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How to create effective messages about peace building

Youth from AFSC's Guatemala program created peace murals to broadcast peace messages on International Peace Day 2015. Photo: Selvin Curuchich / AFSC

Talking about violence is easy. Talking about peace is hard.

As communicators, advocates, and peace builders, we know how important it is to talk about peace. It's also really hard. Our day-to-day work is filled with tragic stories. Violent headlines grab readers' attention quickly and effectively. But we know from research that crisis fatigue is real: In fact, studies show that readers shut down when faced with stories about seemingly intractable problems like nuclear proliferation and poverty. Fortunately, research also shows that sharing solutions-oriented messages can help readers feel empowered to take action - especially if those messages are framed in terms of shared values and include small, doable steps that any reader could take. 

The trick is to remember VPSA: Values, Problem, Solution, Action.

The values-problem-solutin-action formula helps readers to buy into solving the problem you are identifying, while also focusing on soluntions and actions to prevent crisis fatigue. We've shared examples in the past, and we'll keep sharing them as we test out our messaging on violent extremism, Islamophobia, and other issues. In the meantime, you probably want to create your own messages. In which case it helps to have positive examples of peace building successes to draw on. Enter AFSC's new curriculum, produced in collaboration with the United States Institute for Peace. This curriculum is part of AFSC's larger effort to demonstrate that peace building is effective over the long run. But this content is also a rich source of positive stories about effective peace building for communicators and advocates who want to share the story of peace building that works.  Some highlights: effective movement-building, the role of nonviolence in ending war and apartheid, and the future of peace building. Each video contains concrete examples of how individuals and organizations - including AFSC - have built peace around the world over the past 100 years. And this isn't the end of the content we'll be producing: Stay tuned to our Multimedia Library for infographics, podcasts and more. Just a little something to make communicators' tough jobs a little easier. 

Have an example of effective messaging you'd like to share with us? Any positive stories of peace building that works? Tell us about it in the comments. 

About the Author

AREAS OF EXPERTISE: Communications research | Analytics | Social inequality. Beth leads AFSC’s messaging and opinion research, which she uses to develop evidence-based communications guidance for advocates and citizens to ‘change the narrative’ on war and violence. Prior to AFSC, Beth’s research and professional work focused on health inequality in the Americas.