Clarion Project’s Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) training program teaches participants to understand the drivers of human behavior. The program ultimately offers a risk-management approach aimed at reducing the chance of a young person joining an extremist group.
This is done by teaching people to identify the core drivers of extremism and how each driver is underpinned by a human need. Meeting that need in a healthy way mitigates the impact of that driver leading the person toward extremism.
What is a driver?
A driver is a potential motivation or reason fueling a behavior pattern. In other words, a driver looks to understand why people do what they do. A driver contributes to the risk of a young person becoming radicalized.
A driver can operate at different levels of intensity. The more intensely a driver is experienced, the more the risk increases. For example, experiencing racial discrimination every day for months will have a much greater impact than experiencing it just once.
A driver cannot make someone a radical nor move them into becoming an extremist. All a driver can do is increase the risk or likelihood. The greater the number of drivers and their intensity, the greater risk for any given individual.
One or two drivers present a light intensity. The presence of several drivers heightens the risk. Many drivers or even a small number at a high intensity should be seen as a red flag.
The purpose of preventing violent extremism training is to help communities reduce the likelihood of their youth falling into extremism by recognizing and addressing the drivers. The community is then better positioned to address these issues and come up with solutions for them.
Drivers of extremism can be divided into two primary groups. “Push” factors drive people away from mainstream society, while “pull” factors draw people toward extremist groups. Young people are primarily drawn to extremism through a combination of these factors.
“Push” factors include:
- Alienation: A feeling of separation from the wider society and unease with one’s place in it
- Identity Crisis: Not knowing who you are and what your core values are
- Grievances: Experiencing or perceiving the experience of bigotry or discrimination
- Trauma: Personal traumatic events such as abuse, parental alcoholism, etc.
- Marginalization: Economic and social exclusion
- Rage: An inability to process strong emotions such that anger, e.g., does not get dealt with effectively
- Fatherless: Lack of a present and engaged father in the home
- Personal Frustrations: Bad relationships, unstable home environment, a drinking problem, etc.
“Pull” factors can vary from:
- Community: A group of people who will take care of you and provide you with social support
- Glory: A chance to do something that is difficult but perceived as noble
- Utopianism: A feeling that the right system or leader will perfect the world
- Adventure: A chance to see the world and do exciting and interesting things
- Purpose: A higher calling beyond mere materialism
- Justice: A sense of playing a part in fixing the problems of the world
- Identity: A certain identity and set of values that will not change or be taken away
- Redemption from Sin: A chance to merit paradise
- Masculinity: A chance to be seen as a “real man” and live up to cultural tropes of strength
Misogyny also plays a role in some extremist groups, especially far-right and Islamist groups. The core demographic of extremists is young men from ages 15-25.
Understanding drivers can also distinguish between a bad day and a pattern of behavior that may require attention. It is also important to note that a person can also fall into every category above and even meet a charismatic recruiter, but still not turn to extremism, while another person can display no drivers and still become an extremist. Ultimately human choice remains the final determining factor.
How do drivers fit within the broader scope of Preventing Violent Extremism?
Preventing violent extremism is a multidisciplinary endeavor that seeks to intervene early with young people who are at risk of becoming extremists and steer them onto different paths. It draws from other disciplines as well, including gang prevention, cult deprogramming and social work, and also uses insights from criminology, neuroscience, psychology, theology, group dynamics and law enforcement.
Since PVE itself is new, it is rapidly evolving. Programs like Clarion’s are continually improving and under review.
PVE training includes:
- Working with at-risk individuals and mitigating their chances of becoming extremists
- Teaching family, community and front-line service professionals how to identify the factors that drive an individual toward extremism and away from mainstream society
- Identifying the key emotional drivers that extremist groups tap into and helping communities build the infrastructure to ensure its members have healthier ways to meet those needs
- Being part of a broader counter-terrorism strategy, which includes counter-messaging campaigns and law enforcement
PVE is not:
- A branch of law enforcement, suppression of free speech or a form of pre-crime screening
- A 100 percent effective way to prevent any extremist recruitment from happening
- An alternative to adequate education, mental health and jobs training programs
Youth who are happy and well-integrated with a stake in their community’s future tend to not become extremists. Successful PVE programs involve providing at-risk youth as well as young men and women with a healthy sense of identity, pride in their future, and a sense of respect and purpose.
To see if your community or organization would benefit from Clarion Project’s free Preventing Violent Extremism training, please contact our PVE trainer Shireen Qudosi at [email protected]