Cascade Institute researchers are committed to understanding the drivers of polarization in Canada and around the world. Using these insights, we develop new solutions to counter the anti-democratic effects of growing polarization and implement them at scale.

The Anti-Polarization program seeks to discover the key forces driving increases in polarization in Canada and around the world—and how they might be countered.

Anti Polarization 2b

Humanity cannot address wicked challenges like climate change, infectious disease outbreaks, ideological extremism, widening inequalities, and growing global unrest if people are unable to bridge differences and engage in constructive conversations about these issues. Affective polarization—the type of polarization in which people express disgust or disdain for those who do not think like them—is a major barrier to addressing other aspects of the polycrisis.

Using innovative tools for mapping worldviews and a complex systems approach, the AP team will first identify, then target high-leverage intervention points that can mitigate toxic expressions of polarization, while still supporting the freedom of speech and productive disagreement necessary for thriving democracies.

In 2024, the Cascade institute is building a team of subject matter experts to tackle this problem from all sides. The problem of polarization is not one merely of digital technologies, nor communication, nor education, but arises out of deep human needs for security, community, and stability. Thus our team examines the problem from an ecological perspective, looking at individual vulnerabilities, community vulnerabilities, political vulnerabilities, and cultural vulnerabilities that must be addressed to mitigate the problem.

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