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Innovative Method and Procedure to Assess Counter-violent-radicalisation Techniques in Europe

Periodic Report Summary 3 - IMPACT EUROPE (Innovative Method and Procedure to Assess Counter-violent-radicalisation Techniques in Europe)

Project Context and Objectives:
Preventing and tackling terrorism, violent radicalisation, and violent extremism have been top priorities for European Union (EU) Member States ever since the 9/11 attacks and the Madrid and London bombings in 2004 and 2005. Recent years saw a further intensification of terrorist activities on European soil, leading to significant resources being invested in in policies, programmes and interventions aimed at preventing and tackling violent radicalisation and extremism (P/CVE).
EU Member States’ perspective on the threat posed by violent radicalisation focuses on all types and aspects of violent radicalisation and extremism, from a wide range of ideologies, political beliefs, and motivations. In addition to this, recent years saw a shift in focus away from traditional security measures to more holistic approaches. These seek to build resilience to violent extremist ideologies at the individual and community level, and to address what we understand to be the root causes of violent radicalisation.
Despite a significant growth in the number, type, and volume of activities focusing on preventing and countering violent radicalisation and extremism, our understanding of what works best in this field is still limited. Robust and rigorous evaluations assessing the effectiveness of policies and programmes have not yet become the norm. In response to this, a key priority of the EU’s counter terrorism strategy is to:
look systematically at Member States' experiences, not only internally but also in third countries, at lessons learned, good practices, unsuccessful practices, and analyse why certain approaches have succeeded or not, in order to develop expertise on what makes for successful interventions.
Similarly, the 2015 European Parliament resolution on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations calls on the European Commission:
(...) to establish as a priority an action plan to implement and evaluate the EU strategy for combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism, on the basis of the exchange of best practice and the pooling of skills within the European Union, the evaluation of measures undertaken in the Member States and cooperation with third countries and international organisations, on a basis of full respect for international human rights conventions and through a multistakeholder and multisectoral participative and consultative approach.
To contribute to the ongoing efforts within Europe to establish ‘what works best’ in preventing and tackling violent radicalisation and extremism, IMPACT Europe helped evaluators, policy-makers, frontline workers, and academics working in these fields to answer three questions, namely:
- Effectiveness: How effective are various programmes at preventing and tackling violent radicalisation and extremism?
- Evidence based practice: What do we know about evidence-based practice for preventing and tackling violent radicalisation and extremism?
- Knowledge & understanding: How does this inform our knowledge and understanding of violent radicalisation and extremism?
Specifically, IMPACT Europe developed an evaluation toolkit that enables the evaluation of policies and interventions preventing and tackling violent radicalisation and extremism. The toolkit can also help professionals in the public and voluntary sectors to integrate evidence-based practice into the design and implementation of future programmes. The evaluation toolkit is composed of four elements:
- Methodology: A standardised methodology, to provide professionals with a tool to conduct robust evaluations
- Database: An evaluation results database, to allow professionals to analyse interventions results, identify evidence-based practices and develop a more informed understanding of violent radicalisation and extremism
- Training course: A training course (including a train-the-trainer component), to build professionals’ capacity to design, carry out and learn from evaluations
- Training manual: A training manual, to provide easy reference for professionals applying the toolkit
Project Results:
The consortium completed the development of a fully functioning online evaluation toolkit (“the Toolkit” – The Toolkit is structured as an online knowledge management tool supporting P/CVE practitioners in designing and implementing better interventions and evaluations. The purpose of the Toolkit is to help end users design and conduct evaluations of P/CVE interventions. These aims are reflected in the high level structure of the Toolkit, which comprises a Homepage, an Evaluation Guide section, an Interventions Database section, and a Lessons Learned section.
To facilitate end users engagement with the Toolkit, the consortium developed a training manual and training course. These instruments, which include a train-the-trainer component, provide end users and practitioners with an overview of the Toolkit and its functionalities and explain how to make best use of the Toolkit in their work.
The Toolkit beta prototype and the accompanying manual and training course were refined by the consortium on the basis of the feedback and findings emerging from a year-long pilot programme that involved over 187 practitioners from 124 organisations across the globe. As part of the project pilot programme, six training session were organised in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Austria. A total 120 practitioners from 83 organisations in 18 countries took part in these sessions.
With a view to communicating and disseminating IMPACT Europe outputs, the consortium continued to implement its communications strategy. As a result of this, the consortium regularly engaged with relevant stakeholder communities through outreach activities, publications, regular updates on the project website and the distribution of a quarterly newsletter. To facilitate these activities, a comprehensive communications list was continuously updated through the input of all consortium partners. Moreover, the dedicated IMPACT Europe Twitter account (@impacteurope) functioned as a dynamic platform engaging with stakeholder communities on a daily basis through multiple updates.
Several consortium members presented IMPACT Europe and its products at relevant events across Europe and North America. The consortium also organised three capacity building workshops, in partnership with the Radicalisation Awareness Network Centre of Excellence, and the project final conference. The project closing conference was held under the title “Preventing and tackling violent extremism – what works best?” and took place in Brussels, Belgium, on 31 May 2017. The conference gathered around 80 policy makers, practitioners, academics and other participants, who examined the current security context, addressed existing and emerging measures and approaches in dealing with violent radicalisation, and underlined the role and contribution of proper and robust evaluation in establishing what works best in this field.
Potential Impact:
The project adds value to existing practice in several ways. Firstly, the online Toolkit developed by the project provides a single entry point to comprehensive information about radicalisation factors, P/CVE interventions and evaluations. Secondly, IMPACT Europe delivered significant advances in the fields of P/CVE and evaluation as it developed:
1. A robust evidence base of P/CVE interventions and a (partial) assessment of their effectiveness
2. A field-tested Toolkit which provides proof-of-concept validation to improve a P/CVE-specific focus on interventions and evaluation methods.
3. A better understanding of how practitioners use intervention planning and evaluation tools
IMPACT Europe’s main output, the online evaluation Toolkit, is primarily geared at helping professionals in the public and voluntary sectors design and implement an evaluation of their P/CVE programmes. The Toolkit is premised on the fact that end-users should be able to specify evaluation programmes according to the context in which they operate; and with the help of core principles and procedures. It provides guidance on carrying out an evaluation and enable professionals to capture the results of evaluations. It provides a platform to identify lessons from past programmes in order to inform future ones. It equips stakeholders with the information required to identify best practice in tackling violent radicalisation, and allows for greater accountability of public funds by promoting evaluation and the reporting of results.
The evaluation toolkit is publically available. Thanks to this, all relevant stakeholders can use the toolkit and thereby enhance their capability to design, carry out and learn from evaluations of P/CVE programmes. A train-the-trainer component was built into the toolkit training course. The training manual itself is freely available on the Toolkit website. The toolkit software is designed in such a way that the evaluation results database could link up to relevant databases in Europe in the future.
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