PLATINUM2022

International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

Breaking the ISIS Brand and Escape Hate

aka International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism   |   McLean, VA   |  www.icsve.org

Mission

The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) is an action-based non-profit research center focused on researching and studying core P/CVE areas. The major project areas include countering violent extremist groups via counter-messaging efforts. In this regard, for five-years now, ICSVE has launched the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter-Narratives Project, namely a first-hand and field-informed direct communications effort to delegitimize ISIS’s propaganda and ideological claims based on 273 in-depth interviews. ICSVE expanded to Escape Hate with 51 white supremacist interviews. We aim to prevent recruitment and intervene in those entering the terrorist trajectory as well as rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have already radicalized or actually joined.

Notes from the nonprofit

We are a very small nonprofit but have an outsize impact in studying terrorism and violent extremism, providing policy briefs and trainings and research analysis to front line workers and policy makers. Our counter narratives are effective prevention tools and Facebook has partnered with ICSVE over the past years helping us to distribute them globally.

Ruling year info

2016

Founder/Director

Dr. Anne Speckhard

Main address

6109 Ramshorn Place

McLean, VA 22101 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

81-1598459

NTEE code info

Social Science Research Institutes, Services N.E.C. (V99)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (Q05)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (B05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Terrorist organizations are adept at recruiting in face-to-face and online interactions making use of both social media as well as mainline media to distribute their propaganda and ideological claims. Terrorists are able to recruit from among vulnerable populations because they appear both attractive, appear to meet the needs of these individuals and claim to address grievances. ISIS for instance offered dignity, purpose, significance, adventure, marriage, salaries, housing, escape from problems and purported to be building an alternative and utopian world governance run by Islamic ideals. Until real grievances and vulnerabilities of target populations are adequately addressed these terrorists groups will recruit unimpeded. A counter approach is needed that delegitimizes terrorist groups and their calls to action. ICSVE interviews actual terrorists to establish the truth of what goes inside terrorist organizations and to use actual terrorist cadres to denounce the group.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Breaking the ISIS Brand & Escape Hate Counter Narrative Projects

Terrorist and violent extremist organizations are adept at recruiting in face-to-face and online interactions via their propaganda and ideological claims. Terrorists and violent extremist groups use the internet to recruit vulnerable individuals who, because of social grievances, individual problems or other factors become consumed by their rhetoric. The graphic imagery and ideological discourse of such groups, in addition to their practices of swarming in on individuals who show any vulnerability to recruitment and interest in them, fosters susceptibility to indoctrination and profoundly exploits and sensationalizes perceived or real grievances. Against a vulnerable individual’s sense of isolation, alienation, or marginalization, or actual anger, they offer prepossessing alternatives of dignity, purpose, honor, significance, belonging, adventure, marriage, salaries, etc. Our in-depth research interviews help us track why & how people join, and how to prevent and get them back out.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth
Adults
Ethnic and racial groups
Religious groups
Economically disadvantaged people

ICSVE staff recognize that security experts, educators, religious figures, and community members are best suited to help identify and respond in the case of those exhibiting extremist and violent behaviors. However, in our research, we have found that such professionals lack training and tools to effectively fight back. For instance, parents, teachers, and religious leaders struggle with conducting any type of “radicalization” talk with their children and students, as well as lack the capacity to help them recognize the virulent lies that groups like ISIS and white supremacists use to recruit them into their ranks. Police in the US are fragmented into over 1800 forces and often lack resources as well. In this regard, ICSVE staff have created and implemented training in the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, Austria, the Balkans, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Jordan, Iraq, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan to support counter-terrorism and P/CVE efforts.

Population(s) Served
Military personnel
At-risk youth
Academics
Religious groups
Researchers

The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) is an action-based non-profit research center focused on researching and studying core P/CVE areas. Our empirical designs and scientific contributions, namely in the form of books, brief reports, and publications in peer-reviewed journals, serve to inform and benefit policy and decision makers in the government, international organizations, and counter-terrorism and P/CVE efforts fields at both local and international levels. We scientifically study trajectories into and out of violent extremism and terrorism as well as evaluate engagement, outreach, and other community-level efforts to fight the appeal of violent extremist groups. As field practitioners, our researchers are also paying increased attention to the role that the Internet and social media play in fostering grievances for radicalization, including radicalization leading to violence, and in reaching greater numbers of potential recruits. Our research group is small at present but will continue to grow to meet terrorist and violent extremist groups’ trends and global nature of our works.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth
Academics

Groups like ISIS have managed to attract upwards of 50,000 travelers to the conflict zones in Iraq and Syria. A considerable number of the travelers are women. ICSVE researchers also study women unique trajectories into terrorism, their vulnerabilities and motivations for joining, their roles and experiences living inside the terrorist group, and their reasons for leaving in the cases of those who left. ICSVE researchers have been hired by and collaborated with UN Women in the Balkans and Central Asia and recently wrote their training manual, “ Women in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism.”
This research requires additional resources for in-depth studies of the unique issues involved in female participation in terrorism and violent extremism.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth
Academics

Violent extremist groups like ISIS and their sympathizers continue their unabated presence on social and traditional media platforms. Their presence is both transparent and highly insular and protected. The task of eliminating their presence, given the sheer volume of content, has proven daunting so far, and groups like ISIS continue to operate despite kinetic efforts to shut-down their media production sites. At ICSVE, we have a thorough understanding of the factors that drives and shapes ISIS’ communication strategy. In the last two years, ICSVE researchers have been locating ISIS sympathizers, endorsers, and followers on social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, etc.) and tagging them with ICSVE-produced counter-narratives and memes. For instance, two large campaigns were launched on Facebook, which led to identifying 50 English and 77 Albanian speaking ISIS endorsers and sympathizers. Such individuals were identified and served to generate increased cognitive dissonance and discussion against ISIS. Moreover, we have also launched 60+ Facebook awareness campaigns worldwide (e.g. Iraq, Jordan, Belgium, UK, Trinidad and Tobago, U.A.E., Tunisia, Somalia, Kenya, etc.), leading close to 2.5. million video views and thousands of page engagements and comments across four campaigns in Iraq alone. Our goal is to run 20 social media campaigns per month and to continually analyze and refine the results.

For this project, additional resources are needed for setting up the campaigns, analyzing the results, tracking the areas where ISIS and similar violent extremist groups are currently active.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth
Academics

ICSVE staff is currently engaged in identifying and documenting effective types of messaging in their upcoming CVE and Counter-Narrative Manual. Among others, the manual will contain a specific discussion on the overall utility of the ICSVE model of messaging—defector and insider based. It will also contain a tutorial on the best way to use ICSVE—produced counter-narrative videos as well as a compilation of study guides accompanying each counter-narrative video. The primary objectives of the manual are to:
• Raise awareness about, and document, the utility of counter-narratives in the fight against violent extremist groups using empirical data.
• Develop reader/partner competencies and expertise to effectively use ICSVE-produced counter-narratives to fight the appeal of violent extremist groups.
• To help reader/partner strengthen competencies to develop their own off/online initiatives that integrate the use of counter-narratives.
• Provide a clear offering of counter narratives that address specific (e.g. local) social grievances, gender, and other issues.
• Offer discussion questions and Islamic arguments that are raised in the counter narrative products.
• Offer an opportunity to the reader/partner to reflect on the use of the manual and recommend future improvements to counter-narrative based targeting strategy
The manual will be made available for free in digital PDF format and ideally will be provided in English, French, Arabic and Albanian.
This project requires additional resources.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth
Academics

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of ISIS defectors, returnees and imprisoned ISIS cadres interviewed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Breaking the ISIS Brand & Escape Hate Counter Narrative Projects

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Intrepid ICSVE researchers have been out in the field since 2015 collecting ISIS defector, returnee and imprisoned ISIS cadre interviews

Number of Breaking the ISIS Brand Facebook Campaigns carried out

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Facebook and Social Media Distribution:

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

ICSVE researchers carry out Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative campaigns on Facebook in multiple countries around the globe.

Number of Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative videos created

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Breaking the ISIS Brand & Escape Hate Counter Narrative Projects

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

ICSVE researchers have created over 250 Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative videos many subtitled in over 27 of the languages ISIS recruits in.

Number of P/CVE trainings provided.

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Law Enforcement, Intelligence, Security, Teacher, Imam, Parents, P/CVE Professional, and Community

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

ICSVE staff train national and international governmental and nongovernmental bodies around the world. With COVID we have added zoom training events.

Number of Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Posters created.

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Breaking the ISIS Brand & Escape Hate Counter Narrative Projects

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

ICSVE researchers have created 33 Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative posters in 2018

Number of al Shabaab defectors, returnees and imprisoned al Shabaab cadres interviewed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Breaking the ISIS Brand & Escape Hate Counter Narrative Projects

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

ICSVE researchers have expanded the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project to now include al Shabaab

Number of Breaking the al Shabaab Counter Narrative Video Clips created.

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Breaking the ISIS Brand & Escape Hate Counter Narrative Projects

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

ICSVE researchers have created 30 Breaking the al Shabaab Brand Counter Narrative videos subtitled in English, Somali and Swahili

Number of research or policy analysis products developed, e.g., reports, briefs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Primary Field-Based Research

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

ICSVE regularly publishes academic and trade publications regarding policy recommendations and research analysis of our results from first person and front line research interviews.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Since its inception, ISIS (and groups like ISIS) have unleashed an unprecedented social-media recruiting drive that operates (alongside face-to-face recruiting) on a twenty-four basis in over 21 languages. While ISIS has lost most of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq and its physical “Caliphate” has collapsed, the digital “Caliphate” continues to operate—recruiting, inspiring, and directing cadres to continue to come to the battlefield and launch attacks at home. Likewise, other terrorist groups like al Shabaab, Boko Haram, and ISIS affiliates are rising in Yemen, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Libya, and Western Africa, and to a less formal extent in Southeast Asia and the Philippines.

It is now time for the digital counter-battle to be powerfully mounted to deny violent extremist groups the ability to operate securely in the digital platforms and realms.

The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) is an action-based non-profit research center focused on researching and studying core P/CVE areas. The major project areas concern countering violent extremist groups via counter-messaging efforts. In this regard, for almost three-years now, ICSVE has launched the Breaking the ISIS Brand—the ISIS Cadres Counter-Narratives Project, namely a first-hand and field-informed direct communications effort to reduce or entirely eliminate violent extremist groups’ (e.g. ISIS and al-Shabaab) communications footprint. The Center recently expanded to include al- Shabaab cadres as well. We aim to prevent recruitment and intervene in turning back those traveling along the terrorist trajectory and rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have been prevented from potentially joining.

We research, train, and execute interventions globally, creating powerful tools to help law enforcement, governments, intelligence, teachers, counselors, prison officials, military officials, Countering Violent Extremism (ICSVE) professionals and parents fight back against terrorist recruitment.

ICSVE aims to continue to use the momentum created by our latest successes to achieve our goals, as well as to expand our operations to reach more audiences in more countries around the world.

The International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE's) goal is for ISIS (and groups like ISIS) to be disrupted, discredited and delegitimized in their recruitment campaigns. Certainly, grievances exist, but the brutal answers that ISIS (and groups like ISIS) proposes must diminish in their ability to attract followers. We want to prevent recruitment and intervene in turning back those traveling along the terrorist trajectory and rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have been stopped.

ICSVE staff researches, trains and executes interventions globally, creating powerful tools to help law enforcement, governments, intelligence, imams, psychologists, teachers, Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) professionals, prison officials, military officials, and parents fight back against terrorist recruitment. Most of our training are offered free of charge to government and NGOs worldwide engaged in the battle against groups like ISIS. We also monitor drivers of radicalization and target Internet-based and face-to-face interventions for those already moving along the terrorist trajectory. ICSVE is also focused on research prospects related to rehabilitation and reintegration of former extremists and violent extremists.

All of ICSVE programs depend upon ICSVE staff being up-to-date and relevant in speaking back to groups like ISIS. Our staff constantly monitors the Internet for ISIS activity. Some of them spend a significant amount of time in the field training, researching, and keeping up-to-date on a group that is adept at morphing methods and succeeding despite counter-measures. All of our research reports and counter-narrative materials are put out freely on the Internet (on our website and YouTube channel and through regular e-mailings) and in multiple languages, to support global efforts in fighting ISIS. Many of our works are also published in peer-reviewed journals, professional publications and best-selling books. Intelligence, military, government, and CVE workers globally rely on our work and often tell us that they read and keep abreast with our briefs and longer research reports that we put out on a weekly basis. Our research is action-based - we work to immediately turn the research into useful counter-terrorism tools.

ICSVE is set up as a virtual center with staff located around the world. We have a strong Internet presence with an active website (www.icsve.org) and weekly research reports and counter narrative videos produced and distributed electronically to a global list of 6K+ government, military, intelligence, and CVE workers. ICSVE also maintains highly active social media channels to fight ISIS (YouTube, Twitter Instagram and Facebook).

Anne Speckhard, Director of ICSVE has over the past 15+ years interviewed and studied nearly 600 terrorists, extremists, their family members, close associates and even hostages—studying terrorist trajectories into and out of terrorism and motivations for being involved. She heads the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project, which has to date interviewed 100+ ISIS (and 16 more al-Shabaab) defectors, returnees and prisoners, and produced over seventy counter narrative videos of ISIS cadres, insiders, denouncing the group. She is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in Georgetown University School of Medicine and has written four counter-terrorism books (Undercover Jihad, Brides of ISIS, Talking to Terrorists, and ISIS Defectors) and a multitude of academic and research papers on terrorism and counter-terrorism. Our research team are skilled field researchers with international work experience on issues related to law, policy, VE, terrorism, and political violence in general. They are equally skilled in social media and targeting strategies on various social media platforms. ICSVE researchers regularly and prolifically publish peer-reviewed academic and other research reports on CVE, terrorism, and counter-terrorism related issues. Our ICSVE Advisory Board is made up of a prestigious group of former Ambassadors, Congressmen, Journalists, Community and Business Leaders who fully support our efforts.

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. and the ICSVE staff have to date interviewed 101 ISIS defectors/returnees and prisoners from Syria, Iraq, Western Europe, Africa, Central Asia, Africa and the Balkans, including 26 parents of those who joined ISIS and two terrorist ideologues, most captured on video. Additionally, the project has expanded to al Shabaab with 16 interviews of al Shabaab cadres.

The ICSVE team has been editing the videos of defectors, prisoners and returnees denouncing the group into short video clips and uploading them on the Internet to fight ISIS' online recruiting, as well as using them in face-to-face interventions in prisons, communities, and schools. The Breaking the ISIS Brand video clips are being subtitled in the 21 languages ISIS recruits in, and have been focus-tested with success in Central Asia, the Balkans, Western Europe, the Middle East , South East Asia and the U.S. Our research fellows are also focus testing them on Facebook with ISIS endorsers, promoters, and followers. Currently, we have created 70 video clips of ISIS cadres with insider information speaking out against the group; labeling them as corrupt and un-Islamic, and warning others not to believe their lies or join them. On average, we produce 2 such videos per week. They also provide tools & training for police and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) professionals. In the future, they hope to expand their counter narrative defector projects to other parts of the world, as well as increase their targeting of vulnerable and at-risk populations online.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, , To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, It is difficult to get honest feedback from the people we serve

Financials

International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

Board of directors
as of 10/07/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Dr. Anne Speckhard

International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

Term: 2016 - 2021

Patricia Sommersberger

Companion Care

Daniel T. Speckhard

Max Planck Institute

Jessica Speckhard

Second Daughter

Anne Speckhard

Advances in Health

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 10/7/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

Disability

We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.

Equity strategies

Last updated: 10/07/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.