Trainings for first-line practitioners working in the field of violent extremism: An overview of good practices

First-line practitioners refers to professionals working in educational institutions, juvenile systems, youth and social care, and individuals working with children on a long-term basis. These professionals work with children and young people from a range of backgrounds including those exposed to and affected by violent extremism. First-line practitioners can play a key role in identifying and supporting vulnerable individuals at risk by providing them with guidance or referring them to appropriate supports.

Training courses for first-line practitioners raise awareness and understanding of several concepts, issues and matters. Appropriate effective trainings are crucial for first-line practitioners to enhance their skills and support children in the complex field of violent extremism. It is vital that first-line workers are trained to remain professional, open-minded, and non-judgemental. Extra caution needs to be taken to ensure that personal biases do not affect how the practitioner works with a child.  

The European Commission established the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) in 2011 to connect first-line workers, academics, and law enforcement to identify good practices and recommendations, discuss experiences, exchange knowledge and expertise in countering and preventing all types of violent extremism.

There are several trainings that equip practitioners with the skills needed to react in certain situations supporting vulnerable children affected by violent extremism and terrorism, many of which can be found in the RAN Collection of approaches and practices. The RAN Collection states that training materials for first-line practitioners which include the following yield more positive results: 

  • An interactive practical approach 
  • Sharing experiences of case studies  
  • Offer additional guidance and information on toolkits 
  • Use e-learning to mainstream training to a wider audience.  

The RAN collection goes on further to discuss how training courses should aim to:

  • Provide guidance on how to detect, approach and help vulnerable individuals
  • Provide and enhance first line workers with the tools and instruments they need to respond appropriately 
  • Facilitate multi-agency partnerships  
  • Develop and strengthen practical skills e.g. improving communication skills or reporting skills.

Current trainings for first-line practitioners working with individuals exposed to violent extremism vary widely in terms of aims, interventions and outputs. Two programmes that deliver comprehensive support for practitioners can be found below:

  1. The RAN Centre of Excellence runs a one-day basic awareness and action workshop to help support awareness training for practitioners from different member states. The interactive programme operates via YouTube where discussion is facilitated between participants by using examples from real life cases. An evaluation of the workshop noted that a diverse group of participants is needed to facilitate a discussion and as the programme offers basic training which can be easily adapted and updated to fit the specific needs of a localised context.
  2. The RAN Network organised a small-scale expert meeting for practitioners on ‘Training for practitioners on dealing with returning children’ in September 2021. Key recommendations were made to build an effective training for first line practitioners, such as: 
    • Overall approach should be general with tailor-made approaches depending on context 
    • Content of training should depend on needs 
    • Basic Awareness Training – how to report signs of concern and where to access support  
    • Trauma awareness 
    • Cooperation and exchanging of information between various agencies  
    • Providing information about support systems  
    • Training for specific skills such as anti-violence training, anti-bias training and trust building.   

As training plays a vital role, one of the aims of Project PREPARE is to develop training modules that support a wide range of stakeholders who are working with vulnerable children exposed to violent extremism and their families. We are currently in the process of developing training modules that will assist professionals working with children from families of violent right-wing extremists and Islamists.

Agnel Nidhi Shiji, Trilateral Research