Inside Polarisation has developed a tried-and-tested approach for municipalities.

With the Polarisation Framework, we connect professionals in the neighbourhoods or districts with the municipal policy makers. The approach starts sometimes from the departments of Public Order and Safety because that is where conflicts or polarisations demand attention. Sometimes it comes from the Social Development tasks, when us-them dynamics demand professional answers.

The demand for a professional approach based on a shared vision is central. Our goal is to establish strategic cooperation that offers practical tools, avoids the pitfalls, and achieves results.

The set-up. We have noticed that an introductory meeting of two hours works well in municipalities to acquaint big groups of employees with ‘the inner world of polarisation’. From this larger gathering, smaller groups – up to 16 participants – spend one-and-a-half days training, acquiring the knowledge and skills to deal with conflicts and polarisation in their own city. We do not ‘roll out’ or ‘implement’ our method. We do ensure that we facilitate professionals who are driven to develop their own (de)polarisation strategy.

The participants follow a full day of training backed up by an in-depth session of half a day. We train hard, applying the participants’ own context (personal possibilities and impossibilities) and making sure that cases from their own professional field are given extensive treatment. This means that the participants make their own contributions and share in the contributions of colleagues from other fields. It is how we build expertise and learn to speak a common language, which adds great value.

Next, we work on setting up a small internal pool of specialists who can further advance the Polarisation Framework. Inside Polarisation is always keen to transfer its knowledge and therefore offers an ongoing intervision process.

It works. The system has tested well in Dutch and Belgian cities – Rotterdam and Genk, for example – and we want to keep using it when municipalities sign up to collaborate with Inside Polarisation.