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Modus Operandi


Dividers and Connectors

This tool proposes an analysis of what divides and what connects people in a community.

This analysis will help to identify what can be done (as a starting point) to create a climate of trust, and use the “spaces of peace" in a neighborhood as points from which to expand. Analysis should not be regarded as a recipe or a prescription; the tool provides points of reference that also need to be looked at creatively in order to innovation create of a peace initiative.

The analysis of Connectors and Dividers helps to define the starting points for the transformation of a complex conflict (multipartite) in a local setting. This exercise works better if done in a participatory manner, amongst a group of actors who are involved in peace programs and local development. It can be used as a research methodology to understand conflict factors.

One element (institution, value, experience, etc.) could be a “connector” in some scenarios, but in other cases the same element could play a role of “divider”. It depends of the conflict, the culture or the role in the community, for example, a Government program to provide foodstuffs to the people could be a “connector” if the people are organized and share the food fairly. But if the community has power struggles and rivalry the same program could exacerbate the violence.

Analyzing Connectors and Dividers
NatureDividers (Sources of tension)Connectors (Capacities for Peace)
Systems & Institutions
Attitudes & Actions
Values & Interests Different Shared
Experiences Different Shared
  • Systems & Institutions
    — Definition : Those are formal structures, institutional policies, local organizations (NGOs, businesses and local government programs) that have a key role in the local conflicts.
    — Examples: Police station, a day care program for children, a church, a neighborhood committee, a club or community network, a crisis and emergency plan in the community, a system for water distribution.
  • Attitudes & Actions
    — Definition: Pre-dispositions and behavioral patterns between community members.
    — Examples: Hostility to foreigners, traditions and beliefs, parenting patterns, young people’s hobbies .
  • Values & Interests (different & Shared)
    — Definition: Different point of views about the appreciation or importance of one thing over another.
    — Examples: The appearance of youth, fashion, music, authority in the family or conflicts related to a resource that is scarce. Competition for job opportunities.
  • Experiences: (different)
    — Definition: Significant situations that built a “referent scheme”.
    — Examples: People who have survived an earthquake, people with experience in the army, people who have lived out of the country.
  • Symbols
    — Definition: Artistic or historic representations of identity, history or different "sides" of a conflict.
    — Examples: Flags, traditional cloth, traditional products (food, crafts, etc.). Sometimes a wall, a street or a river representing the conflict.

The original complete tool [1] consists of a 7 step analysis starting with the context of the conflict.

The adapted version of the tool contains 4 steps:

  • Step 1: Perform a preliminary analysis of the local context
  • Step 2: Define and analyze Dividers (sources of tension).
  • Step 3: Define what are local “Connectors” and capacity for Peace
  • Step 4: Define the starting points to deal with conflict

Adapted from Anderson (1999), CDA Collaborative Learning Projects,

The process starts with a context analysis, and concludes with a testing process looking at the impact of peace initiatives. We discovered that the analysis of Connectors and Dividers is a valuable tool in itself, even when it is not used to assess the impact of an outsider. We use it to develop a better understanding of the local scenario and a starting point for a peace initiative.

Step 1. Perform a preliminary analysis of the local context:

This analysis involves identifying:

  • What are the most relevant and frequent conflicts?
  • Who are the stakeholders associated with the conflict?
  • What is the community´s history? What are their main interests?.

In this step it is not enough to “list” the interests of different actors. It is important to understand what kind of strategies these actors use to respond to conflict and why; what institutions are working on the issues of the conflict and what they doing are; what levels of violence have been reached in the past; and what are the historical roots of the current conflict.

Key Actions:

  • Prepare a meeting with the project team.
  • Define with your team a preliminary list of the key elements of the history and origin of this community.
  • Define and write about the main problems or conflict addressed by your program or organization.
  • Improvise and draw a physical “map” of the community.
  • Take the time to identify the main points of reference of this community.
  • Write a list of the main institutions related with the problem.
  • Write a list of the main stakeholders in the community (formal and informal)

Optional activity:
If the participants in the analysis process are not familiar with the community it will be necessary to prepare a brief consultation with some key community members and groups i.e.: youth leaders, civil servants, firemen, neighborhood committees, women’s organizations, etc. It is possible that some of these key actors are not able to express their “interests and needs” in a formal way, but rather through an informal approach or focus groups and dialogues about the main problems in the community. It is important to use these means to include them as they can give very valuable information.

Step 2. Define and analyze Dividers (sources of tension):

Use time to think about the real sources of tension behind the “obvious conflicts”

  • a) Some causes may be rooted in historical injustices
  • b) Other conflicts may be caused by recent events of short duration,
  • c) economic relations, geography, demography, politics, religion, etc.
  • d) manipulations of leaders of subgroups
  • e) Other causes can be promoted by foreign powers.
    Determine which of these sources of stress are internal or external to the community, which have a direct impact or a deeper cause.

Key actions:

  • Identify a provisional list of dividers
  • Classify the listed elements in the categories of the tool
  • Host a discussion with your team about:
    — Why you think that this element is a divider?
    — How much is this divider affecting the life in the community?
    — What elements are supporting this divider?
    — How much influence could your program have on those dividers?

Step 3. Define what are local “Connectors” and capacity for Peace:

In what moments or situations have people come together to collaborate despite the conflict? In what moments and situations do the actors "reconnect" despite their differences? What people, symbols, social events and spaces have the power to reconnect actors?

Key actions:

  • Brain-storm to identify the potential connectors (however small or whatever their nature)
  • Classify the connectors in the tool´s categories
  • Prioritize the most powerful connectors in the community
  • Determine how you can work with these connectors in the context of your program

Both connectors and the dividers need to be clearly labelled. A correct way to name the connectors and dividers is to identify the role they play and not only a name, for example: To write "local market" doesn’t help to understand the connector. It is better to be specific: "The local market committee has made the market a safe place to live and share with all members of the community". The same instructions apply to dividers (institutions, persons, attitudes, values, experiences and symbols).
The most abstract items will need more explanation. For example, the "white butterfly" may be a tropical insect living in the area; and this insect could represent an element of identity and local ownership. But it is necessary to explain why this symbol represents a capacity for peace. For example: “white butterfly has provided the opportunity to share activities between antagonistic actors through joining in conservation campaigns”.

Step 4. Define the starting points to deal with conflict:

It is very important to prepare a summary report of the analysis. This report could be prepared in 2 pages:

  • a) Context Analysis
  • b) Connectors
  • c) Dividers
  • d) Conclusions related to the program actions.

This could be a base line that can then be updated. It is important to take note of any evolution and changes during the implementation phase of the program.
After the analysis of Connectors and Dividers, the complete method of DNH recommends returning to an institutional analysis of the peace program in order to understand which actions are related with which issues and what is the expected impact on them. But here we limit ourselves to identifying the main connectors and in what way they can be included in your program.
If you are able to clarify which are the most sensitive sources of tension locally, and if you have discovered how the program actions can best be directed to transform these dividers, the main goal of the exercise is complete.
If the program wants to apply this tool as a complete cycle of evaluation and institutional analysis, we recommend further reading at

Top 5 mistakes in applying the connectors and dividers tool:

- 1. To use this tool as a magic “key” to obtain simple answers to the conflict.
- 2. To start the connectors and dividers analysis without a previous context analysis.
- 3. To consider the analysis completed without a consultation with local stakeholders
- 4. If you do not have a discussion about the dynamics behind the connectors or dividers.
- 5. Not writing a brief report to record the process.

[1The term was developed by CDA and a rich source of information about this methodology may be found on CDA’s website