Applying Behavioral Science in Programming to Address Xenophobia & Promote Social Cohesion


Globally, as well as in the Southern Africa region, a recent rise in anti-migrant attitudes, including an increase in violent acts against migrants, has drawn increasing attention from political actors as well as civil society. While many initiatives to promote social cohesion have been implemented over the years, there is a dearth of research or evidence to understand the impact of such activities. Are media campaigns effective? If so, with which types of audience and what types of messaging have the greatest impact? Can integrating migrants into sports leagues and cultural events help reduce anxiety and promote a more positive image of migrants among the host community?

Recent advances in brain and behavioral science (BBS) are now providing policymakers and practitioners with new tools to design, implement and measure more impactful social cohesion and peacebuilding programs to reduce xenophobia and violent conflict, and promote cooperation across various social divides.

In this webinar, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), Prof. Linda Tropp of the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, and Beyond Conflict (a USbased NGO with over 30 years of experience collaborating with local actors and behavioral scientists in building social cohesion and preventing violence), will discuss global examples of initiatives aimed at addressing xenophobia and promoting social cohesion, introduce new models and approaches to designing and measuring interventions, and engage with participants on the specific context, realities, and initiatives in Southern Africa.

Date: 9th March 2022


Online Time: 3:00-5:15pm ( South Africa time)

Register here



March 9th from 15:00 to 17:15 (SAST)

15:00-15:10: Introduction to Webinar

15:10-15:20:  Promoting social cohesion, migrant integration, and countering violence in South Africa within the framework of the Migration Multi Partner Trust Fund Programme (MPTF)

15:20-15:30: Combatting xenophobia and promoting social cohesion in the South African Context (ACMS)

15:30-15:40: Discussion

15:40-15:55: Introduction to Brain and Behavioral Science for Social Cohesion – How does science help us think differently about how attitudes and beliefs are formed, and decisions and actions are made? How does the brain operate in situations of conflict, xenophobia, insecurity and prejudice, and why does that matter for social cohesion programs?

15:55-16:05: Discussion

16:05-16:20: Social Contact: Limitations and Opportunities – What is Social Contact Theory and what do we know about whether, how and under what conditions social contact-based programs produce gains in social cohesion? What do we still need to learn? What innovations are we most excited about trying out?

16:20-16:30: Discussion

16:30-16:45: How We Engage: A Methodology for Science-Informed Design – What process do we use to better understand the gaps in a given program’s effectiveness and create tailored solutions to address them? How do we make sure these solutions are cost-effective and influential outside just one specific context? What roles and responsibilities do all parties have in that process?

16:45-16:55: Discussion

16:55-17:05: IOM’s Diversity, Inclusion & Social Cohesion (DISC) Initiative – Global Approach to Addressing Xenophobia and Promoting Inclusion

17:05-17:15: Conclusions / Wrap Up