Alternative Narrative to hate speech and violent extremism: Strengthening community resilience through positive youth development
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, more than 38,000 foreign fighters from over 80 countries have joined militant groups, including Daesh and al-Qaeda, in both Iraq and Syria. Experts estimate that between 3,000 and 3,950 Jordanians travelled to the conflict zone between 2011 and 2015, and that anywhere up to 1,500 have been killed. This ranks Jordan as the country with the highest ratio of foreign fighters on a per capita basis in the world.
In order to prevent violent extremism (PVE) and foster sustainable peace in Jordan, it is important to strengthen community resilience. Including young people in this is crucial. I-Dare works to develop skills, knowledge, attitudes, critical thinking and agency in young people.
I-Dare believes in youth as the catalyst for positive sustainable transformation. They run several projects to promote alternative narratives to hateful and violent content online, increase meaningful youth participation in peacebuilding and dispute resolution efforts, andPreventing Violent Extremism (PVE). I-Dare’s approach can be summarised in three words; A.C.T.: Acquire, Create & Transform. The A.C.T. approach is all about providing the space and time for young people to acquire new knowledge, skills, attitudes and values in order for them to be able to create and lead their own initiatives and hereby, all of us are part of the collective positive transformation. One of the tools promoted by I-Dare is the concept of ‘Articipate’ which enables effective youth participation through art-based methods including comics (Comicipate), theatre (Hekaya theatre: the theatre of difference), hip-hop and video making. Moreover, I-Dare creates platforms for young people to lead their own messages.
Their work in PVE and hate speech recognises the importance of a supportive environment around youth, community participation and in building and enriching alternative narratives to the stereotypes, racism, and discrimination often perpetuated in common discourse. In general, they emphasise the importance of encouraging critical thinking among young people, to support their intellectual independence and empower them to be able to critically assess any discourse, rather than simply feeding counter speeches to them. In this way they work to make youth resistant to violence and hate discourses.
I-Dare promotes dialogue, understanding dynamics and mechanisms of violence and hate, and pluralism throughout its efforts towards creating ‘alternative narratives’. The alternative narratives knowledge hub encourages contributions from a cross-cultural community of young people – creating space for dialogue and providing contextual information from different points of view. They encourage both written and artistic submissions providing alternatives to hate and violent content prevalent online. The hub includes multiple videos, blogs on topics such as “Who is the ‘other’?”, “Are our online identities authentic?” and “What is Pyramid of hate?”.
Online activities are supported by offline activities such as Speak and Cook – where they gather young people, cook something together and talk informally about a topic such as cohesion, community dialogues and how to create an alternative narrative for strengthening community resilience. “They are informal dialogue sessions, that are not lectures. The aim is to establish dialogue in a new way.” Explained an I-Dare youth worker. They also go into the streets with signs and placards to give out information to the public about their campaigns.
I-Dare is encouraging young people to be part of creating positive change in Jordan, by creating a platform for the voice and efforts of young active citizens. By using creative and engaging tools, they are spreading alternative narratives and encouraging critical thinking among young people, to prevent violent extremism, to strengthen community resilience, to promote positive peace and to embrace pluralism.