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Good evening, we are team HackingCT, and we were working to counter violent extremism online. Our sponsors are the Bureau of CT/CVE and the Special Representative to Muslim Communities Our original problem statement was to leverage and model online crowds to monitor and respond to violent extremism messaging, and through a journey of a 100 interviews, customer discovery, and iterative product design, we are here today with our solution to bring tech, govt, and at-risk communities together to combat violent extremism in a bottom-up fashion.
We’re a multidisciplinary team with backgrounds ranging from artificial intelligence, to product design to international policy. We’re Anusha, Chloe, Gloria, Lumpy and Vinaya.
Here’s a video to introduce our problem and solution.
As you saw in the video, ISIS is great at perpetuating VE and recruiting individuals for their cause. And our goal is to counter these efforts and and prevent violent extremism for these at-risk individuals.
Here’s a brief overview of the journey we went through across the 100 interviews. There’s 4 major parts of our journey, and we’ll deep dive into each of them.
We spent the first 2 weeks wayfinding, trying to understand the problem space and the various players involved.
After the first 20 interviews, we uncovered recurrent themes. These themes identified dimensions along which our solutions can lie. First, who to target. In the space, we could target anyone from the at-risk individual to broader communities. Second, where to target. Radicalization happens both online and offline. Third, how to target. While countermessaging can range from institutionalized to grassroots, institutionalized messages carried much less weight than organic ones. During our journey, we figured out where on these spectrums we want to lie.
** Use these in later parts of the organization
We slowly uncovered that in the space, there were many organizations doing different things, and each had its own expertise.
Because the CVE space is complex and crowded, we needed to find a niche where our unique skillsets could have the most impact.
After organizing the space further, we realized that there is layer of NGOs and community organizations that are directly in touch with at-risk individual, while other organizations were a step away. The outer layer are institutions, and they’re not credible sources, while the at-risk individuals are hard to identify. Therefore, we focused on the middle layer,
Moving into the the next phase,
We talked to many NGOs, and we realized that many of them could not reach their right audience, and had unsophisticated communication methods with them. We built an MVP that empowers NGOs to better reach their target audiences, by giving them incentives to motivate community-building actions.
The idea of empowering NGOs was validated by multiple organizations. For instance, the lead counterterrorism policy manager at FB said that helping local NGOs build scalable and targeted messaging was extremely impactful.
However, after talking to the State department, we realized that this approach is not directly beneficial to the individuals at-risk. We were working in a broad space that benefited communities at-large, but not specifically to at-risk individuals themselves.
** use the 2x2
Therefore, we pivoted.
Moving from the community, to the individual.
We looked at the narratives of various radicalized individuals and realized that their experiences were analogous to those that experience suicidal thoughts. In both cases, the individual is in a vulnerable state, is highly susceptible to outside influence, and talking about the problem is often taboo.
Currently, in suicide, there are many resources that pulls one toward the prevention side, whereas
In violent extremism, resources out there pull you toward the other side. For instance, ISIS recruiters personally reaching out to appeal to your unique situation. On the other hand, the only resource in the prevention side is law enforcement.
There’s currently no safe space for prevention of violent extremism.
So we set out to build a safe space, online, for individuals at-risk to voice their concerns and get support without consequences. We know that active spaces exist for the other side, where individuals can ask ISIS any questions about joining, such as “Will ISIS really help me find a wife when I get there?”
We realized that while there are similarities between suicide and violent extremism, a key difference was that individuals at risk for radicalization do not actively look for and are not receptive to support resources, unlike in suicide.
They are therefore hard to reach.
But we found that there are a group of people who are actively looking for such support resources in this space. These are the friends and families of at-risk individuals. As we saw in the video, many loved ones often know issues exist, but have nowhere to turn to but the police.
We therefore shifted to provide a safe support resource for them.
Entering the next phase,
Our MVP was as shown:
A support textline for friends and family that allows them to anonymously chat with experts. These experts provide them with support resources, coping mechanisms and possible means of intervention.
This idea was significantly validated by multiple organizations. For instance, one said, we need helplines and intervention teams.
Given such a strong need, we doubled down on fleshing this idea out.
In that process, we discovered that there are organizations that provide long-term support for critical cases. These organizations, such as Muflehun, have a full-fledged multidisciplinary team that include mental health, legal professionals and religious leaders, that work with individuals and their loved ones for months and even years, to prevent them from radicalizing.
However, these organizations work very few individuals and critical cases, and find it difficult to scale and reach a larger audience.
We realized that we can fill that gap, by creating a short-term, scalable and lightweight intervention. Our service will be the frontline that loved ones can reach out to to discuss their issues, and to get early support and resources. As in suicide hotlines, a large portion of the cases benefit from even these lightweight interventions. However, for critical cases that need more personalized support, we will pass them onto organizations for long-term care.
So here’s what we envision. Friends and family looking for help can anonymously reach our service by call or text, and speak to a trained expert.
The trained expert will listen to their situation, and provide concrete steps and actions that friends and loved ones can take to effectively help and intervene with the individual at risk. They will sustain this conversation for a period of time until the situation is resolved, or if it becomes more serious, they will pass it on to the long-term care organizations like Muflehun.
Over the next year, we will work in 3 dimensions, technology, training and marketing, to make our service take off. The goal is to pilot in 2 cities by 2017.
We started from a fuzzy problem space, and through an intense 10 weeks and 100 interviews, we mapped out the existing space, and carved out a niche for us to make an impact. This journey doesn’t stop here, and we’re excited to build this resource for friends and families in need.
MVP: CVE Support Textline
HackingCT Bringing tech, government, and
at-risk communities to counter violent extremism in a bottom-up fashion Sponsored by Bureau of Counterterrorism / Countering Violent Extremism and Office of Religious and Global Affairs Crowdsource responses to violent extremism messaging 100 interviews
Vinaya PolamreddiAnusha Balakrishnan Gloria ChuaHyeryung
Chloe Chung Jian Yang (Lumpy) Lum Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence International Policy Former Korean Foreign Service Product Design, Computer Science International Relations, Statistics Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence Team HackingCT
UK and Europe USA Intl
FB OCCI State Dept DHS FATE Quilliam AV E Extreme Dialogue Canada Open Your Eyes Jigsaw SAVE GCERF M&C Saatchi Moonshot CVE WORDE Institute for Strategic Dialogue Women without Borders Hedayah GCCS Connect Futures Google (YouTube ) SCN
UK and Europe USA Intl
FB OCCI State Dept DHS FATE Quilliam AV E Extreme Dialogue Canada Open Your Eyes Jigsaw SAVE GCERF M&C Saatchi Moonshot CVE WORDE Institute for Strategic Dialogue Women without Borders Hedayah GCCS Connect Futures Google (YouTube ) SCNCVE space is complex and crowded.