Cutting through Complexity. Evaluating Countering Violent Extremism (CVE).

January 31, 2020

What works to prevent and counter radicalization? And how can we evaluate such programs? These questions formed the starting point of the dissertation 'Cutting through Complexity. Evaluating Countering Violent Extremism' which Amy-Jane Gielen defended at the University of Amsterdam on January 31, 2020.

Anti-radicalization has become a catch-all term. Internationally, we know anti-radicalization as 'preventing violent extremism' (PVE) or 'countering violent extremism' (CVE). The essence of anti-radicalization is to prevent and counter radicalization through "soft measures. These are emphatically not criminal measures, but a course in resilient parenting for parents, a citizenship project for schoolchildren or a coaching program for a radicalized individual. All these activities fall under the broad umbrella of anti-radicalization.

Evaluating such a complex involves a variety of (methodological) challenges. As a result, the number of evaluations of anti-radicalization policy is limited. As a result, no unequivocal statements can be made about the effectiveness of anti-radicalization policies. Moreover, the question "what works?" is too simplistic. Much more relevant is: what works, for whom, under what circumstances in what way? 

The realist evaluation method (Pawson & Tilley, 1997; Pawson, 2006)) claims to be an appropriate evaluation method for complexity such as anti-radicalization. The essence of the realist evaluation method is that relevant contextual factors ('C') and mechanisms ('M') of an intervention contribute to outcome patterns ('O'), so-called C-M-O configurations. In doing so, the method explicitly addresses complexity. The authors of the realist evaluation method argue that the question "what works?" should no longer be central to evaluation research on complex social programs and interventions. Instead, we should shift our attention to "what works, for whom, by whom, in what ways under what circumstances?

In the book Cutting through Complexity. Evaluating Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), the realist evaluation method is further developed and applied to anti-radicalization policies. In addition, the dissertation offers insights into relevant contexts and mechanisms for radicalization prevention that are helpful to policymakers.

Amy-Jane Gielen uses these insights when training and coaching professionals in the social and security domain.

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Do you also want to know how to weave the insights from evaluation research into your (local) policy? Then please contact Dr Amy-Jane Gielen.