Based on lessons learned from evaluating Safe Spaces, a public health model used by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) to prevent violent extremism in communities, this report recommends ways to improve the implementation, sustainability, and effectiveness of the Safe Spaces program and the public health model it exemplifies.
A public health approach to preventing violence in a community must be grounded in an appropriate and acceptable model and include a feasible plan for how community-based organizations can implement the program under various conditions. After obtaining community feedback, MPAC and the evaluation researchers convened a Program Design Lab for the purpose of modifying the Safe Spaces model based on input and suggestions from focus groups. Modifications agreed upon included abandoning a national security focus; adopting a public health framework that emphasizes building healthy communities, and modifying the PIE (Preventioin, Intervention, Ejection) model to remove the ejection component. Although these changes were improvements, they proved to be insufficient to improve the program’s performance to the level desired. Additional steps were to adequately define with communities who is vulnerable for what risky behaviors and how the program would help them. The program also needed improvement in program components that are feasible for successful delivery. Other improvements were made in the selection of trainers experienced in the components and implementation of the public health model, improvements in communications with site community leadership, making program components more cohesive, and recognizing that technical assistance is not capable of addressing the lack of human resources at the site who can implement violence prevention programming. Other recommendations pertain to the use of a collaborative partnership approach, the building of community-based organizations, preparation of the site before training, and better monitoring of program implementation.