Cure Violence fuses technology with public art, health, and
safety to help eradicate community violence.
The violence that plagues our world is reaching epidemic levels. In
fact, community violence is one of the leading causes of death for
people ages 15 to 44 years worldwide, accounting for 14 percent of
deaths among males and 7 percent of deaths among females.
In 2008, approximately $5.75 trillion was spent worldwide to
mitigate violent crimes, which equates to 9.5 percent of the worlds
total gross domestic product. Various organizations, including
police, social services, schools, families, healthcare, and many
others, have worked for years to eradicate violence.
Despite best efforts, success has been frustratingly limited. This
is mainly due to the fragmented and sovereign nature of individual
organizations, resource shortages that cause turf battles, and a
loss of urgency and focus caused by geopolitical influences such as
the global financial crisis. Most important, centuries of conflict
have caused people to think about violence the wrong way.
Treating violence as a public health epidemic
Criminology research consistently finds that approximately 6
percent of a given population accounts for up to one-half of all
crime and two-thirds of all violent crime. People who have been
arrested at least three times have more than a two-thirds chance of
being arrested again. This disproportionate concentration of crime
and violence in a relatively small subgroup suggests that changing
the behavior of even a small number of the highest-risk youth could
generate a notable drop in the overall volume of violence.
Given the ramifications of this research, much attention is being
given to an emerging idea that social problems behave like
infectious agents. What if violence, which is often casually
referred to as an epidemic, actually moves through populations in
the same way as influenza or other infectious diseases? Could that
explain the sudden, dramatic rise of shootings in Chicago, even
though other populous areas seem to have stabilized?
A catalyst for positive change
Today, the majority of people believe community violence cannot be
eradicated. Despite these challenges, Cure Violence, a nonprofit
partnership that fuses technology with public art, health, and
safety, is successfully disrupting the epidemic of community
violence. A critical component of Cure Violence is its application
of social modeling.
Taken from the public health sector, social modeling identifies and
isolates the source of a disease to stop its spread. Cure Violence
uses an approach that reverses social modeling to identify leaders
and enable them to promote positive change. In fact, a U.S.
Department of Justice evaluation stated, The methodology [of social
modeling] reduced shootings and [homicides] in designated cease
fire zones by up to 70 percent.
How does it work? Cure Violence creates a positive epidemic by
working with affinity groups to identify who among their
constituents are the most effective catalysts for change. These
credible messengers then communicate in their own voices to share
personal experiences and influence their peers to make violence
socially unacceptable. The end result is improved social behavior
and lower instances of violence.
Credible messengers communicate through the personal networks they
have already established with their mobile phones and social
networking sites such as Facebook. Because these networks and
technologies already exist, Cure Violence believes it can easily
scale worldwide while operating with a very low cost structure.
Cure Violence further empowers credible messengers with Flip video
cameras from Cisco to harness the powerful influence of personal
video in persuading others to change their behavior. In fact,
approximately 5,000 credible messengers currently are using Flip
video cameras to engage their friends, family, and communities.
Armed with their personal networks and video cameras, credible
messengers are taking the lead as citizen journalists and
Working with their Cure Violence instructors, they also are raising
the level of discourse above that of typical online forums and
setting a precedent for intelligent, thoughtful, and respectful
contributions to the rapidly expanding conversation about stopping
The cure: violence participatory environment
Because the process of changing behavior is labor-intensive, it is
difficult to scale. The Cure Violence online forum addresses this
issue by acting as a digital platform for credible messengers and
interested groups to share their work (see Figure 1). Specifically,
the Cure Violence digital platform
- aggregates credible messenger videos and social media sites
such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter
- expands awareness among organizations working for a cure
- creates a point of congregation and action
- unifies efforts with a common voice and direction.
Figure 1| Cure Violence Website Aggregates Information,
Expands Awareness, and Unifies Efforts
Source: Cure Violence, 2010
To encourage participation among educators and community groups,
the Cure Violence platform also will host a space for collaboration
on project ideas and curriculum development. These educational
resources, created by both Cure Violence partners and the
community, will be available to anyone to promote shifting social
norms and to empower students to speak out for change in their own
words. Employing video, SMS, cell phone cameras, or
discussion-based forums, these projects can be realized in the
classroom or by individuals, and then aggregated into the Cure
Violence program. As networks continue to broaden, real change
becomes possible, fueled by productive ideas, strategies, and
voices that previously went unnoticed.
Cure Violence already is having a positive impact. In just five
months, a local affinity group has added more than 40,000 followers
on Facebook. Cure Violence also expects to shape public policy
through new funding mechanisms, improve education by using social
media to change behavior, increase public safety by developing new
forms of community cooperation, and facilitate economic development
and better quality of life through reduced violence.
Expanding Cure Violence worldwide
Cure Violence is a movement. The power of the network and
high-definition, personal video cameras, such as the Flip, give a
new voice to youth, families, and anti-violence supporters. Cure
Violence can benefit every community affected by violence and
stymied by the traditional way of attacking the problem. Cisco, in
conjunction with political, public safety, public health, and
education leaders, is working with Cure Violence to expand the
As an initial step, Cure Violence will launch a pilot in the
Chicago area in 2010. The program will expand to connect a total of
five cities in the United States over a unified platform. A
long-term goal is to extend Cure Violence to 12 major cities
How to get involved
Throughout history, every meaningful change started with a small
group of trusted, highly connected people. History is being made
again. Cure Violence has proven an effective way to change
antisocial behavior and expand the conversation so others can
experience success in eliminating the violence epidemic. To get
involved, become an advocate for Cure Violence by visiting the
programs website at www.cureviolence. com. You may also
contact Jeff Frazier at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lincoln
Schatz, founder of Cure Violence, at email@example.com.
Note: Article is excerpted from ASTD's The Public Manager