What is DISI?

The Disrupted Societies Institute (DISI) is a start-up think tank founded by a young, international group of academics to better understand the divisive forces behind disrupted societies. There is an increasing polarization and fragmentation between social groups. At the same time, it appears that resolutions to these problems are not within reach. Hence, we have to radically rethink and explore what holds today’s societies together, as what causes them to grow apart. At DISI we bundle our strengths to do thorough research, give policy advice and draft feasible solutions. What makes us unique? We are driven, academically grounded and not afraid to actively engage with communities. We look for creative solutions to reconnect people. Indeed, we love research just as much as we love action.

Our research

We strive for mapping out possible issues via thorough, clear and goal-oriented research. As a consequence, we never compromise on quality while at the same time aim for accessibility. Expect analytical depth that is peer-reviewed and based on our younger generations interwoven understanding of today’s complex challenges.

Mapping social divisions

In times of disruption, citizens retrench to their own social group and tend to emphasise identity differences. This leads to misunderstanding and further polarization. We map such social division, identity polarizing labels and discover identity characteristics that bring people together. As a graduated nationalism expert from the University of Edinburgh, Luuc has experience in researching the dynamics of group identities and why people feel divided or connected as a result of these identities. Read his chapter in Political Science and Changing Politics and check out our session at the Innocracy conference.

Analyzing trust dynamics

Trust is the glue that holds our societies together. We need some degree of trust in government, institutions and each other to function and find agreements on controversial issues. Problematically, recent trust barometers show historically low numbers. To understand and counter distrust, we first need to know how trust dynamics work in a specific context. As an academic researcher at the University of Amsterdam, Larissa analyses trust developments in negotiation settings, on the crossroads of social psychology and politics.

Responsive policy design

Policy changes, disconnected from the public, risk causing a high degree of uncertainty, face low acceptance and severe dissatisfaction in society. We see that mainstream public participation programmes are not effective. What is needed is a real rapprochement between the government and the governed. DISI created an innovative five-step process for policy design that involves agile, educational and mediative elements. We provide guidelines and helpful correctives to overcome social divisions. They are case-proven and academically published, as in Anatol's article in the Harvard-based Negotiation Journal.

Our action

Our research breaks out of the academic ivory tower. In order to truly bring change, research should be grounded in society. Besides, we like a bit of upheaval. At times it is necessary to wake sleeping dogs in order to overcome a deadlocked situation. We can facilitate different interventions to reach that goal.

Uncovering stories

Understanding the others’ point of view starts with talking about it in an accessible way. Podcasts are an excellent tool to start a conversation between different groups, reaching a broad audience and thus having a big impact. By organising so-called ‘neighbourhood radio’ we facilitate the production of a series of podcasts about (social, economic, public) issues in a certain neighbourhood. Discussions between community groups takes central stage while recording. Publishing these podcasts online enables us to extend public outreach to a wider audience. DISI’s qualifications are grounded in Luuc’s extensive experience producing podcasts for Radio Swammerdam.

Bubblemeetings

States, regions and neighbourhoods are increasingly segregated into smaller ‘bubbles’. These fault lines make it more and more difficult to create effective policies and tackle pressing issues. DISI works with a #reconnectingpeople approach, to dampen the shock of potential societal changes, breaking bubbles and facilitating encounters in a safe environment. Accordingly, Anatol helped reducing the impasse and polarization surrounding Germany’s energy transition. He contributed to connecting more than twenty distrusting and fragmented stakeholders that now work together collaboratively towards a functioning future energy system.

Trust workshop

We are not pretending that we can simply ‘build’ trust. However, we are convinced that we can create awareness about the distrust – and trust – that exists in a certain environment. Through workshops and role playing with concerned stakeholders, we can find out where trust exists and where it doesn't exist: trust between citizens might be strong, while trust in the local government may be lacking. In our trust workshops, participants learn to recognize and understand dynamics of trust and distrust. Larissa’s expertise about this topic is grounded in her academic research, just as is Anatol’s practical experience reconnecting local communities and government to build trust during the UN’s climate conference in Bonn.

Our team

Anatol Itten

Anatol Itten

Conflict

Dr Anatol Itten completed a PhD at the University of Lucerne on public conflict resolution. He was a research fellow at the Public Mediation Program at the University of Amsterdam and worked at the German Ministry for the Environment for the UN Climate Conference. In addition, Anatol has more than eight years of professional experience in public policy advocacy. His work has been published in international peer-reviewed journals and books. Anatol’s focal points at DISI are resolving public conflicts, strategies to tackle democratic disconnection and improving civic participation in times of social division.

Larissa Versloot

Larissa Versloot

Trust

Larissa Versloot, MSc. is a political scientist, communication scientist and historian. Her area of expertise lies in International Relations, which is the main focus of her current work as a lecturer in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. Currently she is doing research on trust in international negotiations, which was in part inspired by her previous work experience at the United Nations in New York. At DISI, Larissa specializes in the changing character of trust and distrust. In particular, she focuses on (dis-)trust interaction between individuals, groups and (democratic) institutions.

Luuc Brans

Luuc Brans

Identity

Luuc Brans, MSc. is a political sociologist working as a lecturer in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. Specialized in nationalism in times of political upheaval, he is currently starting his PhD on the topic of German national identity after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In addition, Luuc produces podcasts on academic research and current affairs, to make the fruits of academic research available to a wider audience. Luuc’s work at DISI is targeted at the relation between identity and social inclusion and the creative dissemination of research results through podcasting and other platforms.

Get in touch

The Disrupted Societies Institute (DISI) is an international non-partisan think tank, founded in 2018 in Amsterdam, in order to study and re-discover the ability to find common ground on controversial issues in increasingly divided Western societies. This is necessary because citizens become alienated from each other, tend to assume that their opponents believe more extreme things than they really do and disconnect from democratic consensus. As its core competency, DISI provides research, advocacy and social mastery experiences. List of publications.
  •   +31 6 22880708
  •   Derkinderenstraat 44, 1062 Amsterdam
  •   hello@disinstitute.com