This CREST report provides an evaluative overview of programmes that have sought to prevent, and counter, extremism.

This report provides an overview of the types of P/CVE programmes that have been developed, reviews the methods used to evaluate them, and outlines the challenges facing evaluation efforts alongside a review of how research has sought to overcome them.

The most significant limitation is the lack of evaluative work carried out to date. Most research is descriptive, and although there is a good understanding of the challenges facing the field, few studies have successfully addressed them.

Key findings

The overwhelming majority of P/CVE programmes have not been subject to formal evaluation. Where evaluations have taken place, they can fall short of the standards of transparency, independence, and rigour typical of related fields.

Greater sharing of internal evaluations would strengthen the field and enhance the speed at which progress is made, as well as avoiding parallel research cultures developing in the open and closed source literature. Pooling expertise on evaluation methods across the different bodies involved in delivering P/CVE interventions and more publicly accessible evaluations would also strengthen work in this area.

Key challenges facing P/CVE interventions include the absence of an appropriate counterfactual, or an understanding of what would have happened in the absence of an intervention, and the small numbers of people who are supported through these programmes. Quasi-experimental designs have been used in comparable fields such as gang-related interventions and have the potential to overcome these challenges.

There are ethical and security challenges when selecting an appropriate control group against which to evaluate the impact of P/CVE programmes. It is relatively straightforward to identify a control group for primary prevention methods that are aimed at larger populations; it is far harder to generate control groups for those at risk of, or involved in extremism, as this would typically involve denying individuals access to support to determine if an intervention was effective. Switching Replications design can potentially overcome this issue.

There is an absence of robust data against which to triangulate the findings of P/CVE evaluations. However, lessons can be learned from evaluations of gang-related interventions, which commonly use more than one evaluation method to triangulate their findings.

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