Free Speech & Peace

Stand Together Trust and Charles Koch Foundation Commit More Than $2 Million to Discover New Tools for Violence Prevention and Social Healing in American Communities

October 6, 2020

Partnering organizations take innovative approaches to harness data, create infrastructure, and empower local leaders for resilient communities

October 6th, Arlington, Va.—Stand Together Trust (STT) and the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) will collectively provide more than $2 million in grants that will enable several organizations to advance their respective goals to prevent political violence and promote social healing in American communities.

Research released this month finds dramatic increases in the number of Americans who report feeling justified in using violence to achieve political goals—a from 8 percent in 2017 to more than 33 percent this fall. As Americans navigate intensifying tensions around racial injustice, economic upheaval, and rising political polarization, these grants provide researched and field-tested guidance on how public officials, community leaders, and other Americans can prevent unrest from resulting in further social fracture and violence.

“Americans are resilient, and that’s evident in the communities across the country rising to meet current challenges,” said Sarah Ruger, STT’s director of free expression. “While division is driven by voices on the extremes, most Americans are looking for an alternative. These investments support groups modeling a productive way forward. They’ve demonstrated that good data and good tools, along with leadership and will, can help communities overcome the deepest of divides.”

These efforts promote equal rights and peaceful pluralism, work that’s especially important as people increasingly turn to censorship and intimidation to the point of using violence. Such tactics only hide problems. Our work seeks to bring these challenges into the open where they can be addressed and healing can begin. Building on tens of millions in previous investments to date, a sampling of these new grants includes:

  • On Being, which will draw out voices of wisdom and moral imagination, and convene, accompany, and resource emerging ecosystems of social repair. From its beginnings in 2003 as a public radio show, and now as a multi-platform media and public life initiative, the On Being Project has more than 16 years of experience engaging public conversation about difficult topics. The organization’s website houses a decade and a half of archives that serve as a hospitable, living resource for the creation of new conversation and relationships across the differences of our age.
  • Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton University, which will document political violence and the broad peacebuilding ecosystem that can support mitigation. Utilizing best practices from tracking conflicts abroad and different methodologies to build on existing knowledge, this project will allow scholars to better understand domestic hotspots of potential political violence. The initiative, housed at The Liechtenstein Institute on Self Determination,  also will coordinate community-based resilience efforts, which will further enable practitioners and local, state, and federal leaders to put into place preventative measures and to respond rapidly to crisis.
  • Anti-Defamation League, which will conduct interviews with its robust network of mayors, law enforcement leaders, and educators. A natural continuation of the Communities Overcoming Extremism: After Charlottesville Project, the effort will provide the information necessary to create tools to address and prevent violence.
  • Empatico’s “Collective Promise” program, which will provide 150 elementary school educators and approximately 3,750 students across diverse rural and urban communities with a supported, tailored Empatico experience to promote positive dialogue and empathy across lines of difference. The funding will also allow Empatico to develop new activities and training materials to equip educators, caregivers, and children with critical skills for navigating potentially contentious and divisive topics with kindness and respect. Empatico is building a global movement to spread kindness and empathy, using an online platform that virtually brings together students from different classrooms around the world.
  • American University’s Peace and Violence Research Lab, which explores the motivations that lead politicians to use violent rhetoric and to determine interventions that disrupt the use of violent rhetoric.
  • Network Contagion Research Institute, which will develop a front end and user interface for Pushshift, a data storage and analytics platform used by social media researchers. The portal will enable civil society organizations to rapidly identify and understand trends, discover how information moves within online communities, and how an idea transforms within the medium.
  • Search for Common Ground, which will create and popularize a new model for orienting first-year college students to engage in dialogue to build trust, respect, and constructive coexistence across differences.

Find out more about CKF’s Courageous Collaborations initiative, which seeks to understand what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it, and STT’s work to support social entrepreneurs surfacing bottom-up solutions to build respect and bridge divides.