- Target Audience
- Youth/pupils/studentsViolent extremistsFormers
- key themes association
- Peer Reviewed practice
Exit Sweden is a part of the Fryshuset youth centre (a non-governmental organisation) and is funded primarily by governmental grants. From time to time, Exit Sweden participates in projects funded by the European Commission (Prevention of and Fight against Crime (ISEC), Erasmus+, etc.).
Type of Organisation: NGO
This practice involves former extremists working as exit workers within Exit Sweden. Visualising a 'violent extremism spectrum' (see Figure 1 below) can aid understanding of how this approach works. On this spectrum, −10 represents the most extreme/negative and +10 the most tolerant/positive, with zero being neutral. Former extremists can help bring (violent) extremist up the scale, from −10 to −1, then back to zero and above.
Figure 1 The violent extremism spectrum
When starting work with a client, it’s necessary to know where they are located on the scale. For any one person, hundreds of different scales could be created, e.g. one for social contacts, another for power relations, yet another for tolerance, etc. This means that a client might be classed −8 on willingness to use violence but +5 on social skills. Similarly, formers can also be placed on this scale: this is helpful when determining which individual will be useful at which stage of the deradicalisation process.
For example, to get through to a violent extremist classed at −10, you will need to use someone who has been at that level (i.e. −10) and understands what this means, in order to get the message across.
One should be aware, though, of a certain aspect of using formers in this way: as the client deradicalises and eventually reaches a level of −3 on radical thoughts, for instance, it may well be possible that they have surpassed or overtaken the former — and another, more appropriate person will be needed to take over.
The former does not have to agree with the client, but they must know what it feels like to be at level −5. Discussions are pitched at around level −4, and critical thinking skills matching that level are introduced. When the client reaches −4, discussions are pitched at −3, etc. In this way, the client gradually moves towards zero.
Another significant aspect needing extra attention is the initial analysis: if this is incorrect, it could have the unintended result of further radicalising the client rather than deradicalising them. For instance, if a client is mistakenly categorised as −8 when they are actually −3, sending in a former with experience matching level −8 will be counterproductive. The client might feel the need to measure up to the former’s level. It is therefore vital that those responsible for carrying out the initial analysis have experience and a deep understanding of exit work.
This approach asks a lot of formers who works with clients. They constantly need to self-assess where they are on the spectrum, and be aware of their own development and path. This assessment can be difficult, and may occasionally backfire. Sometimes, the client’s exit process is faster than that of the former assigned to work with them. In such cases, a chain or referrals may be necessary.
This deradicalisation approach can be used in similar ways with both right-wing and jihadi extremists, as well as with people who have joined criminal gangs.
This method does not result in concrete deliverables. It has been implemented in everyday work for between 12 and 14 years.