theory and guidelines that could be used as a source for further interventions
A Storytelling Tabletop
that helps players/participants to tell personal stories and find common grounds
A Storytelling Training Toolkit
that makes it possible for adult educators/storytellers to carry out storytelling workshops focusing on reducing polarization by building trust, finding common grounds but also by tackling conflicts between members of opposing groups.
During the project we will be holding interviews, focus groups, workshops and trainings, as well as creating a tabletop game. All of our activities will be shared via our social networks, mailing lists and websites.
If you are interested in participating in any of this activity, please get in touch with the partner organisation working in your country. We will be happy to welcome you on board!
adult educators/storytellers/community workers and those professionals whose work is linked to conflict resolution and community building (e.g. faith communities, municipalities, neighborhood organizations)
high school/university teachers of sociology, political science, pedagogy, psychology, community development