A broad spectrum of state and non-state actors, including extremist far-right and Islamist extremist groups, have exploited technology and election cycles to exacerbate the recent phenomenon of polarisation that has afflicted our societies.

These forces have divided communities on a local level and political movements on a national level. The rapid promotion of these ideas on social media have led to a globalisation of hate, exacerbating tensions in developing countries such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, often with deadly consequences. The responses to polarisation and hate are often underresourced, uncoordinated, and reacting far too late to limit the damage caused by these malicious actors.

Over the past decade, ISD has anticipated the rise of polarisation by studying the rising influence of extremist groups peddling their “us vs. them” narratives. We have charted the roles that different sectors of society can play – government, civil society, and the private sector – and designed initiatives that have leveraged and synergized their collective input. Our partnership with Google in delivering a £1m innovation fund across the UK has stimulated creative responses from lesser known organisations that have delivered proven impact in areas such as technology, sports, and the arts. Our campaign training, delivered through our initiatives such as YouthCAN, have measurably shifted attitudes away from polarisation on issues such as racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and migration. Finally, we’ve channelled our learning and data into digital policy efforts to inform government and policymakers around the world.