Program Theme Spotlight: Countering Violent Extremism

Participants on a Women Countering Violent Extremism project met with Facebook to discuss the use of social media to effectively counter extremist messaging.


Secretary of State John Kerry stated recently that violent extremism may well be “the defining challenge of our generation.” Given this reality, many International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) projects are focusing on best practices to counter radicalization and violent extremism. Their goal is to create a global knowledge network that develops strategies for ongoing cooperation in these efforts.

Programming for countering violent extremism (CVE) can be approached from various angles, and no program is one-size fits all. But experience has shown that the following themes are important to address:

  • strategies for addressing underlying conditions that fuel political grievances, communal conflicts, and economic disparity within communities;
  • the role women can play in countering CVE and radical ideologies;
  • the use of social media to effectively counter extremist messaging;
  • the role of faith-based and secular organizations, community-based efforts and public-private partnerships in positively engaging youth on political, social, and economic challenges; and
  • trends in successful intervention and rehabilitation programs designed to reintegrate disenfranchised youth and prevent radicalization.

CVE itineraries are strengthened when we explore the fact that our country faces its own forms of violent extremism: hate and racist crimes, mass shootings, and gang warfare, to name a few. Meetings with resources that work on the ground to stem these types of violence are good models to highlight in CVE programs. For instance, the work of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, a group that helps former gang members get back on track through job training and placement, effectively illustrates how to help youth disengage from organized, violent networks. It is also useful to offer insight into how highly vulnerable populations, such as new refugees, are integrated into the community, and encouraged to engage productively in civil society.

When designing a CVE program in your community, start by asking some key questions: Are there programs to support vulnerable populations? Is your city actively engaged in strengthening community resilience, perhaps through public-private partnerships? Is law enforcement actively involved in the community, supporting at-risk community members? Do you have volunteer programs that encourage youth to give back to their community?

In the past, only law enforcement and counterterrorism officials addressed countering violent extremism. But now, cities, local communities and non-profits are collaborating together, looking for new solutions to prevent radicalization, crime and violence. Our goal through the IVLP is to showcase shining examples of these programs and activities in the hope that they will lead us to a safer world.


Program Theme Spotlight is intended to promote ideas, brainstorming and best practices on frequent IVLP project topics.