Evaluation of countering violent extremism initiatives: lessons learned from best practice public health frameworks
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 03:51 authored by Stephanie Scott-Smith
The importance of the empirical evaluation of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs to ensure continued refinement and transparency is widely recognised throughout the literature. However there is much debate regarding how evaluation is best conducted, and a limited body of evidence to draw from. The current research project has developed out of this area of debate in the scholarly literature; the broader argument suggests that approaches to CVE would benefit from using a public health framework, which may enable the allocation of additional resources and funding, facilitate information sharing, encourage trust from the community, and align with existing public health approaches to complex issues, such as violence prevention. A school of thought stemming from this debate posits that the frameworks of practice and theory within public health are relevant to CVE, one of which is the framework of program evaluation. This thesis seeks to critically analyse this debate by focusing on the application of public health evaluation to CVE projects in two ways; firstly, public health evaluation frameworks will be described and critically analysed. Secondly, three CVE case studies from Australia will be used to explore the potential utility of evaluation methodology already utilised in public health. This study found that the principles of public health evaluation best practice are applicable to CVE programs and add value to CVE evaluation. Findings suggest that applying existing public health evaluation approaches could ensure that several of the challenges identified with CVE evaluation are resolved. In addition, application of these approaches would ensure a consistent and internationally recognised evaluation language is used, that evaluation is imbedded in CVE program development, and that there is accountability for using and disseminating the lessons learned from CVE evaluations. It is hoped that future CVE project evaluation strategies may be informed by the lessons learned in the current study.