West London Initiative

Country: United Kingdom

City: London

Abstract:
West London Initiative (WLI) is in an NGO that works in first-line deradicalisation with young people at-risk of developing extremist beliefs based upon erroneous understandings that are propagated by extremist ideologues. The focus is towards the targeted clientele of converts, second and third generation Muslims born and brought up in the UK including those from other countries and their families.
WLI's clients also include gang membership, antisocial behaviour, substance misuse, emotional well being difficulties and family issues.
WLI works in inner-city Areas; it is primarily aimed at young Muslim youths in West London communities. WLI's approach is grass roots and non-judgemental. The NGO identifies the dilemmas faced by the youth community through interaction within debates, safer platform or workshop discussions and aims to deliver intervention methods which educate, empower, build resilience and promote participation in civic society.
WLI is staffed both by individuals coming from similar backgrounds to its target audience (former members of violent extremist organisations/criminal gangs) and skilled and experienced practitioners. WLI's work contains the direct and indirect targeting of members of other organisations who directly or indirectly promote or entice others towards acts of violence in the name of race, religion, colour, creed etc. WLI also works in conjunction with various Muslim/non- Muslim youth organisations, mosques and Islamic centres as well as with local authorities, schools, colleges, the civil service, embassies and international delegations.
A particularly promising aspect of the work of WLI is the development of a profile matching scale, which identifies those who may be susceptible to radicalisation.
Currently WLI is working on an innovative programme to provide support to inmates' post release whereby short term accommodation, training and educational programmes will be offered to reintroduce ex-offenders back into communities.

History/Motivation:
WLI has emerged as a result of identifying an increasing need amongst statutory agencies and youth organisations in Hounslow so far as Muslim youth engagement is concerned. Such youth are developing extremist beliefs based upon erroneous
understandings that are being propagated by extremist ideologues and by their lack of religious knowledge and understanding of current affairs that continue to plague the Muslim world.
Consequently, these youths’ susceptibility to violent extremist propaganda is evident in an increase in criminality, from gun crime to murdering, according to their misguidance, on the basis of defending Islam. Therefore the type of staff employed by WLI are Former members of violent extremist organisations/criminal gangs and
are currently developing strategies to thwart the very mechanisms of recruiting young people to that particular ideology/area of crime.
Local and national needs are guiding the organisation. Through local and national surveys, WLI identifies the most pressing issues and provide solutions to the same. It also liaises with statutory and non-statutory agencies whilst maintaining their independence and autonomy.
WLI survives through the sheer dedication and commitment of staff and the support of statutory and non-statutory agencies such as the local authority and similar organisations.

Objectives:
WLI objectives are:

- to work in liaison with governmental and statutory agencies to contribute to the development of policy, engagement initiatives with Muslim youth that help to develop a comprehensive strategy for combating violent extremist propaganda amongst susceptible youth in the UK.

- to work effectively with vulnerable youths, developing their sense of religious and national identity, whilst acquiring the confidence, skills and qualifications to participate and contribute in mainstream society.

- to equip previously susceptible youth with mainstream, established and credible theological threads that clearly delineate between the correct
understanding of Islam from erroneous, extreme understandings of the faith.

- to expand and build a robust and reliable organisation that delivers tangible projects /initiatives that help steer youth away from extremist/negative activities.

- to develop an effective model of practice that can be rolled out nationally/internationally to areas/societies deemed at risk from home grown
violent extremism and propaganda.

- to support parents/carers of those susceptible to the Violence Extremist Ideologies/Criminal Behaviour.

- to develop a mechanism to encourage victims /survivors of crime/terrorism to voice their experiences of being a target, and to work in liaison to build bridges for peaceful dialogues and initiatives – encourage Victim Impact Statement.

WLI's aim is to engage with Muslim youth who have become susceptible to violent
extremist propaganda and teachings, providing them with an alternative and more
religiously attuned understanding of their faith which thereby enables them to
contextualise their practice of Islam within today’s society.

All staff have had extensive experience in first line deradicalisation and anti hate
crime with at risk young people and TACT offenders. WLI has engaged with very high profile offenders as well as those deemed susceptible to violent extremism by statutory authorities.
WLI has also presented numerous projects, presentations and indeed workshops to, amongst others, local authorities, schools, colleges, the civil service, embassies and international delegations.

Practitioners' Background:
The organisation operates at a grass-roots level and is staffed both by individuals
coming from similar backgrounds to its target audience, and skilled and experienced
practitioners, allowing impact to deliver a diverse range of innovative interventions,
events, projects and workshops. The motivations therefore are a consequence of
WLI staffs’ personal experiences and understanding that there is a great degree of
mis-information disseminated amongst Muslims and indeed non-Muslims. WLI's
work includes the direct and indirect targeting of members of other organisations who
directly or indirectly promote or entice others towards acts of violence in the name of
race, religion, colour, creed etc.
In addition to the above, WLI carries out outreach work via its contact with mosques,
statutory/non statutory organisations, families, local businesses and others. The
value of WLI and the support it receives from within the community is testimony to its
effectiveness.
WLI is also currently working to establish an innovative program to provide support to
inmates post release whereby short term accommodation, training and educational
programs will be offered to reintroduce ex-offenders back into communities and to
minimise re-offending.
What WLI hopes to achieve is certainly fraught with difficulties and obstacles but we
continue to work under such circumstances to ensure society benefits from our work
and the next generation make positive contributions to their environment.

Clients:
WLI's clients are mostly aged from 13 years and upwards. These range through a
multiplicity of identities within West London where our focus is towards the targeted
clientele of converts, second and third generation Muslims born and brought up in
this country including those from South East Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka), North
and Central Africa, including Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Eritrea, Ghana, Nigeria etc.
WLI staff reflect the varied communities within West London so as to make approach
and assistance more effective.
WLI is primarily aimed at young Muslim youth in West London. The goal is to help
Muslim youth make positive life decisions in view of questionable media coverage
and recent events i.e. 7/7, 21/7 and the Forest Gate shooting, Woolwich murder of
Drummer Lee Rigby
This initiative is aimed primarily at Muslim youth in West London, prioritising young
impressionable converts to Islam, followed by young Somali, Afghani and Asian
British Muslims.
In view of events such as the ‘Shoe Bomber affair’ in 2001, more recent events, like
7/7, 21/7 and the Forest Gate shooting (June 2006), it is essential that British Muslim
youth are engaged at the grass roots by an organisation and individuals with
empathy (due to familiarity and experience) of issues likely to influence them.
Countering the negativity that follows from events like those mentioned above, and
the ability to engage directly with youth mentality is important if any youth initiative is
to succeed.
WLI works in conjunction with various Muslim/non-Muslim youth organisations and
projects, as well as Mosques and Islamic centres in an attempt to consolidate Muslim
youth activity. A cohesive policy to coordinate the various activities in this field is long
overdue; WLI proactively develops this after due consultation with the above
mentioned entities.
In the main, the group of individuals with whom WLI engages reflect Islamic and Far
Right extremism although WLI feels it has the relevant experience to challenge any
form of extremism, whether Animal Rights or political extremism.
Our clients include young people at risk of violent extremism, gang membership, anti
social behaviour, substance misuse, emotional well being difficulties and family
issues. The aim is to deliver the same through intervention methods which educate,
empower, builds resilience and promote participation in civic society.
The key consideration includes the ability to access hard to reach young people
through bespoke innovative grass roots intervention methods which are tailored to their needs.
This includes engaging with the indigenous population as well as isolated, nonengaging and newly arrived/settled families/residents/individuals. One of the ways in which this was addressed was by engaging with community and faith leaders who would direct and indeed give an undertaking for staff thus allowing access to the
target groups. The success rate has been excellent such as reduction of reoffending,
inclusion of hard to reach young people in local decision making, reduction
in truancy, a greater understanding amongst the indigenous population of the diverse
communities in Hounslow and reduction in anti-social behaviour.
WLI has developed a profile matching scale, which allows for us to identify those who
may be susceptible to radicalisation. Although this should not be taken as the only
method used, it may certainly be used as one of a number of tools utilised to address
the same.
In addition, the relationships established with local statutory and non-statutory bodies
has allowed for a successful joint working process where WLI may have information
sharing agreements allowing for an extremely focused approach towards deradicalisation.

Methods/Approach:
Needs – Identify target groups. Identify Issues Affecting Group

Aims - Has to fit in with aim of organisation. What do you want to do?

Objectives – How are you going to do what you want to do?

Methods - Identify which methods are the most appropriate?

Indicators – Decide what indicators you will use to show you are on course, then go
ahead and implement it (i.e the method)

Examples of INDICATORS
- Set indicators prior to implementation
- Partner agencies not on board
- Staff not enthusiastic
- Body language
- YP’s starting to leave event
- Attendees falling asleep
- ALWAYS HAVE A BACK UP PLAN!!!!

Monitoring – a regular collection of facts, whilst the project is running

Evaluation – measuring against original Aims & Objectives, at the end of the project.

WLI approach to tackle such behaviour or ideology is more grass roots. WLI identifies the dilemmas faced by the youth community through interaction within workshops or events, the highlighted are then transformed into possible workshops, discussion platforms where this enables young people to vent their frustrations but explore productive methods in tackling the issues.
After appropriate consultation, the goals and ideas are initiated by the directors and are then passed to consultants to research. The consultants prepare policy form, health and safety guidelines, risk assessment and present funding bids to the appropriate bodies.
Once funding bids are checked and agreed upon they are passed onto the youth work co-ordinator to delegate accordingly.
The youth practitioners revise documents before any session takes place to ensure it meets the needs of our target audience. Material which is deemed suitable is utilised by workers to engage with the youth in mentoring and/or sports training. Based on participants’ feedback, programmes may be adapted in order to try and improve services. This process ensures WLI reaches optimal outcomes and addresses areas requiring subjective diligence.
West London Initiative is a grass roots youth based organisation committed to fostering young people’s interest in social development. WLI encourages debates/safer platform/ workshops discussions to provide a better understanding of
what motivates individuals to be a part of the local/ global community. Issues may include understanding universal human rights including those of women and people of other denominations, the equality of all before the law, democracy and the right of people to elect their own government, separation, integration and indeed many others.
WLI values the concerns of the next generation of young people in understanding local and international affairs, and seeks to facilitate the legitimate means by which they can make positive contributions to the society in which they live. WLI regards its values as easily transferable to any given situation where an intervention is required.
WLI anticipates that mobilising youth participants would enable them to enhance their
critical thinking, emotional intelligence and adopt effective communication skills in order to channel their energy into productive expression rather than leading them to disillusioned radicalisation.
WLI identifies the ambitions of the youth who seek to engage constructively as British Citizens in the remit of Public Relations, Local Government, Media, Arts, Politics, Social Enterprise and many more. The outcome of providing such opportunities helps to build cohesive and resilient communities and provide a more stable environment for upcoming generations.
WLI aims to work towards the highest standards of integrity and employs etiquettes of tolerance and a non-judgemental approach in dealing with issues faced by youth on a daily basis.

There are evidenced direct and indirect benefits of the kind of work to be carried out by WLI. Indeed WLI has the capacity to deliver bespoke projects when scoping a given plan or approach.

Direct
- Tangible numbers of youth prevented and diverted away from extremist/negative activity
- Strong and credible interactions for central and local government with youth, local communities and, where appropriate, inner city trouble spots
- Well structured and delivered projects, on time, meeting objectives and budget
- Developing a structured and strategic approach to tackling youth disaffection Issues

Indirect
- Reduce the climate of fear and mistrust existing between segments of the Muslim community and wider, majority society
- Economic benefits from reduced crime and more youth engagement opportunities.
- Increase public confidence in statutory agencies’ initiatives and organisations i.e. IMPACT’s ability to address and successfully tackle these issues.

WLI has all necessary monitoring and evaluation protocols in place to measure success or recognise where any shortfalls are taking place. This includes regular staff meetings to discuss live cases as well as feedback where there is a multi agency approach.
It is extremely difficult to quantify the type of work WLI is involved with. Success however may show itself in many forms such as improved understanding of the correct methodology pertaining to the prohibition on violent extremism or a reduction in the re-offending rate of referrals. WLI’s success is built on its ability to adapt to changing approaches made by radicalisers and the provision of an appropriate counter narrative.
As stated above, quantifying success in the field of de-radicalisation is difficult as our approach is very subjective. WLI utilises methods as stated above as well as determining influence factors when evaluating levels of radicalisation.
In the interests of security however, WLI is extremely careful how and with whom it shares its methods, principles, impact factors, criteria etc. All such details are available on request and following WLI’s internal due diligence procedures.

Work Context (local/national):
- Director
- Consultant – Projects and Engagement Officer
- 2 x Senior Youth Practitioners

All staff are contracted to work and are dependent on appropriate funding being in place. WLI has donors who provide their time and experience as Gifts in Kind (GiK) as opposed to financial donations. The practitioners view GiK as extremely important in their field of work. WLI currently has no secure funding in place and staff have been carrying out extremely limited interventions and engagement. Such interventions and engagement cannot continue and WLI feels that recent events in the UK are a direct result of reduced levels of funding for grass roots organisations.

Public/Media:
WLI is not affected by issues of public perception etc. as it holds to the view that it is impossible to keep everyone happy, all the time. With this in mind, so long as the aims and objectives are met, WLI feels it has achieved its goals.

Quality Management:
WLI has all relevant policies in place which includes, amongst others, Child Protection, Complaints, Health and Safety, Conflict of Interest, Expenses and Equal Opportunities policy. WLI also has an extensive referral procedure in operation to determine levels of risk to staff as well as to society.
Internally, quality management and evaluation takes place through regular meetings, one to one monitoring sessions as well as via Information Sharing Agreements (ISA’s) with partner agencies.

Academic Network/Research:
WLI interacts with research and academics both nationally and internationally having recently hosted a delegation from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, on counter radicalisation.
The main aim for the same is cross border cooperation and sharing of best practice with regards to counter narratives of violent extremist propaganda.

Contact: n.ahmed@wlionline.co.uk

Final Report

The Final Report of the first two project years is now available!

English Version
German Version
French Version

Contact Us

European Network
of Deradicalisation

Alt-Moabit 73
10555 Berlin
GERMANY

Fon: +49 (0)30 917 05 464
Fax: +49 (0)30 398 35 284
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