Ryan, Saskia Xanthe (2019) An Investigation of Resilience Constructs Alongside the Role of the Community, Religiosity and Attitudes of Intolerance: Implications for Countering Extremism. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The understanding of extremism in the United Kingdom is as important now as it has ever been, and in doing so there is a need to inform empirically underpinned policy and intervention with the development of an evidence base. Especially from a risk management point of view, early intervention prior to radicalisation is a preferable direction to take and the government’s Prevent strategy reflects such. Yet currently, there are key concepts within counter-extremism and counter-terrorism policy which continue to be poorly defined and lack operationalisation, leading to negative implications on the ground and problematic implementation. Such issues can have a pertinent impact on perceived legitimacy of implementing agencies. Resilience, which is one such key concept alongside community cohesion, has been widely applied across disciplines and framed in a variety of ways. Whilst the psychological literature has begun to explore resilience as a multifaceted phenomenon, under a levels of resilience approach, there is a gap in the literature whereby resilience is reframed in the context of countering extremism. Resilience was subsequently framed in a vulnerability reduction context where the threat is the adoption of extremist attitudes and radicalisation and the successful adaptation is the rejection of such.

The overarching aim of this thesis was therefore to investigate resilience constructs alongside the role of the community and, political and religious factors. To link the exploration more closely to attitude change, one of the goals of counter-extremism interventions, the research also sought to determine the relationship of the above variables to attitudes of intolerance considered against the social norm. The research conducted a pilot study to provide an initial exploration of individual, community, and national resilience on a sample of 134 students. Data was then collected from 355 members of the general population to firstly explore resilience and the role of the community in study one, secondly attitudes of intolerance in study two, and finally resilience and community in the context of attitudes of intolerance in study three. All respondents completed a comprehensive questionnaire including demographics, measures of individual resilience, community resilience, national resilience, religiosity,religious fundamentalism,and attitudes of intolerance.

Findings demonstrated resilience at the level of the individual, community and nation are distinct constructs which are dynamic in nature, especially across context. There were also significant relationships between resilience constructs and community cohesion which support a reintegration of these two concepts within counter extremism policy. Furthermore, both community resilience and national resilience were found to be directly related to attitudes of intolerance. These findings are discussed in detail, specifically in relation to reframing, reimagining, and reapplying resilience in the context of countering extremism in Britain. As part of this discussion recommendations are made to policy makers based on the current findings which ultimately seek to integrate an evidence base into counter extremism policy and subsequently have a positive impact on implementation at a grass-roots level.Concluding, when policy is understood as a diagnosis and interpretation of society, community resilience and community cohesion together can be applied as responses to the need to reduce vulnerability to the threat of extremism and radicalisation. The current findings indicate building resilience at the level of the individual is less likely to be as directly beneficial in relation to reducing intolerance and national resilience may increase intolerance. By applying empirical analysis to explore resilience and the role of the community, grounded in the psychological literature on attitudes and attitude change, a unique perspective on the future of resilience building strategies and the community cohesion agenda is offered. Drawing on the evidence base which has shown the utility of community based interventions in other areas of crime and social issues, and how early intervention in countering extremism may be particularly valuable from both a top-down and bottom-up perspective to meet the needs of the general public and governing agencies.

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