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Empowering communities
Empowering communities

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5.1 The role of government and communities

A 2008 report by the UK Department for Communities and Local Government (2008) emphasised the role that Government at any level can play in supporting communities to more effectively address the challenges posed by radicalisation and extremism. Underpinning this perspective is the recognition that government action alone is not enough, and instead must be supported by active community engagement. This is a view supported by pan-European networks set up to address the challenge posed by radicalisation and extremism, including the Radicalisation Action Network (RAN).

Extensive research by RAN (Russell, 2018) has emphasised the importance of local engagement and actions by communities in addressing the longer-term impacts of radicalisation. This applies both when working proactively to prevent future radicalisation but also to reduce existing levels of radicalisation:

Although governments and public authorities must do all they can, the prevention of extremism and radicalisation is most effectively addressed by communities. Extremism is able to thrive when communities themselves do not challenge those who seek to radicalise others. In some communities, particularly minority communities, there is a profound lack trust and confidence in the government, police and public authorities. This can make it harder for them to achieve success. It is therefore important to invest in community engagement and community empowerment. Community engagement should be in place routinely and not just implemented after a problem arises.

(Radicalisation Action Network, no date.)

Beyond the trust and engagement that are implicit in local communities, there is also arecognition that a clear understanding of ‘local dynamics and the hyperlocal nuances of a specific area’ (Smit and Meines, 2019, p. 3) are key aspects of any effect strategy for successfully grappling with radicalisation and extremism. Ultimately, it is crucial to recognise that:

Extremist groups exploit hyperlocal vulnerabilities and events to reinforce their narrative and strengthen their appeal. Since the local context plays a crucial role in the process of radicalisation, the local context forms the basis of any potential solution or counter/preventive strategy.

(Smit and Meines, 2019, p. 3)

Activity 4 Radicalisation and extremisim

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes

In the following clip Robert Örell, an expert in radicalisation and extremism, discusses some of the key challenges facing communities.

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Video 3 Robert Örell
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In this clip Robert Örell highlights some of steps communities can take to overcome both radicalisation and extremism and the role of community empowerment in supporting this process. Key to this is early and active engagement with youth to understand them and their challenges, and an awareness of the role which communities can and should play in supporting those who live within them.