BRIDGES Workign paper nº 18 (2023)
Based on three national reports presenting the findings on innovative strategies against exclusionary narratives developed by civil society organisations or NGOs in Germany, Italy and Spain, respectively, this comparative report brings together key findings from the national contexts, compares crucial insights, and draws conclusions that, ultimately, also feed into recommendations and guidelines for future campaigns in the form of a toolkit. In doing so, it focuses on seven comparative nodes centred on narrative success, namely context; goals, objectives and ambitions; main activities and strategies; countering the securitisation of borders; actors; agency and positionality. A key finding is that mobilising, combining or bundling forces, if undertaken with a keen understanding of the political and societal context, can be a decisive factor in success and even open up political stalemates or highly polarised debates. Similarly, bottom-up organising and mobilising can be an effective way to communicate directly and successfully with intended audiences, when combined with top-down coordination. Third, we find that windows of opportunity as well as perseverance or resilience are crucial to the narrative success of civil society organisations and NGOs working in the field of migration. Our findings moreover show that initiatives active in the field of migration, public debate and policy-making are not typically professional narrative makers and do not see building alternative narratives or counter-narratives and disseminating them as central to their operations. Indeed, narratives often emerge from the initiatives’ activities almost as a by-product. Fifth, we note that pluralist societies and their public discourses benefit from the diversification of narratives, the alternatives and challenges to hegemonic discourse. The toolkit developed to embrace these lessons learned shows how research may help future campaigns to contribute to pluralistic discourses across Europe.