Addressing Violent Inter-Group Conflict from the Bottom Up?
Cyrus Samii, New York University
Thomas Zeitzoff, American University
Review paper for Social Issues and Policy Review
Every year governments, NGO's and for profit companies spend millions of dollars on “people-to-people” peace-building programs or intergroup contact interventions in conflict-ridden societies (e.g., Peacebuilding and reconciliation, 2014; Football for hope, 2014). The assumption behind many of these programs is that they will help transform conflict-ridden societies into more peaceful ones. Despite these substantial amounts of support for micro-level conflict mitigation interventions, theories of change that go from micro interventions to macro effects have not been thoroughly elaborated. Similarly, few attempts have been made to link together scholarly literatures on micro-level interventions and macro-level change. Therefore little is known as to whether effects of these programs ever go beyond improving the attitudes of immediate program beneficiaries and contribute to mitigating hostility more broadly. These gaps make it hard for program implementers and policy makers to evaluate the potential for micro-level conflict mitigation interventions to contribute to conflict mitigation at the macro level.
We are currently writing a review essay that attempts to bridge this knowledge gap by studying causal mechanisms through which micro-level interventions might contribute to macro-level conflict mitigation. This essay reviews micro-to-macro theoretical mechanisms proposed in the literature, assesses evidence on such mechanisms, suggests ways to further our understanding of such processes, and draws out policy implications. It synthesizes research in psychology and political science to draw out relevant linkages.