Violent extremism is a global challenge with local implications for individuals and their communities. Effectively responding to the challenge requires proactive initiatives that counter efforts to recruit and mobilize followers. By disrupting recruitment and mobilization, these efforts reduce violence, protect communities and democratic institutions and support shared community identities.
For almost 40 years, Creative Associates International has addressed root causes of violent extremism. By spearheading successful development programs in more than 85 countries, Creative has honed its expertise and approaches. Its design and implementation strategy has always relied on the collaborative efforts of experts, community leaders and residents with a focus on building local capacity so communities are able to sustain progress after programs have ended. This strategy has made Creative a leader in the development field.
Creative advocates a “whole-of-society” approach. It engages local, regional, national and international actors in the research, design and implementation of complementary and multi-level approaches to countering violent extremism. Creative leverages evidence-based solutions to address root causes by promoting credible counter-narratives, engaging marginalized communities and applying good governance practices.
Whether in Nigeria, Europe or the United States, the process starts with local insight. Creative applies a suite of proven, specialized tools and methodologies to identify drivers of violent extremism at the community and individual level.
For example, Creative will apply a highly successful tool used in violent neighborhoods of Central America to those in North Africa. Called the Youth Service Eligibility Tool, it will be adapted to identify North African youth with risk factors for becoming involved in violent extremist organizations. It evaluates risk based on factors at the family, peer and individual levels. In Honduras, at-risk youth identified through this tool participate with their families in a special program to lower their risk of violence and related behaviors.
To gain insight into the systems and structures that support or hinder violent extremism, Creative has developed a diagnostic assessment to identify gaps in community resilience and the dynamics of violent extremism at the local level.
This assessment, called the Governance System Stability Assessment, provides insight into the overall health of governance systems, including weaknesses and vulnerabilities—which in turn inform the development of tailored approaches to enhance community resilience. The tool is currently used in areas of Syria controlled by the moderate opposition to assist local councils as they rebuild devastated communities.
In addition, Creative regularly incorporates innovative technology and tools that range from relational mapping on social media to sentiment analysis in order to prevent and counter violent extremism.
Creative’s experts use insights from the communities served to foster structures and design initiatives that promote tolerance and peace, denying violent extremist organizations the opportunity to recruit and sustain followers. These efforts are enhanced by Creative’s expertise in campaigning, messaging and digital media.
In Pakistan, for example, to counter the messages used by extremists to recruit young followers, Creative supported an innovative and successful illustrated novel series to foster greater religious tolerance among youth. Called Paasban the Guardian, the illustrated novel’s storyline engaged readers while providing a counter-narrative against violent extremism.
Finally, Creative collaborates with other global organizations to develop and implement initiatives that prevent and counter violent extremism, including the International Peace and Security Institute, Mercy Corps, Search for Common Ground, Alliance for Peacebuilding and the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.