The Shared Information Framework: Guiding Concepts and Process

  • Guiding Concepts:

  • About Inclusive Nationalism

  • Prime Actors: Definition and Criteria

  • The Process:

  • Measures of Perceptions

  • Measures of Reliability

Guiding Concepts: Inclusive Nationalism

Alone, nationalism or inclusivity is likely to fail in achieving good governance. In a sovereign state, however, inclusive nationalism promotes a life of liberty and stability by embracing the values of diversity and tolerance for all segments of the population, and promoting a secure sense of national identity among citizens regardless of religion, minority affiliation, or gender.

Politically inclusive governments tend to be viewed as legitimate and are more likely to be economically and politically stable. Inclusivity assumes that a country can only thrive when everyone has access to the nation’s political, social, and cultural institutions. To be fully inclusive, a country must embrace every person, subgroup, and stakeholder. When everyone has the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the political process, the incentives for violent extremism are reduced. Moreover, by valuing the interests of its entire people the government gains legitimacy. Economic stability is another incentive for a nation to adopt an inclusive approach. Inclusivity leads to more people participating in the workforce, translating to a more efficient use of resources and increased wealth for the country. Consequently, more people are able to live comfortably and to invest in their communities, raising their stakes in the future of the country, which is critical for long-term stability.

Nationalism is also necessary for successful governance. Nationalism implies that the people of a nation have a strong sense of shared identity, including a sense of belonging, an adoption of the cultural and ideological symbolism associated with the country, and a shared interest in its growth process. Additionally, nationalism embraces the idea of a social contract, delineating rules and expectations, as well as defining the roles and responsibilities of the state and the individual. A healthy social contract enables self-governance and development and makes the enforcement of agreements possible, whether among citizens or between people and government.

Inclusive nationalism, therefore, guards against  impulses of exclusion and marginalization of significant portions of society, which can lead to violence and instability, and balances the rights and responsibilities of citizens and government promoting social, cultural, economic, and political stability.

Guiding Concepts: Prime Actors’ Definition and Criteria

Ninety-eight (96) local, regional, and international organizations and entities have been identified as the most influential in the life of Syria and labeled ‘Prime Actors’.

Before designating prime actors, we spoke with a range of recognized Syria experts, who named organizations and other entities they considered most influential in the life of Syria. In this manner, we gathered approximately 130 names, which formed the initial step of the first of a total of three rounds of interviews.

In Round 1, we requested interviews with these 130 organizations and individuals; those who accepted to be interviewed were asked to name organizations and other entities they deemed most influential in the life of Syria. Organizations and entities named in at least two different interviews were designated as potential prime actors.

Then, we asked potential prime actors to name any organization or entity they thought was influential in the life of Syria. Any organization or entity named by two different potential prime actors was designated as prime actor.

 The Process: Measures of Perceptions

Starting in January 2016, Sovereignty First conducted three rounds of interviews with prime actors, each lasting between three and eight months. Individuals responding to the assessment questions were either formal or informal representatives of prime actors. By the end of the third round, a total of twenty six prime actors were interviewed and ninety-eight prime actors were named and ranked. In populating the INCA matrix and the prime actor influence and commitment to inclusive nationalism chart, we only included data and accompanying statements from the twelve prime actors only. 

Round 1 (January to May 2016): The first round lasted five months and included the process leading to the identification of prime actors. In this round, we were successful in interviewing 12 prime actors. Those prime actors responded to questions prompting them to assess the threats to the country, the country’s political and cultural ability to adapt to these threats, and the relative influence other prime actors have on the life of Syria, as well as the latter’s commitment to inclusive nationalism. Additionally, participating prime actors were asked to name other entities and organizations they deemed influential in the life of Syria.  During the six-month course of Round 1 interviews, other potential prime actors and prime actors were identified.

Rounds 2 and 3 (August to October 2016 and November 2016 to July  2017 respectively): In the second and third rounds, in addition to the above, participating prime actors also reviewed the influence rankings of other prime actors and responded to each other's assessments, which were presented anonymously. Sometimes, this led them to modify their initial responses, possibly because of what they learned from each other. Feedback from these rounds was integrated into the influence rankings. Nine prime actors participated in the second round and twenty participated in the third and final round.

During the interviews, 'Sovereignty First' asked participating prime actors to assess:

  • Threats to the country:

    • Threats from people (outsiders, the government, other residents)

    •  Environmental threats (resource shortages, natural disasters, plagues)

    • The threat of climate warming.

  • National sovereignty

    • Group identity

    • Control of borders

    • International reputation

    • Government

  • The country's adaptive capacity

    • Distribution of power

    • Economy

    • Civil society

    • Technological innovation

    • Arts and humanities

    • Inclusion of marginalized group

    • Status of women

    • Child-rearing practice

    • Religion

    • Collective memory

  • And each other's:

    • Relative influence in the life of the country:

      • In Round 1, each participant rated the relative influence of other prime actors on the list on a 5-point scale, where 5 = highly influential and 1 = minimally influential.

      • In following rounds, participants review the ranked list of prime actors and vote the influence of each higher or lower.  

    • Importance: participants are asked to state why each prime actor is important. This data is purely qualitative.

    • Commitment to inclusive nationalism according to the following five stances:

      • Builder: a prime actor assessed as ‘Builder’ is seen as wholly committed to inclusive nationalism for Syria and to increasing the nation’s capacity to adapt to threats. Members of this organization or entity consider increasing inclusive nationalism for Syria to be part of their mission. To be Builder, actors are almost always citizens or life-long residents of the country.

      • Helper: a prime actor assessed as ‘Helper’ is seen as supportive of inclusive nationalism for Syria, and willing to contribute to the country’s capacity to adapt to threats, but has other priorities, which it considers more important. This characterizes most well-intentioned outside actors, whether other governments or INGOs.

      • Follower: a prime actor assessed as ‘Follower’ is seen as supporting inclusive nationalism and willing to help in building the country’s adaptive capacity to the degree the effort serves their own primary interests.

      • Avoider: prime actors assessed as ‘Avoider’ are seen as disengaged from the political and social life of the country, because they are cowed, incapable, simply not interested, or they are attempting to leave the country.

      • Saboteur: a prime actor assessed as ‘Saboteur’ is seen as countering inclusive nationalism and actively working to weaken the country’s capacity to adapt to threats.

  • Finally, we ask prime actors about how to affect the behavior of certain other actors:

    • How to increase the influence of Core prime actors (beginning in Round 2)

    • How to decrease the influence of Saboteur prime actors (beginning in Round 2)

The Process: Measures of Reliability

The cornerstone of the ‘Sovereignty First’ approach is the principle of transparency. In this approach, political, economic, social, and cultural information is generated through the participation of prime actors’ assessments of the country and its ability to adapt and respond to the threats it faces. Participating prime actors then review and evaluate each other’s responses, which sometimes leads them to modify their initial perceptions and, over time and many rounds, generates a common understanding of the country’s threats and capacities. Based on preliminary data, a common understanding will emerge after 6 years and 16 rounds, meaning a common vision for the political, economic, social and cultural landscape of the country, and a strengthened capacity for any actor to predict outcomes of decisions and measures designed to bring about change.

Critical measures of reliability:

  1. Number of prime actors participating in Sovereignty First framework. Ninety-eight (96) local, regional and international organizations were identified as 'actors', 25 total of which participated in the assessments through three sessions, lasting four, then three, then nine months respectively.

  2. Range of disagreement among different actors’ responses to the assessments.

  3. Creation of a “safe market” for ideas: Sovereignty First’s approach creates a safe platform for generating information. When presenting information during and after assessments, data is separated from its source, and the source is represented by serial numbers. This encourages actors to share their actual perceptions without fear or other considerations.

  4. In contrast to other approaches, Sovereignty First’s approach avoids common drawbacks in the process of harvesting political, economic, social and cultural information. These drawbacks often produce partial or biased information or both, leading to limited or ineffective decision-making. Some of these approaches seek narrow, particular information disregarding the wider context of the country, including vital information that may be the primary determinant of results. Other approaches rely on the expertise and intuition of professional experts to balance and interpret massive amounts of information, making the expert the primary source in determining the course of decision-making and regardless of their understanding of the country's greater context or their possible biases.


History of our Syria shared information platform, and who is paying for it.