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

Bourgeois Jihad: Why Young, Middle-Class Afghans Join the Islamic State

Bourgeois Jihad: Why Young, Middle-Class Afghans Join the Islamic State

Monday, June 1, 2020

By: Borhan Osman

Ever since the Islamic State in Khorasan Province emerged in Afghanistan in 2015, policymakers and security forces have regarded it as an “imported” group that can be defeated militarily. This approach, however, fails to take into account the long-standing and complex historical and sociological factors that make the group’s ideology appealing to young, urban Afghan men and women. Based on interviews with current and former members of ISKP, this report documents the push and pull factors prompting a steady stream of young Afghans to join and support ISKP.

Type: Peaceworks

Violent Extremism

Coronavirus and ISIS: The Challenge of Repatriation from Al-Hol

Coronavirus and ISIS: The Challenge of Repatriation from Al-Hol

Thursday, May 28, 2020

By: Julia C. Hurley

It was just over a year ago, in March of 2019, that the United States and coalition forces declared the territorial defeat of ISIS following the fall of its last stronghold in Baghouz, Syria. Male fighters over 15 were placed in Kurdish run detention centers throughout northeast Syria, while tens of thousands of women and children who were living among the terrorist organization streamed into the al-Hol camp, giving rise to an unprecedented mix of humanitarian and security challenges. If left unaddressed, the camp could easily serve as the breeding ground for the next generation of ISIS, which is already beginning to reemerge in parts of Syria and Iraq.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Health; Violent Extremism

Why the U.S. Military Presence in Africa is Vital Beyond Counterterrorism

Why the U.S. Military Presence in Africa is Vital Beyond Counterterrorism

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

By: Judd Devermont; Leanne Erdberg Steadman

Since Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced a potential drawdown of U.S. troops in Africa, U.S. congressional leaders, military officers and various commentators have defended the importance of the military in Africa. But they’ve focused almost exclusively on the fight against terrorism. This is not surprising, since the public has for decades really only heard about the U.S. military in Africa when drone strikes hit terrorists in Somalia, when Navy SEALS raid pirate ships in the Gulf of Aden, and when Army Rangers hunt down genocidaires in the jungle.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Global Policy

COVID-19 and Conflict: Violent Extremism

COVID-19 and Conflict: Violent Extremism

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

By: Kateira Aryaeinejad; Bethany L. McGann

The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe is reshaping dynamics in fragile states and conflict zones. In this video, part of our #COVIDandConflict series, Kateira Aryaeinejad and Bethany McGann examine the pandemic's impacts on violent extremism: how extremist groups are exploiting the crisis, whether it is impacting recruitment, and how it complicates efforts to counter violent extremism.

Type: Blog

Violent Extremism; Global Health

View All Publications