Last year the project Youth Counselling Against Radicalisation (Ycare) has been launched with funding from the Erasmus+ program of the European Commission. The project is carried out with expertise in different fields relevant to efforts to counter radicalisation. In recent years radicalisation toward violent extremist and terrorist positions has been considered an increasing treat in the European Union. We believe that international cooperation is necessary to effectively combat cross-border radicalisation and terrorism and are pleased to inform you about our counter-radicalisation project.
In order to create a solid basis for our project we conducted a needs assessment among professionals in eight European countries. This needs assessment included an online questionnaire in which professionals in the field of youth counselling were asked about their views on the phenomenon of radicalisation as well as their own needs as a professional. In addition, a few dozen professionals were interviewed to get a more profound understanding of their awareness as regards radicalisation and their vision on their own role as a professional in combatting this phenomenon. In the interviews the professionals were also asked to identify professional, resource related and institutional needs in dealing with radicalisation. The outcomes of the full needs assessment serve as a starting point for our project.
The needs assessment was carried out from March to June 2016. 129 references were examined in order to have a general impression of the current situation of Youth counselling and professionals’ approach towards radicalisation in Europe. To reach the target group, several entities and organisations from various areas in the youth field were selected (education, health, etc.), many of which get identified following a bibliographic review on youth counselling and advise services. A piloting test of the original questionnaire was previously conducted in Spain (N=50) in order to obtain a final version as light and effective as possible.
Questionnaire and interview outcomes
The questionnaire integrates the opinion of the target group about the phenomenon of radicalisation. It consist of definitions, risk factors, the impact of radicalisation and the need to tackle it (training, information and resources available). 346 professionals participated in the questionnaire working with the following groups: youth in general (31%), at risk of social exclusion (25%), childhood and families (20%), migrants (7%), minor offenders(7%) and disable people (4%). The persons who answered to the questionnaire are working in several areas offering youth assistance. The low participation of professionals working with migrants groups or minor offenders, as well as professionals from the health sector may be due to the fact that these services are normally found only at specialised level.
The majority of interviewees (84%) have heard previously about radicalisation, mainly via news (86%) internet (72%) followed by books, papers (51%) or other media (21%). The prevailing opinion of the professionals is that key agents are important for prevention. They stress the important social and personal impact of radicalisation and they are medium to highly aware. Three quarter of the respondents indicates a need for abilities to prevent, material resources and more information.
It is remarkable that almost two out of three of interviewees (64.9%) considers that they would be able to detect radicalisation signs among the youth they work with even though they say at the same time they would need awareness and capacity-building actions support. It is also notable that almost half of the interviewees (48.2%) feels that there is useful information about radicalisation available, and at the same time need to get more information on this phenomenon (87.5%). This indicates that youth counsellors have some knowledge about the issue but would like to receive even more information and counselling support.
The interviews gathered a more detailed and in-depth information about the same areas assessed in the questionnaire. 53 frontline agents (teachers, trainers, technicians, youth facilitators, university professors, mosque teachers) and stakeholders (representatives from public organisations, worship places and NGOs) working in several areas from the youth field (Education, Health, juvenile Justice, Social welfare, Citizen safety, Youth, Citizenship involvement and Islamic worship places) were interviewed.
Almost all the survey respondents have acknowledged a large understanding of the radicalisation phenomenon. However, the interviews have shown some discrepancies that can have an influence on the decision of practitioners concerning the accurate moment for intervention (e.g. intervention only in case of violent incidents or even before; ethnic groups vs. extremist groups). It is notable that hardly anyone knew any specific resource addressed to youth radicalisation while they do know resources in other fields (e.g. racism, coexistence, etc.). In line with this lack of resources, the interviews gathered a large number of needs, mainly focused on awareness and training.
Overview of collected needs
The specific needs collected are detailed hereafter. Some of these needs are focussed on professionals, others are aimed at youth and institutions. The needs focussed on professionals can be grouped in three categories: information, capacity-building and specific training resources. Ycare aims to respond to all of these aims. The other (institutional) needs are mentioned in order to be complete about but the focus of the Ycare project is on the needs aimed at the professionals themselves.
- General information on the phenomenon of radicalisation in relation to youth counselling services
- Accurate information on the phases of the radicalisation process, signs and risk factors
- Information on how radicalisation is related to and distinguished from extremism and terrorism
- Information on the content of radical ideologies in contemporary Europe and the role of ideologies and extremist organisations in radicalisation
- Techniques of intervention with families and community to encourage their involvement and protect from risk environments.
- Specific strategies and techniques to deal with radicalisation: how to prevent it, how to distinguish indicators (e.g. orthodoxy vs. fundamentalism) and what to do once detected.
- Conversational techniques (group and individual) and strategies to implement it in the course of routine group work.
- Refresh practitioners’ abilities (emotional intelligence, conflict solving, social abilities, etc.).
- Training in ICT and social networks to get closer to reality and understand the new environments of social interaction of young population.
- Strategies and techniques to promote youth empowerment.
Specific training resources
- Training Web platform: usefulness of the platform model for the exchange of knowledge and e-learning purpose.
- Transversal tools: to provide techniques and materials that can be applied by practitioners in their daily activity.
- Specific guidelines and handbooks about radicalisation offering a strategic framework and a practical approach.
- Didactic materials (data sheets, activity cards, etc.) to put into practice several techniques.
- Youth empowerment: Enhance youth involvement in decision making. Provide young people with the opportunity to choose, organise and implement their own activities (concerts, football matches, etc.).
- Cultural inclusion: Organise intercultural and family coexistence activities (e.g. during religious celebrations) also with religious/cultural representatives; importance of the cultural mediators figure at school; organise cultural trips.
- Arts projects: Encourage the development of cultural projects and activities intended to involve young people directly and enhance team working and creativity (e.g. videos direction, design and management of a cultural agenda).
- Counselling and primary care services: create more resources and services directed to families mainly to provide early stage care, without requiring to be referred previously.
- Professionals’ networks: to view and create professionals’ networks to improve communication and the exchange of experiences.
- State and civil Community dialogue: to establish an open and transparent dialogue among the State and the general Population (Youth especially) where citizenship issues can be debated.