In June 2011, Google Ideas hosted the Summit Against Violent Extremism that brought together a group of over 80 people who were former survivors and perpetrators of radical extremism ranging from gang members, right-wing extremists, 9/11 victims, and jihadists in order to plant the seeds of an effort to combat the global problem of violent extremism. Less than a year later, Google Ideas, in conjunction with several partners, the flowers from those seeds have bloomed as Google Ideas launched a new website dedicated to challenging extremism around the world. The site, Against Violent Extremism, hopes to be what Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen described as a “one-stop shop” for people attempting to take on the challenges of radicalism.
The group is focusing on how to initiate a dialogue with communities, how to prevent young people from being led astray by radical groups, and to de-radicalize those already involved in violent extremism. Google shared the following video that highlights some of the personal stories of AVE members:
Perhaps nobody else in the world can command a level of authority about how to approach and affect the problem of radical violence than former subscribers of radical violence themselves, making AVE all the more compelling of a mission.
The direction of AVE is to enable smaller, local organizations with vital resources necessary in the effort against extremism. Alternately, AVE also marks a novel approach to combating anti-extremism that is not reliant upon government support. Through AVE, groups will be able to get assistance with topics ranging from how to develop marketing campaigns, tips for running an efficient nonprofit, and several tools that will help groups take advantage of online resources.
Currently, AVE’s site has 20 projects currently underway with over 400 connections between members, including former radical militants and survivors of radicalism. Visitors to the site can explore the network of members via a Google Maps-style honeycomb of relationships. By clicking on individual members, you can see their profile, their relationship to radical violence, and the people they’re immediately connected with through AVE.
Ross Frenett, Google Idea’s project manager for AVE, explained the powerful mission of the new organization:
The network is founded on the belief that there are lessons to be learned between groups combating different forms of extremism, from Islamism to the white power movement. For instance, experience shows that the practical measures needed to help an individual leave these groups are similar. They will often require a new social support structure, a change in job, and alternative housing.[…]
AVE aims to have 500 members of the network by the end of year one and over 1000 by the end of year two. The network already includes, amongst others, former members of the white power movement from the US and former Islamist extremists from Indonesia.
This summer, AVE will join the Illicit Networks: Forces in Opposition Summit in order to welcome activists, survivors, policymakers, and engineers to confer over the best ways in which they can efficiently disrupt the radical extremist networks around the world. Cohen summarized the goal of the summit, “We want to look not only at how technology has been part of the problem, but how it can be part of the solution by empowering those who are adversely affected by illicit networks.”