The UK’s Preventing Violent Extremism (Prevent) strategy: do the shifts in policy impact on meaningful evaluation?

The UK’s Preventing Violent Extremism (Prevent) strategy: do the shifts in policy impact on meaningful evaluation?


3 March 2018

Giorgia Iacopini blogs on her doctoral research…

Giorgia Iacopini is Senior Researcher and Consultant at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London, and is studying on the IPR’s Professional Doctorate in Policy Research and Practice (DPRP). This blog is based on a conference paper that was accepted for the BISA Critical Studies on Terrorism working group‘s 2017 annual conference.


Preventing Violent Extremism (Prevent), part of the UK’s Counter-Terrorist policy has gone through several revisions since it was first launched in 2006. It is characterised by two features: a highly contested theoretical foundation and the considerable evaluation challenges it poses. Guided by the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF), the paper explores Prevent’s conceptual and structural changes and their impact on evaluation practice. The paper argues that Prevent ‘policy subsystem’ has undergone one major change in 2005, which introduced the ‘positivistic’ notion of radicalisation as its core belief, and a series of small-scale adaptations over time that have left the policy largely intact. This has been possible through the process of “analytical compatibility”, which sees political coalitions elevate experts’ theories that are compatible with their beliefs, particularly when the complexity of the phenomenon makes knowledge scarce. Since 2011, policy ‘cores’ have also informed the commissioning of evaluation approaches that reinforce them, despite (or perhaps because of) efforts made to make good evaluation possible. The implication is that evaluation, in Prevent, might still struggle to be meaningful. The approaches and designs favoured jar with the ‘complex’ nature of the policy and the knowledge produced is not always seen as valid by those implementing the policy, exacerbating the tension between ‘rigour’ and relevance.

You can read the blog based on Giorgia conference paper on:
Bath University’s website.

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