A CU Class Takes A Stand Against Extremism
At every campus there are opportunities to be involved in various groups, organizations and events. When we dig deeper, we realize that not only are there opportunities to become apart of something that we as students, and as individuals, are passionate about, but there are ways to truly make a difference in the world as a whole, through campus offerings.
A program called Peer 2 Peer Challenging Extremism, developed and run by EdVenture Partners, has asked “university students from around the world to develop and execute campaigns and social media strategies against extremism that are credible, authentic, and believable to their peers and resonate within their communities sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and Facebook.” This program allows students across the country to have the opportunity to raise awareness through their academic skills, creativity and passion.
What is extremism, and how do students plan to counter violent extremist messaging? We don’t have to venture far to find out. This challenge has made its way onto the CU campus as the importance of the program was recognized by the Colorado Department of State and other officials. Now, this challenge has been extended to three specific Colorado universities, with money involved for the winners. The class chosen to participate in the competition and represent CU is Communication & Conflict Management. When it all comes down to it, the title of this class alone represents the driving factors behind the worldwide issue of extremism, and also encompasses the way to combat it – through communication. Stereotypes largely play into extremist messaging and also to the formation of extremist groups. For example, after the 9/11 attacks Muslims have struggled to find a sense of belonging as the Muslim community in America has suffered from extremist thought, and disadvantages in general, ever since.
According to “See You”, which is the name of the firm chosen by the class’s team members, this project is important, “because extremism is driven by disadvantage and frustration in people that feel apart in a wider society. We are looking to educate and provide awareness against hatred” (Jessica Webb, team member of “See You”). This mindset is the seed that lead to their overarching campaign message: Different but Not Alone, or DNA.
So, how will they implement this message, exactly? “See You” knows where they will begin.
What comes to mind when you think, DNA? Togetherness, length, reach, oneness? All of these words accurately describe, and in a creative and clever way, what their campaign is all about. Through extensive research over extremists groups and youth who have joined these groups, “See You” has gained and deep understanding of what they are telling students, and as a result, why students join these groups.
Knowing the mindset of the “competition”(so to speak) is key to understanding what direction to take a campaign. Is the target audience motivated by fear? By love? Do they get their information via word-of-mouth or social media? DO their decisions rely on friends, family or other influencers?
“See You” will implement their DNA campaign through various Guerrilla and print tactics, such as hosting events on campus, raising awareness through coupons, giveaways, and useful items (such as carabiners, PopSockets, and lanyards), with the goal of spreading awareness on the causes of violent extremism by doing so. According to Jessica Webb, “We aim to intervene in the tactics that extremists use to target American students to join their groups, and make people feel more connected to each other!”