The Global Initiative on Polarization

The Global Initiative on Polarization is a major new project by IFIT in collaboration with the Ford Foundation. It seeks to foster a deeper global understanding of the diverse causes and consequences of severe polarization – in democratic and non-democratic settings alike – culminating in an interactive resource hub and community of practice on the topic.

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Through interdisciplinary research, structured convenings, and applied work in a selection of focus countries, the Global Initiative on Polarization will examine cross-cutting and practice-relevant challenges at the nexus of polarization, conflict and social justice.

The work will draw, among other things, on IFIT’s expertise and work in related fields, including narrative theory and practice, as well as the Ford Foundation’s global network of experts.

The initiative was launched in November 2021 and will operate for four years.


Broadly speaking, this initiative seeks to contribute to the body of knowledge around 1) the impact on severe polarization caused by variables such as democratic fragility, economic inequality, and cultural narrative and political identity issues; 2) comparative strategies and success stories in combating extreme forms of polarization, in both democratic and non-democratic settings; 3) the role of media, including social media, in generating or stemming polarization and conflictual narratives; and 4) criteria and metrics for interventions on polarization at micro, meso and macro levels.

The initiative will run for four years. The first 18 months will encompass: a preliminary phase of research and expert consultations; a global landscape analysis to identify the major actors and projects on polarization; international and regional convenings that bring together experts and stakeholders around the key research questions; “learning by doing” exercises in selected countries; the development of a resource hub and community of practice on the topic; and a practical framework to offer clarity on how philanthropy can best contribute to mitigating severe polarization and which risk factors to take into account.

Severe forms of polarization are present in every major region of the world. This initiative will select eight countries for in-depth and applied focus, taking account of where IFIT and Ford work and where polarization is especially severe and complex. Other country situations and country experts will be involved through a wide range of convenings, consultations and seminars.

The resource hub on polarization will be created incrementally over the course of the initiative. The ultimate goal is to create an immersive, interactive hub that supports a community of practice and keeps its members engaged over the long term via discussion platforms, online events, e-learning, and more.