The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) – concept and reality
A policy essay on interagency cooperation to prevent violent extremism and support resilient European societies
Harald Weilnböck, cultures interactive e.V.
When asked to write a “description and critical assessment of the RAN” for a major online Info-Service, Harald realized that all he could do was write an independent essay which coveys some of his and practitioner colleagues’ personal experiences and thoughts while helping to build up the RAN – where he served as steering group member and working group chair from 2011-2015 and has since continued to contribute to the network.
The observations and issues range from seeing the RAN as “the best thing of its kind”, the concept of a network of first-line practitioners, the RAN’s surprising lack of evaluation and the divergence from its original mission, the un-heard grievances of practitioners, the RAN’s mechanism of simulating bottom-up while functioning top-down, the mechanisms of “it-briefs-wellism” in programme design, the industrialisation of PVE and professional “NPO capitalists”, some supposed cases of “EU added damage” through the RAN’s ‘counter narrative’ strategies, its recruitment of young people, and its Islamism bias; and an alleged coup d’état by the ministries of Member States. The essay finally underlines the need to start afresh, restructure and build an ‘eye level’ interagency European framework for preventing the whole range of phenomena which pose risks to democracy and human rights.
In times of fake news – how do ‘critical news’ fare?
Observations about the RAN essay’s distribution paths
Harald Weilnböck, cultures interactive e.V. Jan 2019
Today I would like to share a few observations about how my essay on the RAN has fared thus far. Since September last year, when I had asked PVE networks and organizations that I am acquainted with, to forward the link to my essay and thus promote discussion via their mailing lists and newsletters,
I have realized: Almost none of my networks and organizations forwarded the link. In fact, almost none of them responded to my emails. I had addressed roughly 20 networks/ organizations; I had worked with all of them in many ways for quite a few years. Only two kindly responded and eventually shared the link, thus far. Also, the roughly 800 people who took the time to look at the essay decided to not comment – at least not officially and in writing. The consortia in the making for the upcoming tender of RAN_3 who had addressed me seem to not be interested anymore after the essay appeared.
Thinking about this for a while, I eventually concluded: I can very well understand all those who didn’t share the link and who didn’t comment. I probably would have done the same thing in their place; in fact, sometimes I even recommended to them to not comment. And I have no qualms with any of them about it whatsoever! For, there just seem to be quite good reasons for not supporting or partaking in any such critical debate in the current PVE area as it is right now. Also, the RAN itself has not yet shown an intention to work with my input. At least, I personally have not heard anything yet,. Likewise, it seems that there hasn’t been any discussion in the steering committee.
Having said that, the two organizations that offered support were big statutory organizations that may thus be considered powerful. Hence, there is no conspiracy of the powerful against ‘critical news’. On the contrary, this whole issue seems to just be about how we all do normal business in the PVE area, and beyond. Therefore, all I can do about this right now is: let people know what my experiences in this are. Other than that, as said, no qualms! My organization and I will work with all these networks and the RAN in the future as we do at present.
All the more I would like to send my New Year’s wishes to all of you. May our important work and the RAN become ever more sophisticated and sustainable in 2019 and the years after. Our cause is well worth it: European democratic and liberal societies in times of violent extremism – and fake news.
Das Radikalisation Awareness Network/ RAN - Idee und Wirklichkeit. Ein Essay zur akteursübergreifenden Zusammenarbeit in der Prävention von gewaltorientiertem Extremismus und zur Unterstützung von Resilienz in den europäischen Gesellschaften.
Harald Weilnböck, cultures interactive e.V.
Als Harald gebeten wurde, eine "Beschreibung und kritische Bewertung des RAN" für einen großen Online-Info-Service zu schreiben, wurde ihm klar, dass er nur einen unabhängigen Essay schreiben konnte, der einige seiner persönlichen Erfahrungen, Beobachtungen und Überlegung und sowie die seiner Praxis-Kolleg*innen aufgreift, um dadurch zur Weiterentwicklung des RAN beizutragen – wo er von 2011-2015 als Mitglied der Lenkungsgruppe und Co-Leiter einer Arbeitsgruppe tätig war und seither regelmäßig mitarbeitet.
Die Beobachtungen und Themen reichen von der Sichtweise des RAN als "die beste Sache ihrer Art", dem Konzept eines Netzwerks von First-Line-Praktiker*innen, dem Abdriften des RAN von seiner ursprünglichen Mission, der überraschenden Abwesenheit von Evaluation, der ungehörten Kritik von teilnehmenden Praktiker*innen, der Simulierung eines Bottom-Up bei gleichzeitigem Top-Down Mechanismus, den Dynamiken des "it-briefs-wellism" in der Programmgestaltung, der Industrialisierung von Extremismusprävention, von professionellen "NGOKapitalisten", über einige mutmaßliche Fälle von "EU added damage"durch RAN, z.B. die "counter narrative" Strategien, die Rekrutierung von jungen Leuten in das RAN und der unausgewogene Islamismus-Schwerpunkt; sowie über einen angeblichen Staatsstreich durch die Ministerien der EU-Mitgliedstaaten.
Der Aufsatz unterstreicht schließlich die Notwendigkeit, von neuem zu beginnen, umzustrukturieren und einen behörden- und akteursübergreifenden europäischen Rahmen auf Augenhöhe aufzubauen, um gegen die gesamte Bandbreite von Phänomenen vorzubeugen, die eine Gefahr für Demokratie und Menschenrechte darstellen
All comments on the essay – or on own relevant experiences with and thoughts about the RAN and European prevention of violent extremism – are welcome to be sent to Harald, email@example.com.
(The commentary section that was here earlier had to be removed for reasons of data protection.)