Feb 10, 2023

we're saving you a seat

I just suggested that my institution read Amanda Ripley’s book High Conflict as our campus read next year. Here’s an excerpt from her conversation on On Being that was profound in its many stories and ideas.

Colombia has been through a lot of violence for half a century. And they’ve also tried a lot of things to invite people out of conflict. Out, literally — out of the jungle, out of the guerilla groups to disarm and reintegrate.

Lots of complexity there, you know… but putting all that aside. One of the things that has worked best, according to pretty new research by Juan Pablo Aparicio, is they did these very simple public service ads during Colombia national soccer games, national team soccer games, and — because they knew from listening to former guerilla members that all of them listened to these games on the radio in the jungle whenever they could. And in those ads they would just say very simply: “Next time, come home. We’re saving you a seat. Watch the next game with us.” And it was the mothers and fathers of guerilla members. And what they saw is the very next day, twice as many demobilizations, voluntary departures from the conflict, which, over time, over nine years of running these ads, added up to more people leaving the civil war voluntarily than left when the peace treaty was signed.

So that’s incredibly powerful. And there had to be other things happening; it wasn’t just the ad. But they lit up this other identity on purpose in a way that really resonated.