EAD3 will provide a more systemic and generalizable understanding of the various equifinite and multifinite processes by which individuals exit extremism. This understanding is a crucial first step in identifying opportunities for effective interventions and evaluating the appropriate programs and initiatives to take advantage of these opportunities. To that end, an interdisciplinary team of START affiliates at the University of Maryland and University of Nebraska will implement a multi-method research design. First, the team will expand the Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States (PIRUS) database, which currently includes approximately 1,500 violent and non-violent but criminal domestic extremists across the ideological spectrum, to include roughly 40 additional variables on exiting factors and processes. Given a preliminary assessment of the difference in open source coverage of individuals' entry and exit trajectories, the team expects to be able to collect adequate data for one-third of the PIRUS cases. This data will be used to evaluate the prevalence of various factors, processes and outcomes across ideology, statistically analyze the size and significance of key theoretical relationships, and perform Qualitative Comparative Analysis to test theories within an equifinite and multifinite framework. Second, the team will study approximately 30 former far right, far left and Islamist extremists using a combination of life history narrative interviews, a semi-structured instrument, and informal follow-up discourse. This data will be analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach that will leverage existing theoretical frameworks, especially criminological desistance, to produce a new, richer middle-range theory of deradicalization and disengagement. Third, the team will perform secondary case studies of ten CVE domestic or foreign programs to identify the mechanisms and processes they target, evaluate their compatibility with domestic extremists (or a subset thereof) given the pathways observed in the first two research efforts, and produce a preliminary lessons-learned from comparable CVE programs.
In addition to the semi-annual and final reports required, the research team will actively engage in transition efforts as part of START's mission to serve as a bridge between academia, the government and the public. Each of the co-PIs will be lead author on an academic journal article and will actively collaborate to produce a book manuscript; the expanded PIRUS database will be made available on the START and ICPSR websites; the research team will provide briefings and policy-oriented articles; and the findings will be built into START's DHS-sponsored educational initiative, Supporting CVE Efforts through Resources and Training.