Understanding Social Ecosystems Supporting Violent Extremism in Kenya

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Researchers from RUSI and Search for Common Ground discuss the findings of a year-long study into social networks and norms in Kenya’s violent extremism landscape, providing actionable recommendations for practitioners and government actors.

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Recognising that unique social and political dynamics inform how communities respond to violent extremism (VE) and reflecting on criticism of counter-violent extremism (CVE) projects, USAID commissioned RUSI (in partnership with Search for Common Ground, an internationally recognised peacebuilding organisation, and Human Cognition, a company that provides social media analysis with a focus on violent extremist messaging) to study community values, behaviours, attitudes, beliefs and information-sharing networks within four Kenyan counties: Kwale; Mombasa; Nairobi; and Nyeri.

Social networks and narratives are critical avenues for VE recruitment. Groups such as al-Shabaab successfully work through the friendships and personal relationships of prospective members to convey messaging. Al-Shabaab recruiters exploit existing social networks, undermining support structures and taking advantage of local grievance narratives. Understanding the networks and narratives – as well as the wider social ecologies in which they function – is paramount to designing successful CVE interventions, and to ensuring that activities are more appropriately targeted and better designed.

The year-long study adopted an innovative approach combining qualitative interviews and social network analysis to explore how social ecosystems enable recruitment into VE. The researchers investigated VE and CVE information-sharing networks and interrogated whether those exposed to VE messaging were also reached by CVE programming and information campaigns.

The researchers will discuss the methods they employed and provide an overview of their findings and recommendations for both practitioners and state actors not only in Kenya but for those working in the broader prevention sector.

How to attend

This event is open all. To take part, you must pre-register no later than 6 September using the ‘Register' button. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

If you have any questions, please email Conor O’Shea, Events Manager, at ConorO@rusi.org

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