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Adopting insights from marketing – including psychology, and behavioral sciences – to make grassroots interventions work for peace.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

People are not rational beings, nor calculating automatons. Rather, people are malleable and emotional actors whose decision making and behavior is influenced by complex and mysterious internal workings. Many peacebuilding interventions are based on the assumption that people are rational decision makers – people weigh their options carefully; people make individual choices; people use available information consciously. Hence, interventions usually focus on dissemination of information and exchange of arguments. Human decision making, however, is much more complex than that, especially in volatile contexts. Awareness raising is rarely enough to actually change people’s perceptions and behavior; human beings are not primarily guided by conscious deliberations. Therefore, it is essential for the effectiveness and impact of peacebuilding interventions to find new tools to factor in these primary dynamics in human behavior and decision making. We do not propose to displace existing peacebuilding approaches, but rather to complement and enhance them. Such tools are already widespread in the private sector, often focusing on nudging customer behavior. Marketing experts have mastered the art of including the human factor in their strategies. We intend to do likewise in enhancing peacebuilding practices. Willingly or not, unconscious and non-rational processes already prevail in many conflict and emerging peace situations. Such processes can relate to culture, ethnicity, faith but also personal psychologies. To acknowledge and deal more deliberately with this, will widen the scope of possible peacebuilding interventions, and make them more sensitive to context and timing. We wish to embrace this bridgebuilder challenge as an opportunity to apply existing insights in other sectors to peacebuilding practices. We will dive into the question of how to utilize the insights from marketing, psychology and behavioral sciences for peacebuilding.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The beneficiaries are found in local communities in an interfaith setting and in a (post/pre)conflict situation. In concrete: 1. Communities in Mindanao (Philippines) and Mombasa (Kenya) who experience interreligious tensions. We'll work together with our established partner networks with strong track records and expertise. By comparing two contexts we increase the wider relevance and applicability of this initiative. 2. The international peacebuilding community. This initiative will open an entire new set of tools for peacebuilding interventions. Oftentimes interfaith peacebuilding efforts focus on religious leaders. From our experience, however, we have learned that secondary leadership (e.g. catechists, madrassa teachers, women leaders) are at least as influential at local level. Moreover, their faith attitude often proves more flexible than that of religious leaders, who tend to focus on scriptures. For our non-cognitive approach, this secondary leadership is crucial.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

- This idea connects two fields of expertise and practice that rarely meet; peacebuilding and marketing. To be clear, we do not want to market peace, rather we wish to tap from marketing techniques to set people and communities in motion towards peace. - This idea goes beyond the focus on conscious, cognitive processes in most peacebuilding practices. Given the importance of subconscious processes in decision making of human beings this is a field worth exploring. - We will focus on the human factor in interfaith settings, thereby exploring everyday religion and experience beyond beliefs and textual interpretation. - Interfaith peacebuilding initiatives usually focus on religious leaders. This approach brings in secondary leaders in local communities. - This challenge will connect us with experts in fields that we have never tapped before: psychologists, behavioral scientists, marketeers. They will enrich the set of peacebuilding strategies

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Mensen met een Missie (MM) is a foundation in The Netherlands. Together with our local partners MM works towards peace and reconciliation in 13 countries in Asia, Latin-America and Africa. At grassroots level, MM engages in conflict transformation by fostering interfaith cooperation, empowering local communities and strengthening the participation of women.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Oftentimes peacebuilding projects tend to rely on awareness raising, logic, arguments, etc. These strategies can and should be enriched with insights from the prosperity field (i.e. marketing) to account for the human factor in change. We are inspired by the World Bank call to redesign development policy based on careful consideration of human factors. Through our interfaith peacebuilding work we recognise the value of touching people's deeper commitment and values for real lasting change.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peacebuilding interventions tend to focus on dissemination of information and exchange of arguments. Human decision making, however, is much more complex than that. Especially in volatile contexts where the quest for peace is urgent. People act and think acutely different when under duress and when the stakes are high. When the going gets tough, when anxiety and fear are omnipresent, human beings are not primarily guided by conscious deliberations. It is essential for the effectiveness and impact of peacebuilding interventions to factor in these primary dynamics in human behavior and decision making.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

In Kenya and the Philippines we'll work with our longstanding partner networks - local grassroots faith based initiatives for peace. This idea also actively includes both the programs and the marketing team within Mensen met een Missie to tap the knowledge from both disciplines in doing peacebuilding. In our thinking we'll seek advise and work with marketing agencies and experts, peacebuilding experts, academics in behavioral sciences, psychology and marketing. These include: - World Bank, which applies behavioral sciences in its development projects through its behavioral insights team; - The international alliance for peacebuilding; - Dr. Eva van den Broek from Wageningen University who advises the Dutch government on how to apply nudging, MINDSPACE and other behavioral insights in policy making; - The Amsterdam-based marketing and ad agency Havas Lemz. In 2017 they launched the Make Friends Across Religions Initiative, a historical appeal.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Strong partner networks with long experience in peacebuilding at grassroots level. In our long relationship with the partners and the local communities we have created levels of trust and openness that are crucial for exploring this new dimension in peacebuilding. The focus on faith is very relevant as faith is explicitly a factor that is connected to unconscious processes that influence prejudices and attitudes.

Geographic Focus

Mindanao, The Philippines Coast & North Eastern Kenya The global peacebuilding community

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months We will divide the project in three phases of 12 , 18 and 6 months. The 1st will comprise of acquiring knowledge from experts in marketing, psychology and behavioral sciences to develop an interfaith peacebuilding intervention pilot. The 2nd will be the implementation phase to apply the developed marketing for peace method. This will be accompanied by measuring and analyzing the intervention. The last phase will focus on developing a perfected open source toolbox.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


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Photo of James Patton


Thanks for sharing your project! I think your emphasis on "secondary leadership" is really great. Interreligious peacebuilding efforts have a tendency to focus on formal religious leadership, and you rightly identify women religious and madrasa leaders as have highly influential social roles.

Do you see your project as being more research oriented? And, what types of change do you hope to see in the local contexts? It appears that you're primary contribution is to the practice of peacebuilding, in exploring new resources in the field. But, how will the skills borrowed from marketing be used in Mindanao and eastern Kenya?

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