Resilience project

The Resilience project focuses on the participation of young people

The goal of the Resilience project (2021–2023), funded by the Ministry of Justice, is to prevent violent radicalization and extremism at the local level by enhancing youth engagement.

The focus of the project is to address the issues of violent radicalization and extremism with youngsters and to support their own initiative in preventing the phenomena in their own immediate environment.

According to research, considering youngsters’ experiences and strengthening their participation in the planning and development of preventive measures is key to combating violent radicalization and extremism both at local and societal levels.

Why should young people be involved?

The youth barometers (in Finland) show that youngsters feel that they are provided with poor skills of having societal impact, both by school as well as other environments. poorly, both in school and outside of it. An increasing number of youngsters consider violence as a more effective way to influence than before.

In addition, according to Save the Children’s recent report Through the Eyes of Youth Workers: Extremism and Hate Speech in Finland, slightly less than half (47 %) of the youth workers have encountered signs of violent radicalization of young people and/or admiration of violence among youngsters. Three out of four (78 %) respondents reported having encountered hate speech.

Strengthening the participation of young people in the prevention of violent extremism is one of the basic pillars of the project.

Workshops are organized for young people in 15 different municipalities, where the issues are discussed with the help of a pedagogical escape room game. The aim is to find solutions for the phenomena that threaten societal peace faced by young people. Through the workshops, young people’s participation, critical thinking, and democratic skills are enhanced. Hence, opportunities are created for young people to participate in the prevention of violent extremism through their own activities.

Strengthening the resilience of youngsters is important in the prevention of violent extremism. We enhance young people’s ability to be resilient in relation to violent and harmful ideologies. The enc is done by supporting critical thinking, media literacy, emotional skills, and self-regulation. By strengthening resilience, the project supports the positive development of Finnish youth into reflective and democratic members of society.

Additionally, the project educates youth workers on the themes of violent extremism and radicalization, as professionals working with young people have a particularly good opportunity to intervene and prevent violent radicalization of youngsters.

Violent radicalization & extremism

Violent extremism is a way of thinking and acting that opposes the basic values of a democratic society such as equality, diversity, human rights, and the rule of law. Extremist thinking is black-and-white and inflexible in nature, and at its core is a divided worldview with strong notions of right and wrong, us and others.

Violent radicalization is a process in which a person’s values, attitudes and worldview are abrupt, and which can lead to violent acts.

The effects of violent extremism are visible both at the level of society and at the individual level.

For society, violent extremism does not only mean direct security threats: the spread of violent ideologies, the polarization of social debate, and the normalization of hate speech are a threat to the entire democratic society that respects human dignity and the rule of law.

Narrow-minded extremism also endangers the child’s right to a safe environment. It maintains unequal structures of society and normalizes hatred towards certain social groups. Thus, it also creates a culture of hatred and violence, which weakens the child’s and young person’s chances of growing into a full-fledged, morally responsible member of society.

If a child or youngster ends up participating in violent ideological activities, it can have very devastating consequences for the well-being and future of the radicalized Individual.

Radicalization online

Online environments play an essential role in the spread of violent ideologies. Research suggests that the internet offers more opportunities for radicalization and acts as an echo chamber, where one can easily find validation for one’s own, extremist thoughts.

Young people themselves consider social media and discussion forums to be more important tools for political influence than before, and about one in three (of the youth barometer respondents) feel that they have had a societal impact by participating in online discussions.

As a modern communication tool, the web also enables the first contact with a radical movement or an online community that builds hate rhetoric together. All extremist movements increasingly aim their propaganda at children and young people online.