As I’ve said in the two previous installments, how you define and scope CVE will affect program design and implementation. The most important questions to ask are:

  • Which population along the spectrum is the focus of the program?
  • Who is best suited to implement the program?
  • What laws and human rights principles come into play?
  • How do you know if you’re succeeding?

For each point along the spectrum, there is a variety of programs that might work. Here’s just a sample:
  • Disseminating derogatory information about a terrorist group and its actions
  • Interventions by law enforcement or respected community leaders
  • Counseling and mentoring
  • Change Yourself: adventure programs, leadership development
  • Change the World: non-violent political activism, volunteerism

Some will work better for one part of the spectrum than another. Some might work across the board. The exact nature of the program is not nearly as important as finding a satisfactory answer to this question: How will you know if your program is working?

Here is a basic truth: Program effectiveness becomes harder to measure the further you move away from self-declared supporters to “vulnerables.” Why? Because you’ll never be able to prove how many “vulnerables” did not become terrorists as a result of your program. They might have been just fine without it. On the other hand, if you focus your program on self-declared supporters of a terrorist organization and one of them happens to turn over a new leaf, that is a measurable positive outcome. (But as I said in my previous post, it’s also hard to do.)

The point of this exercise was to put forward a simplified definition of CVE and delimit its scope to spur discussion about whether its a good thing to do and how it should be done. I have more thoughts on the latter two questions that I’ll save for another venue. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

ps. If you haven’t read Charles Cameron’s ruminations on the matter, you should.