INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS & SECURITY
Exchanging emails instead of gunfire
Harvard Kennedy School behavioral scientist Julia Minson has joined forces with a Norwegian computer expert in a global campaign to engage millions of Russian citizens in fact-based, one-on-one email conversations about their country’s invasion of Ukraine. Minson, an associate professor of public policy, reached out to Fabian (who uses only his first name for security reasons), who had launched the crowd-sourcing email-writing campaign from Norway to counter Russia’s information blockade and disinformation campaigns. Minson, whose family roots are a mix of Russian and Ukrainian, offered her expertise on how people can communicate effectively during conflicts. Minson’s suggestions included shortening the messages, focusing on the humanitarian and economic costs of the war, and asking the Russian recipients to respond. “We try to understand how you can talk to people who dramatically disagree with your view of the world in a way that doesn't blow up into a screaming match—and actually leads to persuasion and ongoing dialogue,” she said. To date, some 550,000 volunteers have sent more than 60 million emails.