The Art of Seeing Promise over Risk

Between 2017 and 2019 the European Practice EXchange (EPEX), aiming at the development, improvement and refinement of deradicalisation practice by non-theoretical peer-to-peer learning took place in several European and extra-European countries. The final report on the project was published in 2019. Read the Executive Summary or download the whole report here.


Executive Summary

How can we create a peer-to-peer network for those working in the prevention of radicalisation that offers a space to their (shared) topics and interests? What if, based on this, practitioners wrote a book together?

The European Practice EXchange (EPEX) aspired to take up the challenge of amplifying, strengthening and connecting practitioners’ voices. EPEX is a small international network of organisations and individual members working in the fields of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of radicalisation and exit work both within and outside of prison. This publication is the outcome of our intense three-year exchange.

We created The Art of Seeing Promise over Risk in a collective writing process: Our prototype methodology to enable and support practitioners to select topics and produce content together.[1] The publication is written as much for other practitioners as it was for those who are curious to hear the voices of professionals with first-hand expertise.

In developing new methods for practice-based exchange focusing on an intimacy, on repeat exchanges and relationship-building, the EPEX project highlights that practitioners bring a specific perspective to the debate of radicalisation and deradicalisation across different forms of extremism. Yet, they do not speak all in one voice. The term “practitioner” implies a great and enriching plurality. We hold that this wealth and diversity of experience-based knowledge and practice-based expertise is not, or not sufficiently, reflected in public and political discourse, academic literature, media debate, topical conferences or the existing networking events. We seek to address this lack by stressing the need to look and act beyond a one-sided, securitised perspective. With this publication, we seek to add and broaden views upon a wide range of extremisms in order to get to a more nuanced and holistic understanding of the challenges we face.

The authors selected a wide range of topics relevant to them and their daily work. In reading, you will find that this publicaion is not about simply replacing one perspective by another. It is not about giving or knowing all the answers. The Art of Seeing Promise over Risk rather provides insight into some of the highly debated topics within the network. It shows pathways to asking the better questions, opening up a space where unsolved problems and tensions can be addressed, and to seeing these issues from different practitioners’ vantage points. It is this process- and practice-oriented approach that makes up the enriching diversity of the EPEX network.

Chapter Breakdown

Chapter 1 emphasises the importance of self-refection as a method to achieve clarity on one’s own blind spots but also values, roles and professional tools to maintain a nuanced view on violent extremism despite prevailing discourses that induce fear and call for securitisation.

Chapter 2 highlights the importance of investing in prison staff and other professionals working with radicalised inmates – in form of ongoing supervision to enable practitioners to do the best job possible.

Chapter 3 is about recognising the potential for change brought about by key influencers. It encourages organisational changes to provide adequate remuneration and support to value their work.

Chapter 4 interlinks all these aspects in our shared methodology, explains reasoning and experiences with our different formats (e.g. Job-Shadowing Visits). It highlights the need of building relationships of trust and horizontal structures of exchange and mutual learning to improve the working environment of practitioners and their clients. It shares insights from organising and maintaining a collective writing process for those who might aspire to do the same.

In sum, this publication centres on a methodology of amplifying practitioner’s voices and organising practice-based exchange – valuing the experiences and promising potential of each individual to bring about positive change, instead of letting one’s views and agency be captured by possible risks.

EPEX is an initiative of the RecoRa Institute and Violence Prevention Network. It is hosted by the Network of European Foundations (NEF) and supported by Open Society Foundation, Robert Bosch Foundation, King Baudouin Foundation and Fritt Ord Foundation.

[1] See Chapter 4: “An Exploration of EPEX Methodology. Amplifying Experience-based Practice”.

You can download the whole report here.