How Do We Know What Works in Preventing Violent Extremism?

Evidence and Trends in Evaluation From 14 Countries

Bressan Ebbecke 2024 Pr Eval II
Demonstration in Barcelona against Boko Haram, after the group kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria, in 2014.  | Photo: Shutterstock/VCalvo
08 Jul 2024

In response to high-profile attacks by violent extremists, the field of preventing and countering violent extremism (P/​CVE) has drawn increasing attention and funding since the early 2000s. Today, countries in all regions across the globe have put in place dedicated policies and measures to prevent extremism and support deradicalization alongside evolving threat patterns. But without a sound evidence base and careful consideration of (un-)intended effects, activities to prevent and counter violent extremism can do more harm than good.

Building on existing comparative research, this report provides an overview of the state of P/​CVE evaluation as well as its current challenges and outlines ways forward. The insights presented here are based on the first iteration of an online expert survey conducted with 37 experts about 14 countries. The survey questions related to three themes: the general P/​CVE landscape, trends in extremist phenomena, and evaluation practices for extremism prevention and related fields. Below are summaries of key findings across each theme, followed by recommendations for funders and implementers.

Extremism Prevention

  • A diverse set of actors and funders contribute to the prevention of violent extremism across a wide range of policy fields. Government authorities remain the key coordinators and funders, but civil society is crucial for holistic prevention efforts.
  • The relationship between government and civil society varies across contexts and can be contentious. Building trust is crucial to enable effective prevention.
  • Innovation in P/​CVE activities occurs through multi-stakeholder cooperation, prison-based initiatives, a focus on resilience building, and the use of new technologies.

Violent Extremist Threats

  • Current violent extremist threats and tactics as well as expected future threats vary across countries, but the most prominent are related to religiously motivated extremism, right-wing extremism, and new types of single-issue extremism.


  • Key challenges for the evaluation of P/​CVE efforts are funding constraints, methodological difficulties, capacity constraints, insufficient awareness of the value that evaluation provides, as well as a lack of coordination and standardization.
  • As key initiators and funders of P/​CVE evaluations, governments hold significant power over whether and what type of evaluations are conducted. Dedicated funding mechanisms can help improve evaluations for both accountability and learning purposes.
  • The use of quasi-experimental methods and digital tools for evaluation needs to be decided case by case, after carefully weighing benefits and risks.
  • Evaluation results are published and shared infrequently. Constraints on resource and data sharing often impede knowledge-sharing and cooperation. Informal networks remain essential for exchanging good evaluation practices.
  • The extent to which evaluation results are used to improve P/​CVE policies and activities remains largely unclear.
  • Methodological and practical skills for evaluation need to be strengthened. Low-barrier, capacity-building resources like evaluation toolkits should be complemented with additional support formats.
  • Experts find inspiration for innovative evaluation approaches in adjacent fields as well as in scientific research and other countries.


  1. All P/​CVE stakeholders should approach evaluations as an opportunity to build trust between each other and achieve more coherent and effective prevention efforts. A first step toward this is to openly share their respective goals, intervention logics, and experiences to foster mutual understanding.
  2. Stakeholders should ensure adequate funding for high-quality evaluations. They can do so by requiring implementers to budget for evaluations at the proposal stage and by developing dedicated funding mechanisms for evaluation.
  3. Stakeholders should ensure that evaluations follow learning strategies with clear uptake mechanisms, so that evaluations are seen as tools to improve P/​CVE policy and practice rather than instruments to control implementers.
  4. Wherever possible, funders should support and enable the sharing of evaluation results and lessons learned, for example, through an accessible evaluation database. To address confidentiality concerns, evaluations can be published as summaries or redacted reports.
  5. Stakeholders should invest in building the capacity of implementers and government officials to conduct and manage high-quality evaluations and learning processes. This means developing evaluation capacity-building tools that consider different learning needs and help translate evaluation results into improved practice.
  6. Stakeholders should continue to invest in P/​CVE (evaluation) research and international, interdisciplinary exchange. Funders should continue supporting high-quality meta reviews and inclusive formats for knowledge sharing, like conferences. Although existing P/​CVE evaluation networks are largely informal, they can serve as entry points for stakeholders in research, civil society and government to exchange experiences. 

For more details on the state of P/​CVE evaluation and how progress can be made, read the full report.

This research was funded by the Federal Ministry of the Interior as part of the project Evaluation and Quality Management in Extremism Prevention, Democracy Promotion and Civic Education: Analysis, Monitoring, Dialogue (PrEval).”

More information on PrEval can be found here and on the project’s website.