An evaluation of a three-year USIP program to strengthen capacity in the field to counter violent extremism revealed that effective project design, thoughtful recruitment strategies, and tailored course content are critical. Participants reported applying what they learned to either adjust existing CVE programs or develop new programs altogether. This report explores the lessons from the project for funders and practitioners to develop more effective projects.

Summary

  • Approaches that seek to rebuild social relations and bridge identity divides are increasingly being applied to provide non-kinetic responses to address the persistent threats and challenges of violent extremism around the globe, especially in fragile states.
  • Beginning in 2013, the US Institute of Peace, working with multiple partners, sought to distill thirty years of peacebuilding knowledge to strengthen the capacity of individuals and organizations seeking to address violent extremism.
  • The project leveraged three thematic approaches: developing strategies for preventing youth radicalization in educational settings; creating alternative narratives, rather than reactive counternarratives, to violent extremists through the media and messaging stream; and developing approaches for identifying and leveraging community resilience to prevent and counter violent extremism (CVE) through the community empowerment stream.
  • An evaluation of the project revealed that effective project design, thoughtful recruitment strategies, and tailored course content that adequately covers approaches across the spectrum of preventing to countering are critical to effectively strengthening the capacity to address the drivers of violent extremism.
  • Project designers need to incorporate strategies that mitigate risk and encourage context-sensitive thinking, as well as developing techniques to ensure sensitivities that may arise can be handled appropriately and safely.
  • In adult-learning contexts, informal networks sometimes emerge and become a valuable tool to sustain engagement and learning between participants. Accordingly, project designers or funders should consider intentionally building in a mechanism to encourage sharing and mentoring opportunities.
  • Engagement in the project resulted in participants applying what they learned to adjust existing CVE programs or develop new programs altogether. The majority of those surveyed, 94 percent, said that their understanding of the dynamics of violent extremism in their communities increased.
  • Recommendations for funders and project implementers include a focus on project design, recruitment, and suggestions for developing course content that draws on tried-and-true peacebuilding approaches.

About the Report

This report explores lessons from a three-year project by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) to strengthen the capacity of individuals and organizations working to address violent extremism in their home communities. The findings and lessons are for funders and practitioners whose goal is to make an impact on the countering violent extremism (CVE) landscape through education and training.

About the Authors

Nathaniel L. Wilson is a program officer focusing on Libya for USIP’s Center for Middle East and Africa; in previous roles he coordinated the CVE project evaluated in this report and USIP Academy’s Policing for CVE Program. Jeff Krentel is a USIP senior program officer who leads planning, evaluation, and learning efforts for the Center for Applied Conflict Transformation.

Related Publications

Escape from ISIS: One Family’s Story

Escape from ISIS: One Family’s Story

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

By: Fred Strasser

The horrific story of ISIS’s bid to wipe out Iraq’s Yazidi minority is fairly well known in the United States. At least in broad terms, Americans who pay attention to such things understand that the terrorist group’s fanatical gunmen rolled in on a defenseless people, butchered men and boys by the thousands and hauled away young women into sexual slavery in a genocidal plan.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Human Rights; Violent Extremism

USIP’s Work on Violent Extremism

USIP’s Work on Violent Extremism

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Despite countless lives lost and trillions of dollars spent, violent extremism continues to evolve and spread. Addressing this complex, global phenomenon with roots in local contexts continues to be a top priority of USIP.

Type: Factsheet

Violent Extremism

What Policymakers Can Learn About Gender from Terrorists

What Policymakers Can Learn About Gender from Terrorists

Monday, November 18, 2019

By: Leanne Erdberg

The road to violent extremism is neither simple nor predictable, with diverse motivations and discrete, individual paths. No singular profile accurately describes all those who decide to join. Millions of people may experience similar situations and live in similar contexts but never join an extremist group, while some people will join who would we would not deem at risk. This makes preventing and countering violent extremism exceptionally difficult. It’s an even more intractable task when gender is an afterthought, or worse, gender is used to justify over-simplified, one-size-fits-all approaches.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Violent Extremism

Can Policy Catch up to the Golden Age of Terrorism Research?

Can Policy Catch up to the Golden Age of Terrorism Research?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

By: Leanne Erdberg ; Fouad Pervez

Meanwhile, researchers are increasingly understanding the dynamics that drive people to join terrorist groups—unpacking the numerous, complex reasons, and shining light on the local sociopolitical dynamics, something the media is covering more regularly. This new wave of research has a multiplicity of focus areas and employs rigorous methods to offer workable insights on violent extremism. It’s time for policy to catch up to the research.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism

View All Publications