Countering Violent Extremism

Our mission to work with vulnerable people to build a better future leads us to invest in reducing the incidence and impact of violent extremism, particularly in relation to marginalized groups. There is limited consensus on what success looks like in countering violent extremism programming. Our approach is to identify what works, then scale it.

Identifying macro-level causes of extremism is an approach with severe limitations. Violent extremism must be viewed in the context in which it arises in order to understand what causes people to follow this path. Furthermore, as we consider potential responses, it is important to note that many macro-level contributors may be slow to respond to changes promoted by politics, humanitarian assistance and development.

We have two niches of focus. First, donors have supported us to test better methods of monitoring and evaluation for activities that practitioners believe will have an impact on violent extremism. This means on-the-ground research and surveys, combined with consulting in development and security. We pilot counselling and strategic communications methods, as well as advising on the integration of specialized measurements into generic development programs.

Second, we design activities that build on individuals’ natural resistance to the threat. The communities we work with explain that they understand and would like to reduce real-world problems like intimidation, physical attacks and religious intolerance, whether or not the international development and security industries call this “countering violent extremism” or not. We have found it most effective to engage with these sentiments from the bottom-up, rather than introduce a paradigm from the top-down. We work with the natural immune system, not invasive surgery.

Here are some examples of how we deploy our expertise in relation to countering violent extremism:

  • Addressing the links between displacement, alienation and violent extremism
  • Working with community groups facing social exclusion as a result of religious differences
  • Integrating indicators of success against violent extremism into mainstream development programs, such as in the education sector
  • Piloting counselling methods to engage people targeted for recruitment by violent extremists
  • Designing rule of law programs that improve security services’ capacity to address violent extremism
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of development programming at reducing intolerance and support for violence amongst beneficiaries