In September 2010, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations was commissioned by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to carry out an evaluation of the local Prevent projects funded between 2008 and 2011. This work builds on our earlier Prevent-evaluation activities in this field, which have included: a methodological paper commissioned by the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) to inform the national evaluation of Prevent activities; the development of self-evaluation guidelines and a resource pack for local Prevent programmes and delivery of regional workshops to introduce local staff to these guidelines.
Tower Hamlets has been involved in the Prevent programme from its early stages, with its initial Pathfinder projects followed by three further tranches of local projects, supported by a number of cross-cutting activities. Since 2008, the Council has funded a total of 25 projects. The overall purpose of the evaluation was to get a deeper understanding of the achievements and outcomes of the local Prevent projects that were delivered between 2008 and 2011, as part of the Council’s Preventing Violent Extremism Strategy. It was deemed important to make this a ‘learning evaluation’, capturing the journey of the projects in terms of what worked, what didn’t; the challenges encountered and the successes achieved.
ContextThe preventing violent extremism strategy (Prevent), launched in 2007, is part of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST that emerged after the 2005 London bombings: Prevent focuses on tackling the root causes of violent extremism in order to prevent individuals being first attracted to extremism. Following a recent review by the Home Office, the strategy has been re-focussed, details of which can be found here. Prior to the review, CLG funding for Local Authority Prevent activities was provided through area-based grants. The aim was to support an area-based, multi-stakeholder approach in delivering locally appropriate solutions and to develop a ‘whole community approach’ to preventing violent extremism.In Tower Hamlets, a key feature shaping the design of the Prevent programme was to fit Prevent into broader efforts under way in the Borough to support community development, support neighbourhood organisations to deliver projects that make a difference at a very local level. In particular, Prevent was linked to the Council’s community cohesion agenda, adopting a community-led approach to the design and delivery of the programme.
ObjectivesIn particular, the aims of the evaluation were to understand more fully:
- Community organisations’ experiences of delivering their Prevent projects;
- Perceptions of whether Tower Hamlets’ approach to Prevent was experienced as ‘bottom-up’;
- The added value of Prevent: the extent to which projects delivered something unique;
- How projects reached participants; the challenges they faced; the successes achieved.
MethodologyReflecting the learning purpose of the evaluation, the overall methodology incorporated a theory of change framework, which helped clarify the pathways of change that projects went through. Our work concentrated on three sets of activities:Scoping phase: the first part of this phase included a literature review on the causes of radicalisation, in order to develop a framework for analysing Tower Hamlets’ approach to Prevent. The review enabled us to identify three broad categories under which causes of radicalisation can be clustered: external level causes (political, economic and cultural conditions in the wider environment that can shape and constrain an individual); social level causes (group and organisational processes that can influence an individual); individual level causes (psychological characteristics, personal motivations and attitudes). The second part of this phase included one-to-one interviews with key stakeholders in the local authority and the police.In-depth case study work: due to the importance of capturing projects’ journeys, we selected six of the funded projects in order to obtain a better understanding of project activities and of the outcomes participants achieved. Activities carried out as part of this work included:
- A review of key documents in order to construct the approach to, process towards, and achievements of Prevent objectives; participants reached; challenges and success factors identified.
- Qualitative interviews with all project leads and delivery staff and key members of partner organisations.
- Observation of project activities, including one-to-one and group interviews with project participants.