Social Media for Social Change – SCORE Leads the Way

Social media has emerged as one of the most powerful tools for communication and connection, bringing together millions of people across continents and within communities. But with that power, highly accessible channels are readily available for spreading disinformation, sowing divisiveness and contributing to offline conflict. In Sri Lanka, there has never been a more urgent need for healthy media consumption and digital and media literacy for youth.

Responding to this need, the Global Communities’ USAID-funded Social Cohesion and Reconcilation (SCORE) program co-created an initiative with local partner organizations to help young people combat the threat of weaponized information through webinars and trainings.

Viluthu, a non-profit organization working to build capacity and strengthen human capital in the conflict-affected Northern and Eastern regions of Sri Lanka, partnered with SCORE to conduct a series of online training programs on media literacy for nearly 20 youth from Trincomalee and Jaffna. The facilitators discussed how interest-groups and rogue individuals use digitally-enabled tools to distort facts and spread incendiary rhetoric to incite violence and erode social cohesion.

Without knowing, youth can unintentionally contribute to misinformation that can undermine healthy societies, giving way to socio-political division and violent conflict. The lead mentor of this program spoke to participants about changing this narrative through the effective and responsible use of language and tools, building resilience and assisting vulnerable populations through awareness-building and education, and  strategies that build social cohesion.

“Participating in the online workshop was very useful for me to improve my digital literacy; I learned how we can use social media and even hashtags to share information,” shares Ms. Umaipriya, a youth participant from Inuvil, Jaffna.

For organizations working in development and peacebuilding, weaponized social media adds complexity to the already difficult work of preventing and responding to drivers of conflict. SCORE’s program seeks to build skills in citizen storytelling as a way to balance polarizing online rhetoric while making youth more responsible consumers and producers of information.

“I think social media platforms is a powerful tool to share the findings of community research done by us which delves into the issues faced by our communities. This workshop has taught us a new way of telling our stories," Umaipriya says.

Since this webinar, the participants have taken what they learned to building their own messaging around the power of social media within their own social circles, leading the way for a generation of engaged, socially-responsible youth.

Global Communities’ SCORE program works with the Government of Sri Lanka and local civil society organizations to address underlying challenges to reconciliation. The program works by promoting a shared and inclusive Sri Lankan identity, reducing socio-economic disparities, and strengthening cohesion and resilience among multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities. Learn more about our work in Sri Lanka.