In July 2019, ARMOUR finalized the methodology for the Experimental Labs – a key project tool towards achieving its goals to provide individuals in the community and practitioners the know-how and a toolkit to create, test, and promote psychological and community behavioural and communication strategies aimed at correcting reactions to perceived or real grievances and thus promote resilience to push and pull factors involved in advancing radicalization and violent extremism.

The Experimental Labs are designed to represent a safe chamber where participants can experience alternative ways of responding to push and pull factors of social polarisation and extremism. Each lab is to accommodate 14 to 21 participants, including vulnerable community members, civil society, teachers, social assistants, psychologists, law enforcement and security experts, for a duration of 8 hours. It is then followed by individual practice and active feedback collection.

Based on this methodology, the ARMOUR Team started to work on the Experimental Labs’ curricula and content over the summer. Key competences to be developed included:

social competence (responsiveness to other, conceptual and intellectual flexibility, caring for others, good communication skills, sense of humour);

problem solving (ability to apply abstract thinking, ability to engage in reflective thought, critical reasoning skills, ability to develop alternative solutions in frustrating situations);

emotional competence and autonomy building (positive sense of independence, emerging feelings of efficacy, high self-esteem, impulse control, planning and goal setting, belief in the future);

mediation and negotiation (group problem solving and consensus, base groups, stop and think before acting to bullying).

In the last four months, ARMOUR designed seven Experimental Labs:

The Coaching and Parenting Lab provides a framework, scenario, and detailed set of exercises and simulations that can assist participants in experimenting with coaching and parenting strategies. The aim is to help first line practitioners (in their capacity as potential figures of authority and influence) to tailor parenting and coaching skills and strategies to help young people and/or their family members better understand triggers, behaviour, decisions and reactions, enabling them to prevent them from becoming an active part of the radicalization/polarization process.

The Critical Thinking Lab provides a framework, scenario, and detailed set of exercises and simulations to assist first line practitioners learn how to encourage the developing of critical thinking skills for children and youth. The aim is to subsequently equip children and youth with the capacity for self-guided, self-disciplined thinking, empowering them to think independently, to make sense of the world based on personal experience and observation, and to make critical well-informed decisions in the same way.

The Anger Management Lab investigates how to better teach anger management as a form of psychoeducational intervention. It comprises a series of exercises that, if used in convergence, can help first line professionals working with young people vulnerable to radicalisation use anger management strategies and techniques to help divert them from violent a disruptive behaviour. The techniques described have been inspired by the work of coachers and therapists in teaching and promoting anger management.

The Narrative and Cultural Awareness Lab delivers a framework, scenario, and detailed set of exercises and simulations that can assist participants in understanding the role narratives play in our identity formation, the way they can spot dysfunctional or toxic narratives and, last but not least, the way in which they can use narratives in order to employ promising psychoeducational intervention practices in their professional daily routine. It comprises a series of exercises that, if used in convergence, can help first line professionals use narrative therapy strategies and techniques to help divert young people from a negative image of self and others. It also offers solutions to encourage in young people positive and empowering ways of self-expression and self-affirmation. The techniques described have been inspired by the work of therapists using narrative therapy in treatment of phobias, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia etc.

The Debate and Simulation Lab provides the curricula and actual content of the experimental lab dedicated to simulation and debate techniques applicable in interventions targeted at young individuals that are either vulnerable to or in the process of radicalisation. It targets the internalisation and further replication of practical, hands-on – strategies and personal skills desirable in debate which may equip individuals with necessary self-affirmation and self-expression skills, while fostering their critical thinking and resilience to underlying motives of radicalisation and allegiance to extreme ideologies.

The Conflict Resolution Lab provides a framework, scenario, and detailed set of exercises and simulations dedicated to conflict resolution. These techniques are applicable in interventions targeted at young individuals that are either vulnerable to or in the process of radicalisation. It approaches conflict resolution as a form of psycho-educational intervention in which the teacher, counsellor, or any person of influence and legitimate authority for the target group can advise, promote and assist participants in internalizing the skills necessary for positive resolve of tensed situations and conflicts. This form of intervention creates the premises for behavioural change while offering a safe space to exercise new ways of handling tensed and conflicting situations and social interactions.

The Proportionate Response Lab addresses the concept of proportionality. This laboratory develops twelve scenarios, inspired by real cases, in which the state acted in order to combat radicalization. Participants are asked to debate whether these actions were proportional or not and to provide reasons for their claims. Such exercises will not only improve participants' knowledge of the issue of state response, but also their critical reading and thinking skills, as well as their ability to speak in public. Several have shown that a perception of injustice represents one of the strongest factors driving radicalization. Considering the results of these studies and, in order to avoid radicalization, the proportionate response lab provides detailed guidelines to practitioners about what are the appropriate boundaries for state action.

The pilot version of the seven labs presented above will be first subjected to pre-testing and validation by sociologists, psychologists, trainers, security experts and practitioners from civil society organizations. Subsequently, the final version of the labs will be implemented and cascaded in six countries part of the project – Italy, Malta, Greece, Spain, Romania and the Netherlands.

The labs are planned to start in the beginning of 2020. If you are interested to take part, drop us a line via the Contact form and stay tuned for more details!


All project deliverables are to be published in the ARMOUR Website’s Deliverables Section.