Incorporating new approaches Our approach to evaluating P/CVE interventions

Author: Patricia Crosby
Manager, SCN

Author: Tim Hulse
Coordinator, Monitoring & Evaluation, SCN

Patricia Crosby, SCN Regional Manager, and Tim Hulse, M&E Coordinator, reflect on a recent workshop held by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health exploring how to apply public health methodology to the evaluation of CVE programmes and makes the case for improving our focus on this important, but often under-looked, aspect of successful local prevention efforts.

Municipalities and local practitioners are on the front lines of delivering programmes for preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) and are expected to develop and employ robust methodologies for evaluating the success of their interventions. However, there exist few comprehensive studies on the effectiveness of these interventions, while those which have been conducted have been hindered by a lack of data which can obscure the full extent of the impact created by these projects. 

This is why the Strong Cities Network (SCN) actively supports member cities by building the capacity of frontline practitioners to conduct monitoring and evaluation through embedding good practice into their existing models.

Establishing robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E) methodologies is essential if cities are to understand whether the interventions they conduct are having a sustainable impact on the ground. Without good M&E it can be difficult for municipal governments to justify that money has been well spent; that local decision-makers are important actors and intermediaries in national P/CVE efforts; and, that P/CVE programmes provide a valuable, transparent service to the communities in which they operate. However, gathering data, particularly behavioural, on sensitive issues like extremism and polarisation from at-risk and hard to reach audiences remains a challenging undertaking. Tying population-level indicators to specific interventions to determine the comparative, long-term impact of different P/CVE programmes and policies has proved particularly difficult for many cities.

“Establishing robust M&E methodologies is essential if cities are to understand whether the interventions they conduct are having a sustainable impact on the ground”

In order to help our members meet these challenges and collect better data, the SCN recently participated in the first of a series of workshops held in Venice, Italy, which seek to take inspiration and lessons learnt from the public health field when designing evaluation methodologies and apply these to P/CVE programmes. The workshops are organised by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Division of Policy Translation and Leadership Development and is sponsored by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programmeand the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Technology Directorate.

Above: The workshop was held in a castle outside Venice, Italy

The workshop emphasised developmental approaches to evaluation and examined a number of frameworks borrowed from the field of public health, which could be translated to P/CVE. Drawing on a range of tools, such as bio-statistical analysis to determine rates of false positives in interventions, conference participants were given the opportunity to investigate how these methods might be applied to their existing P/CVE programmes. Some of the examples looked at evaluating stakeholder consultations, while others looked at measuring the effectiveness of campaigns in schools.

Multiple local government and civil society implementation partners were represented at the workshop and had the opportunity to look at four case studies in detail to apply some of the methodologies discussed. These case studies looked at intervention models from Colorado, USA, Ottawa, Canada, Gothenburg, Sweden, and North Macedonia.

While the public health field provides an innovative lens from which to evaluate P/CVE interventions, other fields also shed light on how to evaluate the complexity of P/CVE programmes. When working with member cities, SCN shares programme models that incorporate robust approaches from the advertising, tech and development sectors to help improve the data that local actors can collect.

These approaches are regularly included in our work on digital citizenship, counter-narrative campaigning and polarisation. For example, SCN has worked to deliver M&E support to six Local Prevention Networks (LPN) in Lebanon and Jordan to help them evaluate their initiatives. These multi-stakeholder councils, inspired by the Danish model, have developed a range of education projects and community awareness and engagement campaigns tailored to extremism in the local contexts of the LPN cities. Similarly, tools such as the Hate Mapper, developed by ISD and the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, can be used as a barometer to gauge the extent of hate online in a given region and inform the development of local interventions and policies. The use of innovative approaches and tools such as these can help to ensure that programming offered by local actors is effectively evaluated and tailored to the complexities of the P/CVE space.

The value of monitoring and evaluation of P/CVE programmes and interventions are often overlooked as dull or unglamorous aspects to our work. However, by leaning on traditional public health measurements and frameworks, we stand to greatly improve the field substantially.  From targeting our limited resources more astutely to problems or in providing more data transparency to stakeholders our approaches to evaluating P/CVE can and should do better. With the rapidly evolving nature of radicalisation and violent extremism, our collection of tools to examine and evaluate these threats and our programmes to combat them must evolve as well.

Do you have a tool to measure local risk, evaluate programme or communication success to local stakeholders that you wish to share to other members?  Please email Strong Cities Network [email protected] or simply upload it to our private Online Members Hub.

The workshop was sponsored by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Technology Directorate

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