Based on the University of Chicago’s (UIC’s) evaluation of the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s (MPAC’s) Safe Spaces program, which uses a public health model to counter community violent extremism, this research brief identifies and discusses key lessons learned from the evaluation that can guide the planning and implementation of similar programs.
One of the areas identified for attention by the evaluation is community buy-in for the program. This should involve the engagement of community leadership in understanding and being convinced of the program’s potential value; engaging the local political leadership in understanding and believing in the potential benefit of the program to the community; and engaging program implementers, including participating community members. Other major areas addressed with recommendations pertain to community resources and capacity, as well as supplemental external support and capabilities. Concerns identified in these areas are the importance of community-based organizations having the personnel with capabilities and motivation to execute and sustain violence-prevention programming effectively. Communities and program implementers must also recognize the need to draw on resources outside of the community to provide the training and resources needed by community members to do what is required for effective programming.