The Bridging Divides Initiative at The Liechtenstein Institute of Self-Determination at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs seeks to understand polarization in the United States – including underlying root causes of power and inequality, identity, violence, extremism, the role of the economy, and of media and misinformation. It also brings students, the academic community, and practitioners together to promote domestic community building and cross partisan efforts. Drawing lessons from decades of work around the globe in violence prevention, community cohesion and addressing polarization in post-conflict and highly politicized environments, the Polarization Lab seeks to support domestic efforts to do the same.
To learn more about BDI and the work we do, please visit our Project Overview or contact Director, Nealin Parker.
Initial initiatives from the BDI team include:
- Online Resource and Risk Map - A resource for community building organizations and individuals to increase their network, coordinate, collaborate and focus resources in areas of higher risk for political violence. The map may expand to incorporate further networks, and machine learning models for predicting risk of political violence.
- Community Toolkit - A resource for local leaders and citizens to empower their community, prevent political violence, and respond to incidents that do arise. The toolkit combines lessons from international early warning initiatives with domestic expertise in US emergency management, faith-based, and community-building networks.
- Supporting a National Strategy - A resource and catalyst for emerging efforts to efforts think nationally about political violence prevention. Using its research, convening ability and partnerships, BDI supports gathering relevant stakeholders to discuss prevention and early warning plans, and support electoral violence prevention.
- Building Bridging Leaders – A resource for graduate and undergraduate students at Princeton University, by incorporating them in the work and leadership of the initiative and building expertise for future leadership.
Meet the Team
is a Lecturer at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with a joint appointment at the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, serving as the Director of the Bridging Divides Initiative. She teaches courses on political polarization and conflict transformation, refugees, and management of aid in countries in crisis. Prior to this, Nealin served in the Obama Administration as Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Acting Director of the Office of Transition Initiatives at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID/OTI), which is the office designed to provide rapid response to political crises globally. Nealin earned a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from the University of Virginia.
Shannon Hiller joins the BDI team following a decade of work in international development and foreign policy. At USAID and a range of non profits, she has helped manage and drive funding to peace building and conflict prevention programs across Asia, East Africa, and the Middle East. Currently Assistant Director for International Affairs and Operations at Princeton, Shannon brings diverse experience in start up and strategy for complex organizations. A proud Southwest Virginia native, she holds an MPA from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School and a BA from the University of Georgia.
Jonathan Haynes is originally from Midland, MI and a senior in the politics department at Princeton. Jonathan is actively involved with LISD as a student associate and helps to lead Princeton's voter engagement campaign. Jonathan is honored to be a part of the BDI team for the reason that it provides a timely opportunity to bring visibility to the best parts of humanity in tense political times.
Matej Jungwirth is a native of Prague, Czech Republic, who received BA degree from Beloit College and MPA one from the Woodrow Wilson School. While researching the status and agency of displaced people in various locations, Matej came to believe that individual victims of conflicts are often the most marginalized actors in subsequent negotiations and post-conflict settlements. In Fall 2018, Matej completed the Bridging Divides course taught by Nealin and has been involved with BDI ever since. He put together a very early version of the risk and resources map and contributed to data cleaning and analysis.
Katrina McLaughlin is a Master in Public Affairs student at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University. She grew up in northern California and says almonds with no "l". Her background is in energy and environmental policy, and has included work in California, D.C., Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming. Her interest in BDI is informed by her time living and working in highly urban and rural places, and seeing how polarization keeps these communities from finding shared common ground. She is excited to join the mapping project and to further its work identifying tools for bridging divides.
Kelly Murphy is an aspiring conflict mediator who became involved with the Bridging Divides Initiative through her work with the Bridge Alliance. Originally from Massachusetts, she earned her B.A. in Political Science from New York University Abu Dhabi and is currently studying Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin. She is inspired by the organizations in the BDI map and is eager to see the effects of their great work.
is a MPA candidate at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs. Peter has a background in economic and workforce development. In New York City government, he served on a strategic planning team that advised City Hall on emerging economic development issues facing the city. At the Markle Foundation, Peter helped to launch the Skillful initiative and the Skillful State Network, a forum for officials from over 20 states to learn from each other’s innovative workforce development programs. He joined BDI to help communities strengthen their civic fabric. Peter is from Madison, Wisconsin and earned his BA from Washington University in St. Louis.
is a senior Integrated Marketing Communications major at the University of Mississippi. He plans to work with non-profit organizations after he graduates. He joined this team as a part of an internship with the Listen First Project, a group which encourages conversations to bridge divides in society. Brody is thankful to be a part of a group which seeks to bring people together for good purposes.
was introduced to the Bridging Divides Initiative during her time as an MPA student at the Woodrow Wilson School. Prior to graduate school, she worked in Washington, DC for several years, including on Capitol Hill. She hopes that BDI helps further conversations about political polarization in America and how citizens can best respond to the current political climate.