People to People Dialogue
through Digital Platforms

Framework and step by step guide

Why Online?

Digital platforms have become part of our lives. We communicate online as much or perhaps even more frequently than we do in person. When designing a people-to-people (P2P) dialogue, project, we must take in consideration that communication between participants will take place not only in the “offline” face-to-face meetings, but also in between those meetings through a WhatsApp or a Facebook group since participants will be curious and interested to get to know each other. Therefore, to avoid miscommunication, it will be better for project’s staff to take an active role in the online communication and include it as an integral part of the project. Moreover, in times when “offline” communication is difficult, online communication can and should serve as a substitute.

Although it is commonly believed that social media has a negative impact on communication, once it is carefully designed and monitored, it can actually improve and make P2P dialogue projects more effective. Digital platforms can improve participant recruitment, create balanced discussions, provide unique evaluation methodologies, and overall assist in the process of changing attitudes and behaviors.

Digital P2P dialogue projects can be very successful, but they require in-depth preparation and careful implementation.

Where to Start

To effectively apply any peace building project or activity to digital platforms, the first step will be to understand how communication on digital platforms is different than communication in physical spaces. The following terms represent the characteristics of digital communication:

Each of these terms influences the four core principles to follow when planning and implementing an online P2P project:

  1. Strategy

Platform - private and closed Facebook or WhatsApp groups, or a specified application. Choose the easy, familiar, and accessible option for staff and participants

Rules and norms - decide on what is allowed or not, what are the red lines – deletion of posts or removal of participants from group.

Goals - What do you wish to achieve on the individual and group levels? What would be psychological and practical-tangible goals and how would they be applied and measured online?

Digital structure - plan the different discussion topics, phases and steps stretched on the project’s timeline, according to the project goals. An online P2P project could include: introductions, learning online courses, discussions about issues in dispute, discussions about learning materials, social events and more.

2. Process

Methodology: adjust your Theory of Change to digital communication. What kind of online method will make the project participants change their perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors toward the other?

Balance: use digital platforms’ features to balance the conversations and process so all parties to the conflict feel equal in power.

Use “offline” meetings (or video conferencing when not possible to meet in person) to balance the digital conversations and complement difficult online conversations with an emphasis on shared interests, empathy and social connections.

Evaluation: decide on a digital evaluation methodology and evaluate the project throughout its progresses and once it ends.

3. Managing difficult conversations

Adjust “offline” mediation and facilitation methodologies to fit digital platforms and use the different digital communication means: text, picture, audio, GIF’s and emojis, as moderation tools.

4. Leadership

Following guidelines and instructions is more difficult when we cannot see and “feel” the project leaders. Therefore, project managers, coordinators and facilitators should establish themselves as leaders – fully trusted and respected by all participants, throughout the entire project

*) The timeframe and structure differ according to project type and goals.

Source of information: Arik Segal