Ever dozed off in a history class? Never again!

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AHDR is putting the pedal to the metal and kickstarting their Knowledge Product after over a month of working collaboratively to overcome challenges. That is what happens when you believe in your product from the very first creative brainstorming session – even if it IS over tea – does no one drink coffee anymore?
Check out what they have to say about the overall process!

Learning history can be fun…that’s the message we want to tell our young people.

Over the course of its 10 year history the AHDR has worked hard in producing new approaches to the learning and teaching of history… but never before has it taken the innovative form of what is currently being formulated at Home for Cooperation at this very moment.

It was a quiet afternoon in the autumn of 2012 when this new and exciting initiative was born as Daphne Lappa and Shirin Jetha sat in the AHDR library enjoying a cup of English tea (courtesy of Shirin of course) and one of Daphne’s precious chocolate bars which she kindly offered to share. This is important to note as anyone who knows Daphne well knows she can be quite possessive of her sweets! As Daphne and Shirin sat and reviewed AHDR’s ‘Nicosia is Calling’ booklet (the first education material to be produced by AHDR) they hesitantly shared their thoughts… Yes ‘Nicosia is Calling’ is definitely a positive contribution for young people in terms of learning about the old city but now with the expertise that AHDR has gained, surely more can be done… something new, something that perpetuates the shift from traditional learning and academia…

And this is when Daphne’s and Shirin’s baby was born!  Anyone in the AHDR office during the next month would hear the words “our game” being thrown into any possible conversation.  The enthusiasm was infectious! 

Being aware that we live in a society where people are still afraid to cross over to the “other” side, where prejudices and fear prevails, and children especially are exposed to biased views of the past…. the idea was to create an interactive educational game based on AHDR’s ‘Nicosia is Calling’ publications. The solid idea was to take it further… much further. 

In doing so AHDR could provide a fun and educational platform for children to learn more about the old city of Nicosia without having to rely on their teachers or schools, or even needing to leave their computer!  And how brilliant to think that a child in Morphou and a child in Paphos could be simultaneously learning the common history of Cyprus without limitations.  That these children could understand the truly multicultural past of the city through a fun and interactive platform.

Luckily the Knowledge and Innovation Fund team also felt the same way and when we pitched our idea the project was approved!

What followed was an excitement and eagerness to get the ball rolling.  Interviews were held with game developers and an incredibly creative team in Thessaloniki called Dolphins seemed like the perfect fit.  Having worked on the Balkan Tales and the Twice A Stranger projects and through their creative display of beautiful aesthetics, Daphne and Shirin were won over and Dolphins were selected as the creative partner.

Daphne’s and Shirin’s love of the project was put to the test and the team had to strive to convince person after person that this really is a great idea and should be implemented.  Luckily they found support in the positive energy of Sylvie Manti, Project development Consultant of the Peace-it-Together Network whose presence and sheer motivation was a much needed gift.

Needless to say, perseverance, determination and hard work paid off and the development of the game kicked off… We had delayed one and half months but as they say – all good things are worth waiting for!

Stay tuned to get sneak preview of the game as it develops and find out more about our pilot testing sessions which could give you the opportunity to be one of the first to try out our new and exciting game and help shape the final product!

Shirin Jetha
Projects Coordinator at AHDR

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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

Naming the Peace-it-Together Online Hub: Open Call for votes

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As you probably already know, a new digital online platform mapping the peace-building efforts in Cyprus since the 1970s is currently being developed by the Peace-it-Together network and UNDP-ACT and is being implemented by the NGO Support Centre and the Management Centre. The platform will also include  peace and reconciliation products as well as practical resources and networking tools  for local and international practitioners, civil servants and people throughout the region that want to take action for positive change. Now, the Peace-it-Together network needs your help to give it a name through an online vote open to the public today.

The Peace-it-Together team vision has always been incredibly large and driven by innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. During the past two weeks the team has exchanged ideas as to the naming and effective branding of the online hub that has been developing over the past few months. A finalized version will be launched online at the beginning of this summer.

Please click here to vote on one of the five short-listed suggestions for the name you feel best describes the efforts undertaken by the Peace-it-Together network. The name which gains the most votes by the 1st of March will also be translated into a domain name and brand the culmination of all Peace-it-Together efforts.

The five suggested names are: CohesionLab, Mahallae, InnovEX, Social Cohesion Lab, ExchangeLab. The polling process will be launched from the 19th of February till the 1st of March. More information about the project as well as links to the poll can be found on the Peace-it-Together network facebook page, twitter and blog.

For the Press: >> Peace-it-Together is a network of Civil Society Organisations working together to create a sustainable platform to support the efforts of Cypriot civil society in peace building and reconciliation. The network is implemented by the NGO-Support Centre and the Management Centre and supported by UNDP-ACT. The network is comprised of committed civil society partners that have worked on peace building over the past decade and who have become the principle drivers for moving the reconciliation agenda forward in Cyprus.

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

Relationships Across the Border: An Inside Look

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What happens when you try to get people to talk about their relationships with people across the buffer zone in order to produce a docudrama that presents the truth behind romance regardless of nationality, religion, gender or sexual orientation? LongFish Productions took on an incredibly challenging project that is being supported by the Knowledge and Innovation Fund. Find out more about it here.

“When I first came up with the idea of the Thin Green Line project I had no idea how challenging such a project was going to be.

In the last days of 2012 the guys from Peace-it-Together gave me the good news. I called my team: “At last we have some petrol in the tank! Let’s start the engines. We are heading to the thin green line!” 

And so we met with Sylvie, our consultant from PiT, in order to set some milestones! Sylvie, an amazing and inspiring personality, seemed so passionate about our project. Our meeting was extremely productive; we exchanged ideas, she gave me advice, contacts, but most of all positive energy, so important for such a challenging project.

Next stop was the CyBC archive. The people there were very friendly and helpful. Following an informal meeting in October I was asked to send an official letter that would specify the kind of footage I am looking for. I prepared it immediately and by January 5th I was glad enough to receive the precious DVD with unedited footage from reportages and news reports from events (demonstrations, conflicts, etc.) that happened within the buffer zone in the last 30 years. 

At the same time, my colleagues and I have been in constant contact with people that were involved in relationships with people from the other side of the buffer zone and have been trying to negotiate their participation in the documentary. This has been the hardest and most challenging part of the project so far. We have often found ourselves before closed doors, unanswered emails, facebook messages, phone calls… Whereas when I first introduced the topic to some of these people (or their friends) everyone was so excited and willing to help, suddenly we came across vast barriers…

I know, I understand… These things are too personal, too sensitive, the whole matter very controversial, even polemical for a closed society like the Cypriot one, where people have learned for hundreds of years now to shadow their desires and wills within a conspiracy of silence. However, what if we could break this conspiracy of silence? What if we young people could make a difference and speak up in the face of those who wish to oppress our desires and foreclose our chances for peace? 

Works of art have always been active and prominent within any discourse that foregrounds change. This documentary aspires to be such a work of art. We have agreed so far with three Greek-Cypriots to share their stories with us and have them retold or acted out by models/actors. We have also contacted some actors who are willing to do this job. In the following two weeks we expect to have a few answers from Turkish- Cypriots subjects and actors, as well, and meet with them, so that we can actually move to the production stage of the project. 

One way or another, we are optimistic that these stories will eventually come to the surface, bringing all the energy and passion that is needed to make people rethink not only about their past but most of all about our future.” 

Marios Psarras – Longfish Productions

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.