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Bridge Media: FHI 360’s signature approach to peacebuilding

December 03, 2012

People use stories to define themselves and reflect how they see others. Media — television, film, radio, and print — provide powerful tools for people to continually make and remake those stories. Bridge Media, FHI 360's signature approach to peacebuilding, taps the power of storytelling and media to bring together ethnic groups in conflict.

"Our extensive media experience confirms that mass media is one of the most effective means to reach youth and the general population," said Michael Kott, vice president and director of FHI 360's Center for Civil Society and Governance.

Cameraman

Under the Bridge Media approach, FHI 360 experts form inter-ethnic media production teams from divided, war-scarred communities. Together, these teams create compelling programs designed to promote tolerance and reconciliation and to reduce

mistrust, violence and stereotypes. FHI 360's media and conflict mediation specialists partner with local producers, editors and technicians to establish and strengthen their production skills.

The approach uses a variety of formats such as reality TV, soap operas, news magazines and documentaries. Reality TV in particular is a powerful tool, depicting real people working through real issues and ultimately promoting messages of mutual respect and acceptance. One reality TV series that Bridge Media produced, CooperaTiva, showed inter-ethnic teams of Serbian and Albanian youth in Kosovo competing against each other in a contest that required collaboration and teamwork to win.

"Peace happens when neighbors learn to work together and see tangible benefits of cooperation," said Kott. "Our shows use commercial television strategies to open doors of neighbors' houses to get them not only to talk, but also to solve problems together."

FHI 360 experts have also implemented Bridge Media initiatives with local partners in divided contexts as diverse as Liberia and Sri Lanka.

"Sustainable and steadfast peace can be achieved only if the groups in conflict understand each other's perspectives," Kott said. "We believe that increasing opportunities for inter-ethnic communication is critical."

Bridge Media:

  • empowers media professionals to open channels of information exchange between divided communities
  • partners with local media to ground the work in the local context and to select the format that will most effectively reach and influence the targeted audience
  • facilitates a participatory, inter-community process to develop and create media programming, emphasizing trust and open communication
  • disseminates the content in each community, in multiple languages, through a mix of broadcasts and narrowcasts that involve local media right from the beginning
  • promotes peacebuilding through outreach activities such as inter-community discussion groups, national-level screenings and school curricula development