Deradicalization and countering violent extremism

Program delivery
A wide range of actors are involved in developing and delivering CVE interventions. Some programs are highly centralized, and are run and managed by central and local government, others are instigated by civil society actors such as faith or community organizations, NGOs, or former combatants. International bodies such as the European Union are also involved in CVE work. The extent of involvement from different actors varies; however, most interventions reflect a hybrid approach involving some form of cooperation between government and local actors. These collaborative efforts are better able to address the complex dynamics of violent extremism, but need to ensure they don’t undermine the legitimacy of community-based groups perceived to be working too closely with government.

Program evaluation
There is only a weak evidence base for what works in CVE programs, few of which conduct systematic evaluations and many of which don’t make assessments public. There is also little agreement on what looks like success and how to measure outcomes.

Evaluation can be achieved through three differing approaches. A common approach is by interpreting change in risk factors which operate across a number of levels, including personal factors, such as a desire for adventure or belonging, or need for status; political influences, including a sense of grievance, or strong identification with a political or religious ideology; and group dynamics, such as family or peer involvement in extremism.

To take account of the wider context within which reintegration takes place, it can be helpful to supplement risk-oriented measures by interpreting how well someone is reintegrating. This can include economic integration, such as employment, education or training; social integration, including positive relationships with friend or family networks that do not support extremism; and political integration, such as engagement with democratic systems and increased commitment to wider social and political norms.

Another method of assessing interventions is by examining the process by which organizations develop and deliver their programs. These can include measures which determine the program’s integrity, such as the extent to which a program’s aims relate to its methods and outcomes and the strength of the evidence that supports this theory of change; delivery agents, including the degree of legitimacy and credibility an intervention provider holds in the local community; and multi-agency working, such as the scope of relationships with relevant statutory and non-statutory organizations and the degree to which the intervention is able and willing to engage with existing multi-agency collaborations.

Good practice in CVE
CREST notes that in a new — Countering Violent Extremism II: A guide to good practice, written by CREST Associated Researchers Dr. Sarah Marsden and James Lewis and CREST Researcher Professor Kim Knott CREST has provided case-studies that draw out examples of these methods of evaluation and where and how evaluations have worked, or not. Drawing on these studies, and CREST’s evaluation of the wider CVE literature, the center has identified several important points to consider in the design, implementation and evaluation of CVE programs.

It is helpful to consider what constitutes a successful outcome of an intervention, and how this might be assessed and communicated. To help with this, it is important to determine the boundaries of what is CVE-relevant by clarifying which causes of violent extremism interventions are seeking to address, and specifying the mechanism by which it is designed to work.

Interventions should also balance a structured approach with the flexibility necessary to respond to unexpected events and shifting local needs. Their design should also be based on empirical evidence that informs a theory of change linking aims, methods, and outcomes.

Governments have an important role in designing, funding, and assessing CVE initiatives, as well as building the capacity of community-based actors. Capacity building is helped through fostering local support for interventions by engaging with a range of relevant local and national agencies and stakeholders. Working with community-based partners and families helps in understanding local context, as well as helping demonstrate credibility and legitimacy in ways sometimes difficult for government programs.

“Our new guide on CVE provides a range of models in interventions which reflect different aspects of good practice in their design, delivery and assessment. Whilst ongoing research and evaluation is undoubtedly a priority, there is much to learn from existing practice,” CREST says.

— Read more in Countering Violent Extremism II: A guide to good practice (CREST, January 2019); see also Deradicalization Programs: Introductory guide (Crest, January 2019)