The TRED team develops and tests evidence-based resources to equip communities and practitioners with the knowledge and tailored strategies needed to prevent supremacist rhetoric and violence, misogyny, mis- and disinformation, conspiracy theories, and propaganda. Our work in higher education includes developing toolkits to equip faculty, staff, administrators, and students to prevent extremist violence and build more inclusive, resilient campuses.
From deep collaboration and partnership with SPLC comes the Risk, Resilience, and Online Radicalization: Parent and Caregivers’ Toolkit for the COVID-19 Era. This guide offers parents and caregivers strategies and tips to recognize the warning signs of youth radicalization as well as new risks in the COVID-19 era, understand the drivers and grievances that create susceptibility to extremist rhetoric, and intervene more effectively. The guide was launched in summer 2020 with a webinar and was followed by an impact study. The toolkit has since expanded to serve communities of teachers, educators, school counselors, mental health practitioners and more – all of which can be found here.
Extremist behavior and language online has created increased risk to young users who are susceptible to radicalization. This guide seeks to increase understanding of how extremists target children and young adults by providing guidance to identify warning signs, counter online radicalization, and seek additional help.
With support from the Lumina Foundation, PERIL developed the Building Resilient & Inclusive Communities of Knowledge (BRICK) Toolkit to equip higher education community members with strategies to prevent, address, and counter supremacist rhetoric and violence, polarization, misogyny, moral disengagement, and mis- and disinformation on their campuses.
The BRICK toolkit urges a shift from reactive to preventative approaches in education that work to build healthier, safer, more inclusive campuses, where harmful beliefs and behaviors never have the fertile ground to take root. It encourages campuses to balance their focus on accountability for perpetrators of harm with action steps that promote solidarity, safety, and healing for members of targeted groups.
BRICK is shaped by the needs of students, staff, faculty, and administrators who contributed in focus groups from 2021-22. The toolkit includes conversation guidelines, a response framework to assign roles and responsibilities, support for victims, survivors, and members of targeted groups. Supplementary resources on topics include rhetorical strategies of online manipulation, and guidelines for campus administrators in the wake of harmful events.
As part of the broader work, PERIL held a webinar series in Spring 2022 to listen to and lift up expertise about various needs of higher education community members, and to bring a
greater focus to some of the critical – and often overlooked – topics facing higher education in preventing extremism and building more inclusive and resilient campus communities.
What would it take to develop a pilot training to counter polarization in a city where social and political strain has reached a breaking point? PERIL and the City of Seattle worked together to test baseline strategies for such a training, aimed at reaching all municipal employees. The pilot, Free to Disagree, was tested with a range of city employees, including the office of the Ombuds, sanitation, and the Seattle police and fire departments. This pilot produced video content explaining the dynamics of radicalization and polarization, and how those dynamics affect the ways we work together, accompanied by a package of discussion rubrics and secondary readings. Preliminary impact study demonstrated an improvement in awareness of the dynamics of polarization and willingness to step up to reduce it. However, more work is necessary to develop interentions such as these into fully working programs. The Free to Disagree program offered a small first step toward healing the rifts that have emerged in our society in recent years, and have turned our everyday places of work into political hot spots.
In spring of 2021, the Vermont Community Foundation awarded a planning grant to deepen the network of educators and others working to confront extremism and strengthen schools in times of divisive polarization. This grant was awarded to PERIL to do the following:
A fertile network of educators has been established in Vermont, with reach into New Hampshire, and the potential for expansion. Conference workshops are planned for Fall 2022. The continuation of this work will further the goal of creating a more substantive presence in the region of PERIL and partner organizations.
Like many American communities, Tarrant County Texans face an overwhelming challenge: groups trying to pull us apart into polarized and divided camps that can’t talk to one another. The Strengthening Texas, Advancing Resilience (STAR) project seeks to strengthen Tarrant County, reinforcing the communities’ deep roots in faith to push back against those who seek to drive us apart. The STAR project combines three leading organizations to support a robust, whole-of-society prevention framework by integrating local and academic expertise. The collaborating organizations are: Search for Common Ground, Multi-Faith Neighbors Network, and the Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab at American University. In partnership with clerics and other local leaders, the STAR team will better understand the dynamics dividing our communities and lovingly interrupt the pathways to polarization and hatred. Our goal is not to eliminate differences, but to build a model of strength and resilience for Tarrant County that creates constructive dialogue for mutual welfare across differences.