Tackling extremism TOGETHER – students’ message for U.S. comp

Huddersfield tackles violent extremism Together Huddersfield tackles violent extremism Together

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 09:02:00 GMT

Huddersfield students working with the University’s Secure Societies Institute will find out if they made the final in the United States today!

Dr Dagmar Heinrich TACKLING violent extremism is one of the most difficult challenges facing modern times.  Now, students from the University of Huddersfield, in conjunction with the University’s Secure Societies Institute (SSI), are taking part in a global competition, sponsored by Facebook and the US Department of State, to come up with a solution.

The competition is called P2P (Peer to Peer): Challenging Extremism and is managed by Edventure Partners.  This is the first time it has included universities from the UK.

Elisa Lubrini The brief was to create a peer-to-peer marketing campaign and social media strategy ‘to tackle extremism that is credible, authentic, and believable to their peers that resonates within their communities’.  They had two months and the sum of two thousand dollars to complete the challenge.

Huddersfield’s P2P campaign is called Together with the strapline Challenging//Extremism//Together. and has been devised by a team of students supervised by the Secure Societies Institute Research Fellow, Dr Dagmar Heinrich (pictured left).

Dr Heinrich said invites for applications were sent out across the University and the team chosen was an interdisciplinary group of students with the skills and passion to dedicate themselves to the challenge.

Elisa Lubrini (pictured right) is studying Linguistics and Modern Languages in the School of Music, Humanities and Media and has worked on the team’s final submission for the competition.

“We know at the root of violent extremism there is a hate for people who are different,” said Elisa, “so we want to encourage communities to celebrate diversity and difference in a positive environment,” she said.

Other team members include Wiam Id Bomsoud (MSc Marketing), Robert Calin (MSc Cyber Security), Antonia Nita and Faisa Okundaye (MLP Law) and Aqsa Sarwar and Dan Brewerton-Singh (MEng Computing).

At the competition’s launch in October, each individual brought their expertise to the table and in the short space of two months, the team had created an informative website and had a constant social media presence.  This continually enforced the #Together message providing people with the opportunity to embrace and celebrate diversity within their local communities.

Together “When somebody doesn’t understand something they are more likely to develop hate or become vulnerable to extremist propaganda,” said Elisa.  “By holding events, such as the Diversity Dinner, we can tackle this vulnerability.

“The Diversity Dinner included twenty-five people from all over the world and you could see that as people came out of their shells, they became more curious about one another and started asking questions and chatting.  Everyone had an amazing time,” she added.

In addition to the events, the Together campaign has a strong presence on social media with its own YouTube channel called Challenging #Together, Facebook page and Twitter profile @p2ptogether

They have also recently launched a free and educational mobile app on Google Play called Smarter Together where players learn about different cultures, beliefs and religions. 

Dr Heinrich says the SSI is extremely proud of the hard work and dedication shown by the students.

“Their campaign is excellent,” she said.  “They have a growing following online and have organised events in the University and in Huddersfield, creating a thriving online and offline community promoting diversity, equality and respect.

“I believe the strength of the team is their varied backgrounds and skillsets, highlighting how inter-disciplinarity and cross-school working are a successful formula when tackling global security challenges,” she added.

Over two hundred teams from across the world have taken part and a shortlist of six will be announced by the competition organisers on Friday 16 December.  Each team will win an all-expenses paid trip to Washington DC to present their campaign to senior government officials and Facebook leadership where scholarships ranging from five thousand to one thousand dollars will be awarded to the winning teams.

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