Using social health approaches in Countering Violent Extremism: Step Together

Here we would like to explain a little more about the core philosophies of the Step Together approach.

Step Together aims to protect our society from extremist violence, using an approach called Countering Violent Extremism or CVE. CVE looks at prevention and early intervention - examining the social health motivations that lead people to join extremist groups or embrace their ideologies. We focus on the time before any ideas of violence take hold, so we are at the opposite end of the spectrum to law enforcement, counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation programs.

Some of the main social health motivators include social isolationloneliness, the need for significance, and the need to belong. When these feelings become intense and combine with deep political, ideological or religious interest, the risk of involvement in violent extremist groups becomes greater.

Sometimes people who feel excluded seek a sense of belonging on the fringes of society. If people cannot meet this need within their everyday lives, they can at times seek it out through groups that advocate violence as a means of change. The behaviour exhibited in extremist recruits has strong parallels to those who join gangs and cults; and much of the philosophy that drives our Countering Violent Extremism approach draws from disengagement work in these and other societal fringe groups.

Countering Violent Extremism looks at what the perpetrators across racial, religious and political boundaries tend to share, and often that is social difficulties. These pathways to violent extremism have these common features, whether it be Islamist extremists, Far Right extremists, political extremists, or any other group that supports using violence to achieve change.

Extensive research shows that most people don’t initially join violent extremist groups for ideological reasons; rather these justifications for violent actions tend to come later. Instead, they join for social reasons – to join someone they know, connect with other people, or to find a sense of belonging and purpose.

Groups who support using violence to achieve change often use the desire to belong and other vulnerabilities in their propaganda and recruitment strategies, offering experiences that claim to reverse these negative experiences.

How you can help someone

One of the best ways to help someone who is heading down a dark path is to talk to them.  This early intervention can be as simple as a non-judgemental, accepting ear of a family member or friend. Feeling accepted and cared for helps people feel a better sense of support and belonging in society.

That’s why Step Together is here. To help people recognise problems in those they care about and provide strategies to help these support networks deal with these issues in a healthy way.

Want to find out more?

Explore our website to find out more about our service, including thing to look out forhow you can help, and information on privacy, reporting and other topics.

Advice and support

If you would like further advice and support on how best to help someone you care about, contact our Step Together helpline workers.

Last updated:

23 Oct 2023

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