Two Sides of the Same Coin? An Examination of the Cognitive and Psychosocial Pathways Leading to EMPOWERMENT and RADICALIZATION, and a Model for Reorienting Violent Radicalization
Rarely are the notions of "empowerment" and "radicalization" uttered in the same sentence. "Empowerment" is to be desired and supported, whereas "radicalization" is to be prevented and feared. While less than obvious, radicalization and empowerment can be studied through similar lenses and can in fact be reduced to certain shared constructs. The purpose of a YouthPower Learning grant awarded to Equal Access was in large part to unpack key theories of empowerment and radicalization, and to elucidate some of the shared elements between the two notions, ultimately for the purpose of leveraging and transforming often-destructive processes and behavior associated with radicalization for positive outcomes.
This first report argues that, to be more effective, CVE programming needs to recognize, enhance, and channel potential assets of radicalized youth - such as agency, commitment, leadership, and self-efficacy - and examines the possibility of reorienting their impulses, attitudes, and behaviors from violent radicalization towards non-violent civic empowerment. The report explores various theoretical models, paying particular attention to the individual-environment interactions requisite in each empowerment and radicalization phase, and suggests an innovative and controversial paradigm that capitalizes on what we know about radicalization: that it can be redirected for constructive, inclusive, and pro-social outcomes. U
Under this grant, a follow-on report is expected to be released in June, based on field research conducted in Northeastern Nigeria that tests the concepts in this first report through interviews with radicalized youth and former Boko Haram militants.