(By Special Correspondent – Sarajevo):
On 28 August 2014, the Post-Conflict Research Center’s project “Ordinary Heroes” was awarded first place by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group at the Intercultural Innovations Award Ceremony held during the 6th Global Forum of the UNAOC in Bali, Indonesia. More than 1,200 participants representing heads of states and governments, foreign ministers, and members of the Alliance Group of Friends attended this year’s Forum.
The award ceremony was opened with President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, who highlighted the role of the Intercultural Innovation Award in ensuring the global forum produced results. He stated, “We need to ensure that this dialogue leads to action that is real and concrete and makes this world better for everyone. The Intercultural Innovation Award is an extraordinary example of this commitment to action.” Referring to the awardees, he emphasized, “They all represent living models of how intercultural dialogue can lead to more peaceful and inclusive societies. Creativity, commitment, resilience, courage and passion are all qualities that the define the people that will be honored tonight.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon stressed the necessity of the award winners’ commitment to their work and stated that PCRC’s work was evidence that the use of multimedia, educational approaches in building peace and stability works. During his opening speech he stated, “We live in a time of transformation. Our world is changing rapidly, to keep pace we must strengthen cooperation, we must be innovative in expanding the space for dialogue, and we must break down barriers of mistrust and build new avenues of understanding.”
Bill McAndrews, Vice President of Communications Strategy and Corporate and Market Communications for the BMW Group stated, “Each awardee is a true pioneer. A catalyst for intercultural dialogue. Such individuals as the awardees this evening have incredible potential to initiate positive change in our world, not only today but in the future. This is why we are convinced of the great value of our unique cooperation with the UNAOC. Together we will continue to support initiatives and help maximize their impact, not only today, but in the future”
Founder and Executive Director of PCRC Velma Šarić makes it clear that the support of the UNAOC and BMW Group can not only make it possible for PCRC to continue its activities within Bosnia, but can also broaden its reach by helping the organization expand its activities into other countries in the former Yugoslavia. PCRC believes that this project’s impact should not stop there, however, and PCRC is working with the UNAOC and the BMW Group to develop materials that can be used by like-minded organizations throughout the world who want to replicate the project in their communities.
BMW Capacity Building Workshop in Munich
The first capacity building workshop was held last week at the BMW headquarters in Munich from 12 – 17 October. Šarić explained, “The workshop focused on capacity development, strategic and organizational planning, leadership, financial viability, communications and impact analysis.”
“We learned from world successful managers of strategy, marketing, development and communications from the BMW Group. To have access to such expertise and knowledge is the dream of every NGO,” said Šarić. “We were given so many practical and useful tools to help us navigate things such as public speaking and media appearances. The training was intensive, interactive and practical, and our hosts worked really hard to give us feedback and work with each of us one on one. They even made time to give us a tour of the city and visit the BMW Museum.”
The prize money of 100,500 US dollars, which is distributed among the eleven finalists according to their ranking, is certainly an important part, but by no means the central element of the Intercultural Innovation Award. The BMW Group will take the winning projects under its wing in the coming years, providing training and creating networks. “We want to pass our business know-how on to these organizations,” says Bill McAndrews. “All of these people have their hearts in the right place, but very often they do not know how to better organize themselves, find sponsors, set themselves up on a broader scale, or reach more people.” McAndrews explains that this is why, in order to participate, the projects have to be designed for the long-term and show potential for further development. He notes with satisfaction that research has revealed that the projects the prize has funded have reached 350,000 people to since it was first awarded in 1997. The goal is to beat the million mark by 2018.
Bill McAndrews explained that the award aims to continue supporting initiatives and helps maximize their impact, not only today, but in the future. As such, PCRC and the 10 other finalists will become part of the World Intercultural Program for Innovation (WIFI). This program, developed by UNAOC and the BMW Group, is designed to help organizations become more efficient in the field and expand their core business by providing them access to experts in a wide range of fields who will be available to advise and assist the awardees in their endeavors.
PCRC Wants to Thank Those Who Made the Ordinary Heroes Project Possible
Šarić stresses that the Ordinary Heroes project would not be possible without the contributions of many people and organizations along the way. Leora Kahn and her organization PROOF: Media for Social Justice initiated the discovery of the Bosnian rescuers in 2009, when Kahn asked Šarić and photographer Paul Lowe to help her add to the Rescuers photography exhibition, which, at that time, consisted of stories from the Holocaust, Cambodia and Rwanda.
After seeing the potential such stories had to initiate change in Bosnia’s post-conflict society, PCRC began to develop other components, which eventually would comprise the Ordinary Heroes project. With the help of Director Mirko Pincelli and his production company Pinch Media in London, PCRC was able to produce a
documentary series that depicts real-life stories of Bosnian citizens, who, by choosing to rescue the ‘other’, became heroes in a time when their country was committing acts of genocide. Each 30-minute episode includes interviews with the rescuers and those they saved, as well as conversations with neighbors, friends, and family members who can contribute to their stories. Al Jazeera Balkans will be screening the series on it regional program Regioscope, which reaches over half a million viewers across the Balkans region.
PCRC also developed a youth workshop, which it runs in communities throughout Bosnia. The workshop’s content builds upon the work of Dr. Ervin Staub, professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts and Director of the Ph.D. concentration on the psychology of peace and the prevention of violence, and Dr. Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist and former Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University. Dr. Ervin Staub is a PCRC international advisory board member and direct contributed to many aspects of this project development. PCRC uses many elements from his reconciliation work and incorporates components of his research on rescuer behavior, moral courage and bystandership throughout this project’s design. PCRC additionally references Dr. Zimbardo’s recent work from his ‘Heroic Imagination Project’ that is designed to inspire ordinary people to act as heroes and agents of social change.
In addition, PCRC knew that wanted to keep its youth participants engaged after the initial workshop intervention. Therefore, the organization decided to initiate the Srđan Aleksić Youth Competition. The purpose of the competition is to challenge young people to discover, collect, and share stories of peacebuilding, moral courage, and inter-ethnic cooperation from their own communities. We hope to inspire the Bosnian youth by encouraging them to take an active role in the promotion of positive examples of people in Bosnia who are making a difference in the lives of others.
In 2011, Dr. Čehajić-Clancy approached PCRC after learning about the Ordinary Heroes project. She offered to work with PCRC voluntarily to help develop a way to measure the project’s impact and results. Her research specifically focuses on the role of moral exemplars in the process of reconciliation as a strategy to change biased impressions of perpetrator group(s). Recent evidence resulting from the initial research suggests that belief in reconciliation among young people is increased under conditions of being exposed to stories of heroic helpers in a post-conflict setting of Bosnia. Dr. Čehajić-Clancy’s work has greatly contributed to the relevance of the Ordinary Heroes project and her efforts are a crucial part in helping the organization increase its capacity to measure and disseminate the results of its work.
“There have been many other individuals and organizations that have helped PCRC bring this project to the level it is today,” Šarić explains.
“There are the people that always believed in us and dedicated their time and energy to helping us succeed, including Abigail Disney, Ivana Cvetković-Bajrović, Merdijana Sadović, Enrico Tessarin, David Schwendiman, Mario Buil-Merce, David Pettigrew, David Simon, Randi and Erik Markusen, Peter Van Arsdale, Erna Mačkić, our staff and volunteers, and our families.
There are our donors, which include the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Fetzer Institute, the Norwegian Embassy in Sarajevo, NATO, the US State Department, the US Embassy in Sarajevo, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, and the Swiss Embassy in Sarajevo.
There are the photographers, who were able to capture the images of the rescuers that will memorialize their heroism forever, including Paul Lowe, Mirko Pincelli, Leora Kahn, Nicolas Axelrod, Sonia Folkmann and Riccardo Gangale.
There are organizations and institutions that provided crucial data and information during the project’s development and that helped us coordinate and organize our activities in towns throughout Bosnia, including the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), Braenchild Media, the University of Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, the WARM (War Art Report and Memory) Foundation, Fundación Universitaria Bellas Artes in Medellin, Colombia, the PRONI Center for Youth Development, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Jewish Community of Sarajevo and Mostar, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Srpska, BlackBox, and the municipalities of Brčko, Bijeljina, Bratunac, Srebrenica, Mostar, Široki Brijeg, Trebinje, Tuzla, Goražde, Vareš, Visoko, Sarajevo, and Kladanj.
But, most importantly of all, there are the ordinary heroes who allowed us into our lives and let us share their stories with the world.”