Participatory and Collaborative Approaches to Countering Violent Extremism

Participatory and Collaborative Approaches to Countering Violent Extremism

In partnership with FHI 360 and funded by USAID, the Salam Institute convened a workshop, September 7-10, 2015, in Casablanca, for 32 participants from civil society organizations (CSOs) who work with populations at-risk of recruitment into violent extremism (VE) in six different countries of the Maghreb and Sahel. As part of USAID’s Countering Violent Extremism in the Middle East and North Africa (CoVe MENA) program, the workshop fostered regional learning and collaboration on countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts in the region; in doing so it provided participants with a space to jointly analyze the problem of VE and explore opportunities for collaborating to counter VE in their respective communities.

In the first two days, participants attended introductory sessions on recognizing the drivers of VE and key CVE concepts, engaged in in-depth discussions and problem identification/analysis, and were encouraged to share their varying perspectives on CVE. At the end of the second day, participants took a field visit to the Sidi Moumen area of Casablanca, and were introduced to the work that locals are doing with at-risk youth from this marginalized area. Participants engaged in an interactive simulation on the third day, during which they were asked to put themselves in the place of different stakeholders within a fictional community grappling with increasing numbers of youth leaving to join a violent extremist organization (VEO). On the final day, the group engaged in a multi-step needs assessment that helped them identify CVE-related knowledge gaps and capacity needs for their organizations. Each organization then developed its vision and goals for its work on CVE, and together the group identified next steps for exchange and collaboration across the region.

By the end of the workshop, participants had developed a strong sense of community and awareness of the importance of collaboration to respond to VE in their communities and across the region. CSOs formed relationships not only within country groups, but also across borders. Participants reported an increased level of understanding of the drivers of VE in their communities and enhanced confidence in conducting assessments to inform CVE efforts. They expressed satisfaction in the knowledge and skills acquired in designing relevant interventions that include diverse and multiple stakeholders at the local level. Furthermore, although participants highlighted the importance of the workshop as an opportunity to exchange experiences, ideas and information, many also emphasized the need to sustain collaborative learning beyond the workshop. Even more importantly, they agreed to establish a Coordination Committee from among the CSOs represented in the workshop that will assist the coordination of communication within the group, and between CoVE-MENA and the group.

Based on the needs and interests expressed by participants throughout the workshop, particularly on the last day, CoVE-MENA committed to five follow-on areas of support:

1. The creation of an online Community of Practice (CoP);

2. Sharing resources, tools, information and events with the group;

3. Sharing workshop documents, materials and photos;

4. Supporting exchanges and trainings for networking and capacity building; and

5. Organizing another workshop within the next year.