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Europa: Expanding Humanity's Access to Storytelling

Europa democratizes storytelling through a game-based platform designed to foster a more peaceful world based on mutual cooperation.

Photo of Kiran Singh Sirah
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

When a man walks into a Jewish school in Toulouse, a Sikh place of worship in Wisconsin, a church in Charleston, or a mosque in Christchurch and opens fire. When these atrocious acts are committed, it is often because these killers were fed propaganda urging them to turn on their fellow human beings. When our world is filled with images, leaflets, and videos that preach violence, we learn to hate and fear. We let go of what connects us to our humanity: our stories. When Derek Black left his white nationalist ideology behind to break bread at a Sabbath table and hear the stories of his Jewish neighbors. When Bassam Abu-Sharif, the prominent second in command of the PLO and Uzi Mahnaimi, an intelligence officer for Mossad, listened to each other’s stories and helped orchestrate the 1993 Oslo Peace accords. When youth were targeted by fundamentalist groups but joined Erin Marie Saltman’s Youth Innovation Labs instead, they told stories and crafted new narratives to combat extremist ideologies. When we engage in story-telling and story-listening, we discover how other people travel on paths similar to our own. Stories have the power to transcend borders, time, and space. Stories reveal the diversity of traditions that are an important part of our everyday lived experiences. A story helps create a sense of belonging and kindle empathy. Stories empower, enrich us, and can help us build communities to realize the power of change, together. As political difference and other emerging divisions rock our world, the International Storytelling Center (ISC) is dedicated to the urgent work of tapping into the power of storytelling to build a shared sense of values and purpose. To that end, the ISC is creating a game that helps young people across cultural spaces or yet to meet in person, can imagine and build a future where stories help foster a sense of building a community, together. Europa envisions a future where community is built, through stories.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Washington County, Tennessee, USA and Melton, Victoria, Australia. Although Europa will ultimately be available worldwide, the initial prototype of the game will be used in two similar communities on opposite sides of the globe. Washington County and Melton both have exponentially increasing immigrant populations as well as large populations of white supremacists. Europa's goal is to foster each group's capacity for communication and understanding in order to build peace and compassion.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

We often lack the resources to understand and value difference. This deficit can lead us to ignore those around us, though at worst it stokes fear and distrust fueling hatred, discrimination, and violence. Storytelling is humanity’s most important tool in combating fear and distrust. ISC is creating a platform that connects people through a game in which players become s/heroes of peace through community storytelling. By sharing stories, players learn to value difference rather than fear it.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

We live in a new era of disruption, with conflict and human displacement outstripping the power of the international community to respond. Issues that need global cooperation, are exacerbated by the fact that over 1.5 billion people live under threat of violent conflict. While new technologies offer the promise of a more connected world, they also raise concerns as disinformation and hate speech divide societies, disrupt democracies, and are used to incite violence. Front-line peacebuilders are bridging differences and healing communities around the world, yet we face a serious gap in how to resource peace and conflict resolution. As global conflict proliferates and increasingly affects everyone’s everyday lived experiences, our major challenge is to create systems of peace – to interconnect the full spectrum of norms, institutions, and formal and informal networks and agencies that can manage conflict before it escalates into the kind of fury that poisons future generations.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The target community will gain opportunities to be included in the larger culture of the region. Through this digital storytelling initiative, these communities will be empowered to craft and tell their stories, and creatively engaged in sharing their stories in "partnership" with one another. The stories told will bridge gaps and build connections, and allow a new vision of solutions for current and future community challenges. They will benefit by knowing their stories have been realized, their voices have been heard, and the wider community not only knows their community has a story but this story is valuable and vital to a more engaged and active sense of being part of something new and diverse.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

As the son of refugees, ISC President, Kiran Singh Sirah, has worked hard to break through barriers. “At the root of discrimination,” Sirah notes, “is the attempt to make others feel their experiences don’t matter. Once we break through that barrier, though, and we see that our story does indeed matter, it’s not a large leap to understand that other people’s matter, too.” Though the promise of the internet to connect us and provide platforms for broader participation in governance is compelling and desired by most of humanity, too often the internet exacerbates the problems of traditional mass media, fostering a tribal sense of “me and mine vs. you and yours” rather than a global “us.” We need to connect our local peacebuilding capacities to global initiatives, and though we have the tools to do so, we haven’t yet figured out how to leverage technology to deploy them on a global scale. Europa aims to solve this problem and be the digital tool to build bridges rather than erect walls.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The city of Melton, has active white supremacist groups and high rates of family violence in Victoria, Australia, high unemployment, and poor educational attainment. Melton also has a rapidly growing diverse community (80%+ recent migrants in some suburbs), one of the fastest growing Aboriginal communities in the country, and some amazing diversity of all sorts. Similarly, East Tennessee and much of Appalachia have similar demographic challenges and similar possibilities. Washington County’s population is 88.4% white, 12.2% POC, and the larger Northeast Tennessee population is 94% white. 40% of startup farmers are Latino. As more minority populations move into the region, citizens must prepare for the inevitable changes this may bring.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Over 2.5 billion people globally play digital games regularly. This phenomenon is steadily increasing in developed and developing countries. We see a clear path for digital games to foster connection between people yet to meet in person, or between people in crisis, on the move, and settled/established communities. Participating in game-based platforms like ours will help people feel connected to a diverse community that is possible. Given the centrality of storytelling to the human condition, building a game-based platform for storytelling will be a powerful tool to build social empathy and prevent conflict. As our most powerful tool for sharing experience and combating misinformation, storytelling is central to community building, especially for marginalized groups and people on the move. Being able to have their story heard and understood will help people connect through shared this shared tradition.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

In creating Europa, the International Storytelling Center (ISC) is bringing together powerful partners to revolutionize the narrative of peace—Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP), Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), and Purdue Agile Strategy Lab (PASL). Each member is uniquely positioned to leverage and scale the overall solution: ISC is the world’s leading institution on leveraging the power of story to enrich the lives of people worldwide. AfP hosts a network of over 100 organizations in 153 countries working to resolve conflict and create sustainable peace. IEP, the world’s foremost think-tank dedicated to developing metrics to analyze peace and quantify its economic value, is home to the Global Peace Index and Positive Peace Index. PASL specializes in strategic doing, helping organizations become more action-oriented while remaining flexible in design and implementation.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

International Storytelling Center

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

As the global leader advocating for the power of story, the International Storytelling Center (ISC) has spent the last 50 years at the forefront of storytelling practice and advocacy. We run the largest storytelling festival in the world, and train teachers, NGOs, and peacebuilders to use the power of story to advocate for community and peace. To enact our vision of a better world through storytelling, we are pushing beyond our physical boundaries to build a virtual platform that will empower individuals to tell their own story, connect people within a community to solve local problems, and to bond communities together to tackle the global crises we face. Each person has their own unique experience and their own unique perspective which means we potentially have billions of ways we can radically shift the narrative towards peace. Storytelling can occur between two people, two communities, or two countries. It is humanity’s birthright and each story holds potential to change the world.

Website URL:

https://www.storytellingcenter.net/

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States of America

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Jonesborough, Tennessee

3 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Zulfiqar  Deo
Team

Kiran Singh Sirah Thanks for sharing the project. We have been looking to use story telling to helping engage the public with the actual refugee experience. At the moment there is a big variation between the actual experience and the perceived experienced. We are also looking to use gaming for this engagement as well. So, be great to see if we can collaborate together to help narrow the misunderstandings that can destroy lives unnecessarily.

This is our project Business financing for refugee entrepreneurs be great to your thoughts regardless.

Photo of Kiran Singh Sirah
Team

Thanks Zulifqar,
Storytelling is most certainly an incredible tool. We see storytelling as a creative art, since it is essentially how we humans form and express our identities, values, beliefs. indeed, when people hear first person stories, it helps to build that empathy connection. We do have resources that are free to use. This project however, if funded, will expand nearly five decades of work, practice, research, in storytelling to strengthen communities, and help build a games based platform, where essentially we help democratize how people tell their own stories, on their own terms. While, building connections to one another. There is certainly scope to build this platform so projects such as yours can utilize it.

Photo of Zulfiqar  Deo
Team

Kiran Singh Sirah Great to hear. Yes, I think a free version would be a good place to start. Look forward to building on this.