Support for innovative research like this is a major priority of EU Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) funding. As Hedayah’s STRIVE Programme Manager Irene Belmonte explains: “New research is essential to generate evidence-based findings that can support further interventions on the ground. Our aim is to reduce the gap that can exist between theory and practice.” In doing this, a key objective is to work with local partners who are best placed to know where gaps exist and where research can contribute to practical objectives. Hedayah, for instance, places a high value on supporting local entities to build capacity – working closely with grantees to advise on research design, methodology and sampling. Results are disseminated widely throughout Hedayah’s global network, via the online STRIVE Global Counter-Extremism Hub, and at an annual international P/CVE research conference. And research is also shared with practitioners at the local level, to ensure findings can inform projects on the ground.
Another recent EU-funded STRIVE Global research project focused on how media narratives may contribute to radicalisation in Georgia. Tbilisi-based NGO the Media Development Foundation (MDF) proposed the initiative to investigate this phenomenon further, as Tamar Kintsurashvili, MDF Executive Director explains: “Georgia has a large and diverse Muslim community, but it has also been targeted by outside influences from other countries. Media can be used to recruit people based on their beliefs and we wanted to study the role this plays.” The wide-ranging project included a survey of sources of information, media monitoring to analyse narratives of relevance to the community, and focus groups to gauge perceptions. Published in a series of reports, the findings pointed to the role played by non-Georgian media for minority groups; issues around anti-Muslim sentiment, hate speech and non-inclusive reporting in mainstream and fringe media outlets; and the challenge of weak media self-regulation in this sphere.
MDF used the findings to develop recommendations on terminology, media coverage and inclusive reporting. “When there is interference from outside sources, you should have strong and inclusive local media reflecting the needs of the local communities who are often excluded from mainstream media,” explains Ms Kintsurashvili. The research has received a positive reception from NGOs working with minorities, but also with journalists and media organisations. Work has begun with government actors like the National Communication Commission on media self-regulation and institutional cooperation. And the impact on the ground is already being felt, as MDF is now working directly with the media to address these issues. In addition to a VE curriculum for media schools and a diversity reporting textbook in the pipeline, local journalists will be offered training on how to put the research recommendations into practice. This will lay the groundwork for a more diverse and inclusive media landscape that serves all Georgian communities.