Agence CommonBear’s Garden Party

On March 19th and 21st we organized an event at Sciences Po. Our goal was to get to know students’ personal experience of prejudices. By taking 2 minutes of their time, we were able to engage, talk and above all listen to their ideas. Successfully, we conducted more than 50 surveys!

First we asked them if they had witnessed discrimination at Sciences Po and asked if they could provide some examples. Then we wanted to know what were their own misconceptions about Sciences Po students before getting into school and if those biases had evolved since then.

The most common stereotype was that Sciences Po is a school for « rich privileged French white kids ». Some also described their former bias against Conventions d’Education Prioritaire (CEP) students, which is an affirmative action program that aims to make Sciences Po socially more inclusive.

Through putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, most students were able to overcome their prejudices by simple engaging with the group they discriminated before. Meeting new people and make friends, helped them deconstruct their former biases.

To put it in a nutshell, we tried to make students reflect about their own misconceptions and see if they were able to challenge their views now that they belong to the Sciences Po community. The overall answer is that YES they challenged their views and emphasized the importance of trying to know people before putting a tag on them.

If you want to hear other people’s stories click here. 

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AS RACIST AS RON

BY GAIA  ROVELLI

Yes, it is me: one of the children keeping the windows open all the summer of their eleventh year. One of those who tried to fly in the kitchen holding their grandmother’s scrubbing brush and ending up with physical injuries and destroyed self-esteem.
One of the kids who deeply wished that the Harry Potter world was more than a printed story.

When you are touched in the earliest age by a novel, a movie or a life episode, this is likely to affect the way you will frame and make sense of the world from that stage on. From the point you allow something to get hold of your heart and mind, you can work with it: you can build stories and narratives, make comparisons and build your judgments.

Victim of the Harry Potter imaginary, I tried to guess which kind of character I would have been. I would never go for first line heros, of course- to much of a cliché. But if I could, I would rather choose for myself the second line role of “substance” personalities as Minerva McGonnagal, rather than the good-natured but spineless figure of Ron Weasley.

At least, this is what I thought until I came across an article describing Ron Weasley character as Racist.

That was the moment when all my perceptions changed.

Indeed, Ron Weasley is racist: accepting inferior positions for house-elves, he is disgusted when he finds out Lupin is a werewolf and he is shocked discovering his friend Hagrid is a half giant. Shame on you, Ron. Because this moral flaws make your character just amazing.

All characters grow and change in J.K. Rowling’s books, but the red-head friend of Potter is the one who makes the most amazing journey. He does not reveal himself as something different than the readers would think, nor does he defeat all the horrors of his time. He does much more.
He challenges his human nature.Ron Weasley starts off with fears and prejudices that are resulting from the lenses he grew up with. Having always lived with his family, he never really had to question himself, because no big decisions would confront him with his deepest nature. However, when he receives his letter from Hogwarts (no embarrassing granny’s brush episode for you- how lucky), he gets out of his familiar environment and he reaches out to the “big world”, meeting the unknown.

Faced with adults’ world, he discovers that despite his good will, he is not totally comfortable with the practical implications of the ideas he used to embrace. This inner contrast is exactly what makes Ron one of us.

I am a 23 year old student, grown up with the gift to have a family fighting for me to have a good education: both in school, as well as with the very down-to-earth (re)considerations that my parents got me to do. Reflection before action, consistency between ideals and behavior.
I am part of a privileged minority, who could study in its field of interest, who can read newspapers, debate with smart and motivated peers, live with a range of “low-to-much-acceptable” everyday life burdens. Coming from this, it is not so hard to act as the “knights of morality”.

But this comfortable framework could be the only reason why we are rooted to our principles: because we have never challenged them.
I have assisted to lectures and seminars on Global Justice and Political Philosophy- it was enough for me to understand that, just as Ron, I am a human.

I could be racist, prejudiced, narrow-minded.

I could be everything that I hated.

This year I have had the unique opportunity to study at Sciences Po, and with a group of talented and inspiring mates I began to work on a challenge against extremism with my agency: CommonBear. The argument made in this post might not touch you profoundly, but I want you to read it as a friends’ invitation. Think about doing something good and challenging that your values demand you. Grow your convictions with everyday gestures. Do not waste time telling the world who you are: show it to yourself.

We are all humans – as much as Ron. However, this is no excuse for being racist.
If anything, it is the reason why Hagrid is just cool and Lupin is more than a werewolf. And it is the reason why I have made a resolution for myself: challenge my roots.

 

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#Change shoes, change perspectives.

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(To watch this video click here)

You probably know the expression “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” Meaning, challenge yourself to understand someone else’s point of view.

But this post is not about our “6 steps” photos (check out our Instagram photos here and subscribe to our FB page here if you have no idea what I’m talking about). The next step is to ask you to tell us YOUR story. A story where you decided to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Try to recall a day when there was someone new in your class or at work and you thought you could never get along with this person. Maybe you were even surprised with your initial apprehension.

Then try to remember why. Was it because of the way she/he looked, spoke or dressed? Maybe you had subconsciously associated some of his or her features with negative thoughts and subliminal prejudices.

Now try to remember when you realized that this was nonsense and that it was time to challenge yourself. You wanted to transform this prejudice into curiosity. So, you decided to engage in a conversation and realized that you had more in common than you initially realized. You stepped out of your comfort zone. We all know how hard this can be, but the reward is always worth it.

If you can relate to this short example, we would like to hear your story. It does not have to be long. But it’s important that we understand your misconceptions in the first place, how you challenged yourself (i.e. how you decided to overcome them) and the results of this action (to share your story kindly click here).

We hope to gather as many testimonies as possible because our ultimate goal is to show that everyone—no matter his or her social, academic, religious or ethnic background, has prejudices. If you are not sure about that, check out this short video We All Have Racial Bias by Mamoudou N’Diaye. Once you are self-aware of these limits, the most important step is acknowledging them and challenging yourself. To expect change, we need to start with ourselves.

By Nina Tiquet

WH(Y)AT ARE WE DOING AFTER ALL?

If I had to count, I’ve probably given this answer hundreds of times. The question is always the same: “I don’t really understand. Why are you taking photos of your feet? What is CommonBear after all?”

Here, I would give the logical (and perhaps most sensible) answer. I would explain the theory of six degrees of separation (just google it if you find yourself being as ignorant as me) and that we are participating in a competition promoted by Facebook and the US Department of Homeland Security, with 200 other universities from all over the world. I would say that its main objective is to counter extremism and that we took on this challenge in its most mundane form–which is simply to combat the anti-migration atmosphere in Paris.

However, such an explanation lacks real motives and justifications. Why are we doing this after all? It’s easy to assume that we want to “look good in the picture”; that we are a group of privileged kids studying in one of France’s elite universities, trying to make something good out of Zuckerberg’s challenge of countering extremism (as if we could!).

Assumptions are often made out of the ignorance of some and the willingness of others to prove a certain point. And should I say, most of the time, they do not correspond to the truth.

The same does not apply to convictions – those beliefs that we hold in the deep of our souls – that no matter where, how and why, are the purest (and truest) version of ourselves.

It is our conviction that we all have, despite our nationality, some sort of connection. We are all #rooted2 the same passions and interests. I can be #rooted2 fashion in the exact same way as someone in Istanbul. You can be #rooted2 sushi if you are a Muslim or a Catholic.

We have the freedom to choose our path but we have certain roots that are commonly shared. Food, sports, literature, cinema, the list goes on. No extremism can change that.

Same Roots, Different Branches.

~Filipa Bernardes Vilela

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“6 steps” challenge : locations reached.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in our “6 steps” challenge so far! In the days to come, we hope to make connections with our Latin American and African friends as well. Spread the word and continue to see where your 6 degrees of separation are #Rooted2!

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Here’s a list of the cities/states we’ve hit so far:
-Victoria, Australia
-London, England
-Paris, France
-Rosheim, France
-Toulouse, France
-Tel Aviv, Israel
-Brindisi, Italy
-Milan, Italy
-Hpa-An, Myanmar
-Aveiro, Portugal
-Espinho, Portugal
-Lisbon, Portugal
-Turcifal, Portugal
-Edinburgh, Scotland
-Singapore, Singapore
-Bratislava, Slovakia
-Presov, Slovakia
-California, USA
-Maryland, USA
-New Jersey, USA
-New York, USA

Do migrants really pose a threat to French national identity?

A brief look into today’s newspapers reveals the omnipresence of the migration issue. This is a political debate that is being heatedly fought, while voices which, to say the least, are deeply distrustful of migrants entering France, have experienced a prodigious rise in popularity. These voices like to point out how migrants from different cultural backgrounds do not fit in French society, and that France finds itself threatened of loosing its national identity.

However, when looking at great French men and women of the past, one might draw a rather different picture of migrations’ influences on France society. Ironically, what gets clear is that in fact, French society and history (obviously, cornerstones of the country’s national identity, the value migrant sceptics) were essentially influenced by French with migration backgrounds.

For instance, Serge Gainsbourg, one of the most celebrated French singers, was the son of Jewish-Russian migrants. Similarly, Charles Aznavour was of Armenian descent. France’s largest automobile industry, Citroen, was founded by André Citroen whose Jewish parents were from the Netherlands and Poland. Marie Curie, two-times awarded with the Nobel Price of Physics, was from Poland. And even the great Napoleon Bonaparte, is of Italian descent. The list could well go on with names such as Alexandre Dumas, Zinedine Zidane or Jean Reno. So, why is it that migrants are still so much feared and sometimes even hated, when they actually contributed to the formation of the French national identity?!

~Eren Atarim

You are 6 steps away from anyone in the world. Not convinced ? We are about to test this theory out. #Rooted2 #P2PChallenge

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Eventually Everything Connects.

On Friday March 3rd, Facebook very generously hosted a Training Day at their Paris office. They brought in experts to foster open dialogue on countering extremism and to facilitate proper campaign implementation strategies. The Online Civil Courage Initiative, a partner of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, aims to combat hate speech on the Internet through educating individuals on ways to respond to online extremism. The OCCI challenged us to think of innovative ways to best promote an alternative, positive message. They reinforced that this campaign is not about censorship. Our goal is not to limit freedom of speech. Instead, we believe that positive discourse and debate will be the most effective step towards reforming hateful and extremist opinions. Amongst the hate, there is a tremendous amount of civil courage on Facebook. We would like to draw attention to this and promote a message more powerful than the rest.

“Eventually Everything Connects”—a sign that caught my eye in the back corner of a wall at Facebook. This is a central theme of our campaign and something that as a group of migrants, we believe wholeheartedly. Our Pre-Buzz Campaign will be drawing upon this idea. So stay tuned, everything will connect soon.

~Olivia Lindenberg

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By Olivia Linderberg

#Rooted2

*** EN ***

Sweden, England, France, Germany, Syria, Slovakia, United States, Italy, Portugal, Comoros, Turkey, the list goes on. 16 students, 12 nationalities and 17 languages. Different cultural, academic, and political backgrounds, but we all share a common characteristic: migration. We are travellers. We are expatriates. We are migrants.

Nowadays, migration is a pressing issue. However, we believe that migration is an inherent part of humanity. Human beings have always migrated and crossed borders. Our aim is to underline that, despite the things that separate us such as our skin color, religion, political opinions or origins—we can all find some commonality. Whether it be sports, cooking, reading, drawing, photography, postal stamps or vintage cars—we are all united by our passions. We are all #Rooted2 something.

We want to show that similarities between humans are superior to differences. Our objective is to highlight these common passions, create bridges between different populations and enable communication between groups of individuals who assume that they have nothing in common. We want to counter hate speech and division by enforcing positive messages that demonstrate the humanity in each of us. Our goal is to de-politicize the question of migration by emphasizing a neutral and positive subject: OUR passions.

*** FR ***

Suède, Angleterre, France, Allemagne, Liban, Slovaquie, Etats-Unis, Italie, Portugal, Comores, Turquie, et tant d’autres pays: 16 étudiants, 12 nationalités et encore plus d’origines et de pays que nous aimons. Des bagages culturels, académiques et politiques différents, mais une caractéristique commune : la migration. Nous sommes des voyageurs, nous sommes des migrants, nous sommes des expatriés, nous sommes des réfugiés.

La question de la migration est aujourd’hui considérée comme un problème. Pourtant, nous pensons que la migration est une part inhérente de l’humanité : les êtres humains ont toujours migré, bougé, voyagé et traversé les frontières. Notre objectif est de montrer que, malgré nos différences, quelque soit notre couleur de peau, notre religion, nos opinions politiques et nos origines, nos parcours migratoires (ou pas), malgré tout ce qui semble nous séparer, il est possible de trouver aux quatre coins de la planète des personnes partageant les mêmes passions : le sport, la cuisine, l’écriture ou la littérature, le dessin, la photographie, les timbres postaux et les voitures de collection.

Nous voulons prouver que les similarités entre êtres humains sont plus fortes que les différences. Notre objectif est de mettre en avant ces passions communes, de créer des ponts entre différentes populations, de permettre la communication entre des personnes qui pensaient ne rien avoir en commun. Nous voulons faire barrages aux discours haineux et à la division en proposant des messages positifs insistant sur l’humanité inhérente à chacun d’entre nous, et dépolitiser la question de la migration en mettant en avant un sujet positif et neutre : NOS passions.

By Déborah  Patri

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The faces of Agence CommonBear. Check our ‘Meet the Team’ Page for more info.

Last Monday we went on a Parisian Facebook tour.

On Monday the 13th of February, our team went on a tour of Facebook France, located on 6 rue Ménars in Paris. It was such an incredible and unique opportunity to be able to visit the French headquarters of the world’s largest social media platform.

We had an hour-long meeting with a Facebook employee who answered our questions and shared her insights regarding the implementation of our project. Then we walked through Facebook’s gigantic open space where employees can easily move from one team to another one and exchange ideas. Although this may seem obvious for a company like Facebook, the employees were very young—mostly in their late twenties or early thirties.

The office is situated on the top two floors of a large white modernist building. It also had an amazing rooftop with a beautiful view of Paris and the Eiffel tower to boost! BlaBlaCar is at the basement of the building, which gives the office a very young and dynamic atmosphere.

When we started to walk around the office and moved from the Facebook area to the Instagram area, some of us started to dream out loud about working for Facebook after graduation. But I digress. What really struck us was the incredible number of motivational stickers displayed on the walls. Slogans such as “the foolish wait,” “fail harder,” and “done is better than perfect” served as inspiration to employees.

To help you visualize our tour, here are some pictures. Thank you to Facebook France for the invitation and for showing us one of the coolest working environments in France!

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If you are curious and want to see more pictures of Facebook France, you can check out this website.

By Nina Tiquet  Continue reading