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Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism and Polarisation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BRaVE (Building Resilience Against Violent Extremism and Polarisation)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

The Building Resilience against Violent Extremism and Polarisation (BRaVE) Project brings together researchers and stakeholders with a view to understanding which factors drive polarisation and violent extremism in European societies, and identifying strategies in response that build resilient communities. The project explores what European countries can learn from the studies, policies and programmes implemented so far to counter violent extremism and polarisation, as well as what tools can be developed to support practitioners, policymakers and stakeholders across Europe in building resilient communities. The BRaVE project creates an analytical framework that helps understand processes of violent extremism and polarisation both towards the Far Right and towards religiously attributed radicalisation. It creates relevant policy indicators on polarisation/resilience to assess trends on national and European-wide levels. It produces interfaith and intercultural education tools, and highlights good practices or preventing polarisation and building resilience through arts and sports.

Issues Being Addressed by BRaVE Project

Europe has grown increasingly polarised in recent years. European societies have been fractured by movements hostile to democratic norms and grown increasingly polarised. Economic concerns combining with growing disillusionment in existing political systems have fuelled new forms of populism and exclusionary identities. The climate of polarisation is further exacerbated by both traditional and social media. This situation urgently requires further analysis on how processes of polarisation, political extremism and violence interact. The BRaVE project offers an analytical framework for understanding the interaction between different factors that lead to polarised ideologies and societal fragmentation, as well as what current approaches offer good practice response, paying special attention to historical and cultural factors, socio-economic inequalities and the role of media and social media.

Why it is important for society

Approaches to issues such as extremism and polarisation have, to date, been largely focussed on the local or national level in their scope and delivery, remaining uncoordinated on the European-wide scale. However, the international scope of the threat has led to an increasing awareness of the need to share perspectives and build cross-national partnerships. By bringing together different studies into the processes behind violent extremism and polarisation, as well as sharing differing tactics towards resilience-building, stakeholders, practitioners and policy-makers can refine approaches to combat key issues facing European societies.

The work of tackling polarisation and extreme ideologies has a crucial anticipatory thrust. The main focus of prevention policies is empowering of the communities from which violent extremists might emerge and which might, if neglected, be deemed potentially supportive of them. It is also particularly important to understand how polarisation impacts on young people throughout Europe, who are at the highest risk of engaging with extremist groups and ideas.

Objectives of the BRaVE Project

i. Update the knowledge on polarisation, violent extremism and resilience through mapping relevant literature, policies and practices.
ii. To design new tools for policy-making: The project creates a set of Polarisation Indicators, so we can understand how to measure processes of polarisation and extremism
iii. To design new tools for education using Massive Open Online Courses and stakeholder workshops.
iv. To build new networks and opportunities bringing together existing grassroots projects involved in community arts and sports.
Update the knowledge on polarisation, violent extremism and resilience

The BRaVE Concept Paper develops a working definition of the three, often contested, terms of polarisation, violent extremism and resilience: Polarisation refers to the process through which complex social relations come to be represented and perceived in Manichean ‘black and white’ terms; ‘Violent extremism’ is defined as the use of violent acts, or threat thereof, by irregular actors in the pursuit of political aims to erode democratic processes and pluralistic values; Resilience is about the ability of people to face and respond to adversity, and the capacity to draw on various sources of strength (individual or social) to adapt and cope with challenges.

The BRaVE project offers an online database and interactive map of nearly 700 projects, policies, institutions and studies from 10 European countries: BE, DK, FR, DE, GR, HU, IT, NL, PL and the UK see

To design new tools for policy-making

The BRaVE Toolkit consists of two sets of indicators: indicators of polarisation and indicators of resilience. Polarisation indicators are mirrored by a set of corresponding Moderation indicators Likewise, Resilience indicators are mirrored by a set of corresponding non-resilience indicators. The toolkit is designed for a wide range of users: researchers, policy makers, NGOs.

New tools for education

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) was developed to explore interfaith responses to violent extremism and polarisation:

To build new networks and opportunities

The BRaVE platform showcases the online database, the Polarisation Indicators Toolkit, information on publications and workshops:

The BRaVE Project developed a blogging space entitled ‘Global Extremes’.: 24,000 users, by 15.6.2020 and a Twitter account (900 followers)
The Future of the BRaVE Project

A workshop to explore the findings of the Polarisation Indicators Toolkit,
Online workshops on the socio-economic, cultural and political, and network-related factors of polarisation and extremism bringing bring together practitioners, researchers and policy-makers.
A set of webinars with secondary education teachers from across Europe to support engagement with resilience building in schools.
Several policy reports on findings into the different factors leading to violent extremism and polarisation and a guidance for social media platforms and developers.
The BRaVE Fair where we shall award subcontracts to three arts and sports-based projects judged to best support youth-led resilience-building.

Current and Future Issues and Concerns – the impact of the Pandemic on the project’s work

The most notable concern is the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent long-term travel restrictions. This has led to online delivery of project meetings and workshops.

Future Context

The COVID-19 pandemic has opened up new opportunities and created new tactics by Far Right extremist groups. Several new issues have come to the fore: the mainstreaming of misinformation and conspiracy theories; new articulations of racism and anti-migrant sentiment; and the exacerbation of financial and social inequalities. The BRaVE project is well-timed to explore these additional challenges and offer tools for building community resilience.