In the scientific and practical sphere of preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE), we should have more courage to acknowledge errors. P/CVE is a relatively new field. As in other disciplines, we have been approaching extremism not only through findings from established methodology of criminology, social work etc. but also through trial and error. Known errors can be valuable in isolating what to avoid.
There are few academic studies and guides about what does not work, and we must be careful in coming to conclusions. The challenge is to discern which of the errors in P/CVE prove to be short-term and mere setbacks in what could be feasible in the long run, and which can be generalized. Oftentimes, patience can lead to success. Not all setbacks are scientifically reproducible in different contexts, spanning cases and groups.
Admittedly, counter-extremism, from a sociopolitical point of view, has to yield success and must be translated in understandable terms. Hence, where there is doubt about an approach which remains promising, we should not exclude it prematurely, especially since P/CVE programs are not representative of the whole of the vulnerable groups. But what clearly does not work is to be avoided.
Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip
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