YouthCAN: The Many States of Activism

Over the past four years, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) has supported young activists around the globe to respond to hate, polarisation and extremism. Built on principles of ‘networked activism’,1 the Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN) has been supporting, enhancing and co-ordinating the efforts of a young cohort of activists preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) globally. YouthCAN’s model has evolved over the years, iteratively adapting to the rapid development of technology, while honing its efforts on supporting and leveraging the localised responses of young activists, and connecting them to a larger, global network.

Harnessing the collective agency of youth to address hate, polarisation and extremism – in what is traditionally referred to as P/CVE programming2 – is a relatively new practice for international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), local civil society organisations (CSOs) and, more recently, national governments. However, in that short amount of time, the imperative to involve young people has propelled youth P/CVE programming well beyond the research that supports it. As a result, it has become a ‘cottage industry’3 with, at times, more form than function. Scholars and development practitioners have long called for a robust evidence base for youth programming, as there is a considerable risk that without it programmes and resources intended to support and include young, aspiring P/CVE activists could be at odds with the needs of the audiences they are meant to represent.

This gap threatens the well-being of young people operating in dangerous environments while simultaneously undermining their inclusion as stakeholders in peacebuilding processes. Ultimately, insights into the experience of young P/CVE activists cannot be understood without the voices of these young people themselves. To help address the need for a more robust and youth-inclusive evidence base, ISD conducted a survey that was completed by 728 young activists globally to find out which barriers and opportunities had been most significant to their activism journey, as well as which skills they valued most. To complement the findings of the survey, ISD led 12 in-depth interviews with young activists living and working in different contexts around the world. The survey was available online in English and French and was disseminated

The Online Ecosystem of the German Far-Right

This report presents the findings of a research project of ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit about the alternative online-ecosystem of the far-right, including alternative social media platforms and alternative media outlets. While these platforms draw in a global audience this report focuses specifically on the German speaking and Germany-focused communities and outlets within this ecosystem. Drawing together ISD’s digital ethnographic work across dozens of forums and channels with the latest in machine learning and natural language processing, this report provides an overview over the size and nature of the far-right communities on these platforms the motivations for participating in these communities and assesses whether banning far-right groups from mainstream platforms leads to the displacement of their followers to ‘alternative’ platforms. We also analyse the role of alternative ‘news’ outlets in disseminating far right concepts, drawing on the‘Hate Observatory’, a joint initiative of ISD and the MIT Media Lab , based on their Media Cloud software, and compare the frequency and types of coverage of far-right themes in mainstream and alternative media. This report also recommends steps to be taken by tech companies, government, civil society and researchers to counter the far-right online.