Promoting Peace as the Antidote to Violent Extremism

Evaluation of a Philippines-Based Tech Camp and Peace Promotion Fellowship

by Ashley L. Rhoades, Todd C. Helmus, James V. Marrone, Victoria M. Smith, Elizabeth Bodine-Baron

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Research Questions

  1. How did tech camp participants and PPF fellows react to EAI training?
  2. What recommendations did participants and fellows have to improve future programming?

The Philippines continues to experience the travails of militant violence, much of which is focused on the southern island of Mindanao and its neighboring Sulu archipelago. Equal Access International (EAI) trained local civil society members on Mindanao to design and implement locally based countering violent extremism (CVE) campaigns. This training was provided through two five-day tech camps. EAI then selected 11 activists from the tech camps to participate in a six-month Peace Promotion Fellowship (PPF) program. This program offered mentorship and funding for these activists to implement their own community-based micro-CVE campaigns.

To evaluate the process of implementing this program, RAND researchers conducted in-depth interviews with the 11 PPF fellows and the EAI staffers charged with running the program. During these interviews, researchers also asked the PPF fellows about their experience during the tech camps. This report contains a series of recommendations that are based on the information gained from these interviews to improve future tech camp and PPF programming.

The authors of this report include research from a study of EAI CVE radio programming on Mindanao.

Key Findings

Tech camp participants were highly satisfied with most aspects of training

  • People who attended the tech camps felt that they learned useful skills, had high levels of support, and were in an open and collaborative environment.
  • Participants came away from the tech camps feeling that they had improved abilities to use social media to support CVE campaigns. In addition, they felt that they had improved their public speaking skills.

PPF fellows felt the program was highly rewarding and went on to create a variety of projects

  • Both PPF fellows and program implementers felt that the program was successful. Fellows felt that they were making a difference in their communities, and program implementers felt that the program allowed the fellows to learn through putting ideas into practice.
  • Most PPF fellows went on to start community-based programs that focused on teaching community members about the conflict on Mindanao and how communities could work to promote peace in their localities.
  • Projects varied in their use of social media and face-to-face communication (workshops and information sessions). When PPF fellows did use social media in their projects, they almost always used Facebook as their primary platform.

Recommendations

  • Avoid cramming too much content into a single day to increase absorption of material.
  • Include more breakout sessions focused on practical application.
  • Provide more training on project management and implementation.
  • Introduce the PPF concept at the start of future tech camps.
  • PPF implementers provide helpful coaching; having enough dedicated staff is vital to this effort.
  • Fellows often operate in "hard-to-reach" locations (both physically and virtually) and PPF staff may be difficult to contact. Increasing staff can help improve monitoring and oversight for these fellows.
  • Implementers should consider competing responsibilities (such as school and work) on when designing program requirements.
  • Implementers should increase the number of fellows to compensate for anticipated attrition.
  • Increased funding would help build and sustain projects.
  • Unforeseen circumstances, such as natural disasters and family demands, can significantly disrupt projects. Implementers should assist fellows with contingency planning in advance of project implementation.
  • Fellows would like assistance with establishing critical and helpful social networks.
  • EAI implementers pointed out that fellows must have credibility with their local communities to be successful messengers. Implementers seem to have selected credible fellows in the first PPF iteration, and they should ensure that their efforts continue.
  • More-rigorous evaluation of PPF-type programming will ensure that participants continue to view these programs as useful and build a base of data for future research.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Tech Camp Assessment

  • Chapter Three

    Peace Promotion Fellowship Assessment

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusion

  • Appendix A

    Interview Instruments

  • Appendix B

    Tech Camp Assessment Instrument Results

  • Appendix C

    Summary of Peace Promotion Fellowship Projects

  • Appendix D

    Results of a Study of Countering Violent Extremism–Themed Radio Programming in Mindanao

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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