Introducing network measures to all stages of intervention design against radicalisation

Verena Knerich, Eolene Boyd-MacMillan


Perceived differences between groups of people can lead to social polarisation and contribute to growth in radicalisation among diverse populations in urban communities. To counteract this process, group interventions have been empirically validated to change how people engage with difference and disagreement while holding on their own core values. These successful group interventions involved sixteen contact-hours ideally spread over several weeks. In contrast, this project aims to increase pro-social engagement among perceived opposing groups through community focus groups/workshops guided by facilitators trained to prompt and nudge participants toward more pro-social engagement despite difference, increase individual and community resilience, and engender a sense of community belonging across social divisions. Social network measures will be used to 1) support participant recruitment, 2) facilitate participant engagement, and 3) evaluate the focus groups/ workshops immediately after their completion and at least one further evaluation after an agreed upon interval . As these processes are monitored and evaluated, insights into the dynamics of polarisation and radicalisation will be used to enable sustainability . This project is part of the Efus (European Forum for Urban Security) BRIDGE project, Building resilience to reduce polarisation and growing extremism, funded by the EU Internal Security Fund – Police, to reduce and prevent polarisation in thirteen municipalities in seven countries. This project will occur in Brussels, in partnership with the Prevent group in Brussels (BRAVVO), using an action research design. Social network analysis (SNA) will be used to help identify community members with the highest potential for developing into future community “resource leaders”, i.e. potential cultural brokers, future facilitators, and liaisons among different groups. A gamified version of Network Canvas will be used to embed data collection in the focus group/ workshop process and to support participant sensitisation to their social identities, networks, and beliefs about “the other”. By monitoring post-workshop changes in participant networks, as well as the social identity of participants throughout the process, we aim to increase our understanding of the relationship between personal network structure and homogeneity as a potential predictor for low social identity complexity (SIC) among opposed groups and thus low intergroup harmony, as well as the effectiveness of targeted prompts and nudges to increase SIC among groups for increased intergroup harmony. This data will be used also for process and/ or outcome evaluations and to inform future recruitment for successive workshops. By incorporating SNA throughout the process, we aim to demonstrate how SNA can contribute on multiple levels to community focus groups/ workshops, test a new process leadership tool, and increase scientific understanding of the interplay between network structures and social polarisation.

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