Category Archives: Knowledge & Innovation

The Thin Green Line… almost there!

Our Knowledge and Innovation products are almost ready and The Thin Green Line team gets some closure after trying to balance stress and creativity on a daily basis, over the past few months. 

The Thin Green Line is a challenging project undertaken on by Longfish Productions that asks for Cypriots to “tell their story of romantic relationships or encounters with people from ‘the other side’” in order to develop one of the most unique documentaries in Cyprus, ever.

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“The last two weeks were full of energy, creativity and hard work. Rahme and Anthie prepared the scripts for the interviews, based on the original recordings and having been directed to be as faithful to the original as possible. We then emailed the scripts to the actors and we started the rehearsals immediately.

My directions were clear and simple: Do not act! Be as natural as possible!

I already knew how hard it is for stage actors to switch to the camera, but I guess the style of the documentary helped us a lot in this case. Also the fact that there are no faces in the frame gave them the opportunity to express themselves through body and gesture. This physicality is after all one of the main targets of this project!

The shoots were long, difficult but utterly enjoyable! Looking at the rushes just before I start importing the footage on Final Cut I knew there was some gold there. And I was not wrong; it was so difficult to cut bits off… so hard to fit a love story in no more than 10 minutes. But the Goddess of editing helped me through and by the moment Helena had the Fusion Tables of the Thin Green Line Project set, the interviews were already uploaded on Youtube waiting to go live on the Thin Green Line Map!

The Thin Green Line Map is 99% ready and looks wonderful! Blue dots link to the archival footage we got from CyBC and BRT and red dots to the five interviews, the five hot stories that negotiate both the archive as well as our views of the world, our notions of the national, the temporal, the spatial, of gender and, last but not least, of sex itself.

The first big step of the Thin Green Line Project, that is the TGL MAP, will be up and running soon, available on the Mahallae hub! We hope you enjoy it :)”

Marios Psaras
Longfish Productions

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Swiss Precision and Cypriot impulsiveness meet in Bern

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Through the Practitioners Exchange Program, Peace-it-Together officers become inspired, motivated and refreshed with a visit to the ever-so-disciplined and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking of the SwissPeace team. Ellada Evaggelou lets us in on all the fab details:

On arriving in Switzerland, the Cyprus delegation adopted a steady issue of commentary: how tidy the cities were, how lawful and polite the drivers, and how accommodating the general system seemed to be.  Going around in Bern was a breeze; we felt safe and carried out tasks effortlessly. The whole experience seemed too good to be true, and in veritable Mediterranean spirit, considered creating little snippets of chaos. Not because of malicious intentions, but perhaps we are simply genetically inclined to do so.

We even talked about exchanging our own Centers’ buildings with the gorgeous river-side main offices of SwissPeace in Bern, if such an agreement could be reached.

And then we started talking with our hosts at SwissPeace. In multiple meetings with researchers and practitioners, technocrats and administrators, conversations and exchanges flowed. Buildings and side-walks disappeared from the forefront of our minds, and we slowly realized that the essence of the city and the organization wasn’t the skin-deep analysis we had done thus far… it was their personalities, openness, the depth and severity of their work, their generous nature. Our conversations commenced and continued with the understanding of the vast potential of people coming together to communicate on something we are all passionate about, peace. The NGO-SC and Management Center directors and Knowledge Innovation Officers of the Peace it Together network found a unique opportunity through the Practitioners Exchange Program to converse about product development, innovation and research, collaboration and sustainability.

A heartfelt thanks to Michaela, Anita, Ursula, Andrea, Andreas, Sidonia, Marco, Roland and Matthias for their openness and generosity, with their time, ideas and good spirits. Although I would still like to make a suggestion to commission the making of murals (modeled after Van Gogh’s Sunflowers) on the empty walls outside the NGO SC and Management Centre!

And the winner is…

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The polls are closed and the results are in. Our hub officially has a name!
Check out what Kristy Eliades, one of our communication officers, has to say about the entire process.

“When I first joined the PiT team I found myself often wondering what on earth I could offer. The team talked in abbreviations and I nodded my head pretending I knew what they were talking about for about a minute, and would then get frustrated and ask consistent questions. Surprisingly, this didn’t annoy anyone. Instead it was a source of laughter for the entire team. I had over ten years’ experience in advertising and marketing in the private sector but very little experience in NGO work. Sooner or later however, I learned how to merge my knowledge and gain from the team’s experience in the third sector and by the time we got together to discuss the development of our online hub, I was already abbreviating my ‘work-words’ too.

Branding was the one thing I’ve done before, and possibly a chance for me to feel like a true asset – but I had worked long enough with the Peace-it-Together team, to know that nothing would ever be the way it ‘usually’ is. Not even the brainstorming sessions.

In advertising when the branding process begins account executives fly in and out of the office in a panic, marketing strategists’ research for weeks on end and the creative team usually comes up with the best ideas in the shower – right after the creative meeting is over. It is also a confidential process that usually takes place amongst a team committed to working on their own and in private until the new product is launched.

With PiT the branding process began with casual chit chat amongst the team, sending e-mails asking for feedback from the network officers and collecting an impressive 200+ initial suggestions. The process was all-inclusive from the very beginning, and although it’s not something I’ve ever experienced before, I still got the same buzz I get from any creative session. Everyone had their own gems to add. The creative juices were flowing just as naturally (if not more naturally) than they do at top agencies.

At the final stages we invited all stakeholders including our network partners and the winners from our Knowledge and Innovation fund to a creative brainstorming session where we put up all initial suggestions on the walls and spent the afternoon picking at fruit and cheese and introducing even more new ideas. We then agreed on  five shortlisted names … and opened the voting process to the public!

The five shortlisted suggestions were: CohesionLab, Mahallae, InnovEX, Social Cohesion Lab, ExchangeLab. And as of March 1st the online polls were closed.

The final winner, with a whopping 42.86% is…. (drum roll please)

mahallae

The name was voted for by the general public through surveymonkey and will brand all the network’s online efforts. Mahallae will also be translated into a domain name for the platform which we will be developing by the beginning of summer.

Mahalla (Greek Cypriot) and Mahalle (Turkish) both mean neighbourhoods. We added an ‘ae’ to pluralize the word in Latin and also make it an autonomous (and new) word on its own. For an extended description of the word’s multi-regionality and meaning, check out the wiki description here.

Thanks to the team for involving me in this weirdly honest branding process. This brutally authentic approach to market launching is not something I will be forgetting any time soon!”

Kristy Eliades
Communications Officer
NGO Support Centre

Language Knows No Boundaries

ImageFinding common ground through ‘shared words’.
One of the Knowledge and Innovation Fund winning projects, SharedWords is aiming to motivate the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to focus on their similarities through language. In their research they found that both languages share a numerous amount of words and highlighting this may start making both communities feel more familiar with each other. Go team!

“Discovery of common words and common traditions of different nations is an exciting experience and solid proof of common values of humanity. In spite of the national and religious politics that focus on and influence the differences and interests among different nations, we can start to focus on our similar traditions, similar cultures and similar words in order to find common ground.

Sharedwords is not only a social project, it is a language learning tool and a methodology to change the point of view of language learners and break the prejudice of “foreign language” since it focuses on  similar words of different languages to make language learners feel familiar to the languages that they want to progress in. Sharedwords promotes the common elements of languages, which we find to be the most effective way to shift from one language to another for adequate communication.

Sharedwords is also a philosophy and a point of view for peace building that can be applied to different conflict areas. And we are so happy to see and practice the philosophy of Sharedwords in reality in Cyprus. On the 30th of January at the Home for Cooperation we had a fruitful meeting with Eleni Michailidou, the representative of Cyprus Interaction Lab, Ellada Evangelou, Knowledge and Innovation Officer of the Peace-it-Together Network, and Sylvie Manti, Project Development Consultant of the Peace-it-Together Network. We were happy to see that we were well on the way of creating the online language game which we had envisioned to be the final fruit of our knowledge product project.

The online language game will be based on the common words of Turkish and Greek, such as:

Muhallebi Μαχαλλεπίν
Köfte Κεφτές
Pehlivan Πεχλιβάνης

For example, during the Turkish version of the game, pictures or pronunciations of specific words will be given as hints for Greek learners and they will be expected to form the Greek version of the word by dragging and dropping correct Greek letters in the correct sequence. It is a really effective way to establish a strong bond between the language and the learner with the words that they already know. Please find us on facebook and twitter to find out more about our project!”

Testimonial written by: Nuri Sılay / member of the SharedWords team

What is your SCORE?

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Measuring and monitoring changes in communities’ capacities for Social Cohesion and Reconciliation, sounds like a job for superman. However in Cyprus, we have SeeD. And they are creating an innovative statistical tool entitled ‘Social Cohesion and Reconciliation (SCORE) Index’.
Administrations and Communications officer Meltem Ikinci tells us all about it.

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There is no handy roadmap for reconciliation. There is no short cut or simple prescription for healing the wounds and divisions of a society in the aftermath of sustained violence, says Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the most inspirational figures in human history.

Yes, there may not be a handy roadmap, but we can show you the way for a peaceful living together with the ‘others’.  But, what does ‘peaceful’ mean?  Obviously, it brings up a lot of different images and meanings for all of us. In my case, being peaceful means a lot more than being non-violent; it involves taking positive action in a way that would lead to constructive change in society.

In Cyprus, the conflict has remained in a frozen limbo for more than 4 decades. Despite countless efforts, all have thus far failed to resolve the problem. As a matter of fact, one might say the economic crisis and the overwhelming budget-cuts might have become the new Cyprus problem. But the reality of the past is still there and yet remains unspoken.

Even if you face the most terrible truth, it is not the end. It is up to us to choose what to forget and what to recall from our experiences” said Dr. Naasson Munyandamutsa, who was one of the key note speakers at the Peace and Reconciliation Conference that we organized in September 2012. Dr. Naasson, who lost most of his family members during the genocide in Rwanda, highlighted that forgiveness is the key answer to heal the wounds of the past.  His remarkable speech made me think – once again – that there has not been any significant discussion or any formal acknowledgement of the ‘reconciliation’ itself on both sides of the island until today.

Identifying this need, we, as “Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development” (the former Cyprus 2015 initiative), are currently working on developing an index called “Social Cohesion and Reconciliation (SCORE) Index. The SCORE Index is an innovative statistical tool that can measure and monitor over time changes in communities’ capacities for Social Cohesion and Reconciliation. Essentially, it will be a “barometer” allowing users to determine in which direction society is moving along the “Reconciliation spectrum”. One has to admit that these terminologies may sound slightly overwhelming at first, but this will not be the case with the SCORE index.

The SCORE will be designed in a user-friendly interface, using a simple colour scale of 1 to 10, upon to draw scores of examining how social factors interact with and influence the process of social cohesion and reconciliation. The results will be easily interpreted by the general public and practitioners, fulfilling the goal of supporting more targeted and efficient  policy actions to deal with the ‘sensitive issues’.

This interface will soon be easily accessible through the “Peace it Together” knowledge hub, a digital space where you will be able to read more on the analysis of the state of peace in Cyprus and the region, measured by the SCORE Index. This interactive tool will also enable you to take a quick survey that scores your personal contribution to peace. Well, (either good or bad)… the results can be really surprising! So, wait until the platform is ready and find out… “WHATS YOUR SCORE?”
In the meantime, to get a better idea of the SCORE Index please look at SeeD’s presentation on Prezi: SCORE: Prezi Presentation.

Watch this space for more updates!

Written by: Meltem IkinciAdministration & Communications Officer, SeeD

Who are we?

We are the first inter-communal think tank called “Center for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development” (SeeD) ever established in Cyprus. By using participatory research, we develop effective and sustainable policy recommendations aiming to enable societies at all levels to make informed decisions, based on the values of inclusivity, accountability and democracy.

How did we come about?

SeeD emerged from the “Cyprus 2015” project which was launched back in May 2009.  Through its novel methodology called ‘Participatory Polling’, “Cyprus 2015” has made effective and sustainable policy recommendations and informed the policy debate regarding the Cyprus Peace talks while ensuring democratic citizenship participation based on values of inclusive action and democracy. With support from Interpeace and UNDP-ACT, SeeD was officially registered in Belgium in late 2012. SeeD team is comprised of highly competent practitioners and scholars with years of combined experience in peace-building and reconciliation processes.

Our Grantees Present their Ideas

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From documentaries, to gaming to mapping, peace-building very obviously has no limits.

Introducing yourself to a social or professional group is challenging enough and our grantees had to go a step further this week and introduce their winning proposals amongst themselves. As an outsider looking in however, you wouldn’t be able to tell that participants were anxious and perhaps a little shy during their presentations because all ideas sold themselves. When an idea is innovative enough to spark creative dialogue, new ideas are born and solutions to challenges emerge easily and naturally. The brainstorming session amongst the winners of the Knowledge Innovation Fund had this exact characteristic. Short summaries of the winning projects, based on our grantees personalized presentations, follow:

Longfish Productions will be finalizing a docudrama by the end of the year that deals with romantic relationships across the border, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. This promising idea will be promoted through an online product that will be released in March – which will entice viewers with trailer interviews, comments and feedback from the developers, participants and the general public. Stavros Makris pointed out that one of the biggest challenges the team is facing with this idea is that while quite a large number of relationships have been developed between the two communities in Cyprus, anonymity is being asked for before testimonials are collected. The team have come up with a couple of out-of-the-box ways to tackle this issue which include innovative angle-shots, enacting testimonials and using voice-over talent. The film will be called “The Thin Green Line”. Keep an eye out for these guys…

ARCHIS will be mapping the village of Rizokarpaso. The map will be interactive and digitalized and the team’s main challenge while developing their proposal is how to transform this very localized idea into an international case study. It was suggested that the team develop a communication outreach strategy once the project is in its final stages in order to introduce their idea to other regions (especially those in conflict) that might find this tool useful. An interesting little detail that was added to the presentation was an informal quote by one of the members of the ARCHIS team. Upon explaining that the final version of the digitalized map would be trilingual (English, Greek and Turkish) she stated with a laugh: “it’s funny, in the village people actually know each other’s languages, so they don’t have complicated communications problems like translating info into three different languages just to get their messages across.” Food for thought indeed…

Peace Players is developing a series of 5 short animations that follow the story of a young girl and her coach. The general idea is to explain how sports can be used in order to overcome conflict and build trusting relationships. The animations are based on the five chapters of the ‘Anatomy of Peace’ tool that had been previously developed by Peace Players. Some interesting elements that were discussed during the presentation was the difficulty of choosing the main character’s name, which needed to remain as neutral as possible and not refer to a particular religion or community, while also personalizing the character as much as possible in order to represent the viewer. The team overcame this obstacle by creating an online poll and disseminating it through facebook, so that partners and affiliates can actually become part of the creative process, thus “building momentum throughout the development process” as one member of the team pointed out. The idea of linking the final product with an educational ‘quiz-like’ tool was also discussed. The team shared their thoughts on the impact of animation and how it’s actual design also needed to be strategized. A neutral observer would immediately see that the team have already visualized their end product and were very enthusiastic about each phase of development. And as we all know, when it comes to innovation, enthusiasm is 9/10ths of the law..!

Language Bridge presented their proposal for an educational tool for learners of Greek or Turkish. They are working on the improvement of language skills through the use of common words. The two languages share a myriad of words and linguistic elements which could be used to promote peace-building for both communities. As one member of the team quotes “we’ve come to realize that the more people realize they have in common with the ‘other’ community, the more people are interested in really learning about the ‘other’ community”.  Applauding the idea with promise, the rest of the grantees and facilitators wanted to know if they could submit words of their own. The Language Bridge team, enjoyed the engaging discussion that followed, welcoming the idea of new submissions, but emphasized the need to monitor any incoming information. Who needs cement and steel, when bridges can be built with words…

AHDR proposed the development of a geographical online game that would map Nicosia and develop into stages of competence based on the users knowledge of the city. The game is targeted at children from 8 to 14 years old and was described as an interactive educational tool that would offer both communities an opportunity to get to know the ‘other side’, of the last remaining divided capital in Europe. The team went on to explain the nature of the game which included online puzzle completion, drag and drop features of landmarks and the identification of major parts of Nicosia through historical photographs. Geography and history made fun? Who knew?

The Management Centre and the NGO Support Centre have worked together on numerous successful projects over the years and have joined forces once again for the development of a winning proposal for the Knowledge and Innovation Fund. The proposed project includes the development of an interactive and engaging webinar platform that will help peace-builders around the globe access the information and knowledge the two centres have gained as Civil Society representatives in a country in conflict. The team proposed the finalization of seven generalized challenges that many peace-builders around the world often face and answer questions based on these challenges. The team was interested as to how the two Centres were planning to make the webinars as compelling as possible as far as the online format was concerned and the representative of the two Centres was eager to hear as many suggestions as possible. The two centres are very active online, as are many of the grantees, so please make sure you follow-up with their progress, give them your feedback and encourage them as much as possible!

The Mediation Association proposed documenting the history of mediation and training on an online platform. This would include personal experiences and testimonials as well as partial gems of knowledge that would be useful for mediators around the world, especially when one considers the unique nature of peace-related mediation and training in Cyprus. The goal is to create a map in tagged with 2-3 minute videos that aim to open up new active dialogues amongst mediators in Cyprus and abroad. It was emphasized that the documentation of the Civil Society’s work over the course of the years would serve as interesting and useful research but is also quite culturally significant. Good luck guys!

Watch this space for more updates soon!

Kristy Eliades
Communications Officer
Peace it Together

The Road Less Travelled: Innovating Knowledge

CSOs love to write and publish reports. And their donors love them doing it. Sometimes it seems all civil society work is based on this, designed to cater to this end product: the 30 page, 50 page, 80 page report with the activities, the achievements, and the lessons learned. But essentially, what are the chances your wonderful work as a CSO is reaching its intended audiences? Or are we only interested in preaching to the choir?

Ask the CSOs who never quite get the feedback they want. It’s not our fault, they will say. The people are just not interested. We are doing great work; it’s just that we can’t get somebody to care.

But is that really the truth? Is it true that people really don’t care, or are CSOs simply unaware of ways to produce easily to digest, marketable content, without losing a milligram of its gravity? This is exactly the question many experts in the field are asking these days. And this was the question we addressed when launching the Knowledge Innovation Fund, as the Peace it Together network in Cyprus.

And yet, that was over four months ago. What we have learned over the course of 29 submitted applications, 2 evaluation committee sessions, 12 shortlisted products, and 6 funded projects-to-be is that going from a “report-obsessed CSO” to “innovative thinker” is easy for no one. Not even us, unsure exactly what we are seeking until we actually see it.

The good news? Our winners are about to begin the implementation period, and we could not be any more excited to take the ride alongside them, with our own Knowledge and Innovation consultants and repositories. Among them projects as rich as digital electronic games, and interactive documentaries, we are thinking some of our civil society leaders in Cyprus may have just stumbled upon the freshest ways to communicate their knowledge and expertise.

As we move forward, watch the projects unfold with us. We will do our best to keep you updated.