Laura, D. (2020). Exploring the intersection of collective identity and peacebuilding: a case study of Kids4Peace Jerusalem. Conflict and Dispute Resolution Program.
Background & Theory
The conflict in Israel and Palestine is considered by many as an intractable ethno-national conflict. The beliefs and attitudes of the youth formed through their education and upbringing may determine whether the conflict remains intractable or whether it is transformed as the next generations take control of the national political agenda. This qualitative research looks at the experience of Palestinian and Israeli youth involved in a coexistence organization Kids4Peace Jerusalem. Kids4Peace is a nonpartisan, nonsectarian non-profit organization that facilitates contact and dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian youth and their families. The mission states a commitment to rejecting violence in all its forms, to challenging an unjust and unsustainable status quo, and to working together for long-term solutions.
The researchers focused on the following questions:
- What is the interaction between collective identity and experience in K4P?
- In what ways do young people benefit or fail to benefit from Kids4Peace?
- How do the larger power structures and power asymmetries impact youth perceptions of their experience in Kids4Peace?
The author recruited a sample of 19 participants from Kids4Peace. She coded the interviews, found common themes, and examined those themes against the backdrop of the organization and the conflict. Her main methodology was to use ethnography and narrative social Psychology, as pioneered by Philip Hammack.
The sample of Jewish Israelis participants consisted of both religious and secular Jewish youth but excludes ultra-Orthodox Jewish youth. The sample had both right-wing and left-wing Jewish youth, although not in equal numbers. Left-wing Israelis appeared more likely to sign up for the Kids4Peace program.
The interview questions revolved around the following themes- Introduction, Programming, Personal Transformation, Negative Externalities, Positive Supports, Hope and perceptions; Actions, Social Change, & Ripple Effect; Knowledge and Perceptions and Agency.
The youth she interviewed almost unilaterally agreed that through their experience with Kids4Peace, they underwent a process of finding their personal voices through a combination of solidifying the self and being given the opportunities to express this self through opinions and personal narrative. The results were positive for Israeli Jews as well as Muslim and Christian Palestinians.
The criticism of Kids4Peace and other coexistence organizations was rooted in the lack of attention to problematic structures and power asymmetry. This dynamic can create a cycle of continuing power disparities and maintenance of the status quo. Despite the merit of these arguments, it is apparent in this research that, when coming face-to-face with ‘the other’ in a deep and continuous way, issues of power asymmetry and collective blind spots become more difficult to ignore for some.
How This Translates for the Workplace
- Consider the value of corporate retreats: Corporate retreats are a common occurrence nowadays, but rarely do these include invigorating peace exercises. Intergroup contact between different departments and reduction of hierarchies as they engage in activities across the plethora of roles can take place at such retreats if done regularly. They can help enrich the workplace culture and create more inclusivity.
- Check power asymmetry: The authors suggested that power structures and power symmetry must be checked carefully in order for such camps to be successful. Power disparities, if not broken, can lead to a cycle of inequality and resentment. Facilitators of the camps or retreat must therefore be adequately trained to ensure that space is designed equitably and existing workplaces hierarchies are tactfully broken, rather than reinforced.