The HYPER (How Young People are Engaged by Radicals) Erasmus+ project involves 6 partners from 6 countries:
1. JugendfördervereinParchim/Lübze.V., project coordinator, (Germany)
2. The Rural Hub, (Ireland)
3. E-Juniors, (France)
4. REINTEGRA, (Czech Republic)
5. Centre for advancement of research and development in educational technology (CARDET), (Cyprus)
6. Lancaster and Morecambe College, (United Kingdom)
Europe faces a real and ongoingthreatfrom violent extremism. A smallminority of groups continue to present false arguments and reasoningthatseek to justifyattacks on innocent civilians. MemberStates are beingurged to takemeasures to preventextremistvoices and messages reachingthosewho are mostvulnerable to these radical views. There is a perception thatthose at risk of radicalisation have a lowlevel of education and wouldgenerally fit the classification of disadvantagedyoung people but extensive researchindicatesthat the demographics in relation to religion, age, sex, education and financial backgrounds vary. What has been foundisthatmanybecomeradicalized in response to emotive messages and visuals and through frustration or outrage at perceived injustice or inequality. There is no obvious profile of a personlikely to becomeinvolved in extremism or a single indicator of when a personmight move to adopt violence in support of extremistideas. Radical extremists have shown a mastery of global communication networks, using the Internet to disseminategraphicvideos and electronic magazines to spread anti-establishment rhetoric and volumes of ‘fake news’ items to attractpotentialsympathizers. On social media, extremistsechothese messages and reach out to the curious and impressionable. Facebook has 1.3 billion activeaccounts and isused by extremists to share information and propaganda and to identifypotentialrecruits. Twitter provides a vehicle to disseminate information in real time, providing ‘breaking news’whichcanbe real of fake, often to gain sympathy or incite violence or hostility. Extremist groups use engagingvisuals and hip-hop soundtracks on YouTube to targetyoung people. Cyber magazines such as Inspire and Dabigshareskillfullyedited information and images to reach a wide audience.
Today’syoung digital natives are increasinglyaddicted to competitive online gaming wheremuch of the action takes place in hostile environments. The pro-aggression attitude within the on-line gaming world promotesbullying, harassment, homophobia, racism andmisogyny. There are a range of extremist groups and narratives thatpromote the use of violence, which affect individuals and communities right across Europe. Theseinclude ISIS; Al Qaida; extreme Right and Left Wing quasipoliticalgroups. Global eventslike the economiccrisis and the conflicts in NorthAfricathatspawnedthe recent influx of migrants throughout Europe are alsoimpacting local communities. Thesecansometimes lead to community tensions, fuel suspicion, and create divisions between people fromdifferent cultures and backgrounds. Tensions in local communitiesbetweendifferentethnic groups; feelings of grievance and injustice; ‘them and us’ thinking; aneed for identity, meaning and belongingare justsome of the factorsthat are common place in Europe today and thesefactors help create the perfectconditions for radical extremists to operate. The process of radicalisation isdifferent for everyindividual and cantake place over an extendedperiod or within a very short time frame.
Radicalisation needs to beunderstood as a process not an event. As a process, itis possible to
intervene to safeguardvulnerableyoung people. The chances of success for anyproposedintervention canbesignificantlyincreasedif the anti-radicalisation message isdelivered by a crediblevoicefromwithin the youthcommunity.
The aim of the HYPER projectis to design and produce a full suite of educationalresourcesthat show the process of radicalisation in action. Theseresourceswillfocus on demonstrating how radicalisation canhappen on the mostpopular digital and social media platformswheretoday’syoung people hang out and wheremany are at theirmostvulnerable. The suite of simulation resourceswillact as a gateway to an online learningenvironmentwhere a wide
range of suitable and appropriate training resourceswillbeprovided. To accompanythese simulationresources the project consortium willdevelop a peer training programme for young people interestedin beingcrediblevoicesagainst radical extremistrhetoric and actions. Education is one of the key intervention toolsavailable to EU Member States to counteract the growthof radicalisation and frontlineyouthworkerswho engage with a wide cross-section of young people in a variety of formal, informaland non-formal settings are the mostappropriateindividuals to lead thisfight. To support theseyouthprofessionals HYPER willdevelopbespoke in-service and induction training programmes to enablethem to extract the maximum benefitfrom the full range of proposedtools. In the words of Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs “no country issparedfrom the scourge of violent extremism but still far too few EU Member States are facingup to thisrisingthreat. Weneedstrong, preventivemeasures to counterextremism in all itsforms”.