The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University and EdVenture Partners announced the top four finalists for the Invent2Prevent spring 2021 competition, a national campaign competition to identify new whole-of-society approaches to targeted violence and terrorism prevention. Out of 25 university teams competing this semester, the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships selected The Citadel, Columbia University, Missouri State University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to compete virtually on Tuesday, June 15, for the championship.
“This past semester, university teams crafted 25 unique products or tools to address the growing threat of targeted violence and terrorism,” said Brette Steele, senior director of preventing targeted violence for the McCain Institute. “This program demonstrates the ingenuity of university students and the tremendous impact they can have in preventing targeted violence in a single semester with a modest budget of $2,000.”
As part of the semester-long project, each university team evaluated a current threat facing the nation and identified an opportunity to create a program or tool to prevent targeted violence or terrorism. Each of the four finalists identified a different topic and will provide a 12-minute overview of their specific effort during the final competition.
The Citadel, Charleston, SC: Mission in Transition was created by merging two major issues affecting the nation: the impact of isolationism on the human psyche and inadequate resources for service members transitioning from active-duty status to civilian life. To combat the isolationism that service members may feel after leaving military service, Mission in Transition serves as the first barrier of protection against veteran recruitment into targeted violence and terrorism groups by helping them find a sense of purpose and ultimately taking on their next mission in life. Visit the Mission in Transition project at: www.missionintransition.com/.
Columbia University, New York, NY: After identifying teachers and education professionals as their primary audience, the VOICES (Venture to Overcome and Counter Extremism in Schools) team developed a product that aims to enable educators to promote and instill values of moral resilience, non-violent problem-solving and social connectedness among their students by acknowledging and mitigating individual biases. The VOICES project seeks to provide an online professional development training opportunity for educators by leveraging storytelling and problem-based learning pedagogy to inspire and create agency among participants to combat biases at schools. Visit the VOICES project at: https://www.voicesamplify.org.
Missouri State University, Springfield, MO: Silence around radicalization to violence and white supremacy allows those issues to become normalized. Conversation and human connection are critical in overcoming the “us vs. them” mentality that contributes to radicalization to violence. Based on their initial research, the student team developed FUSE which is a comprehensive campaign that aims to prevent and protect against radicalization to white supremacy through education, human connection, bystander intervention and community support. The FUSE campaign consists of an interactive card game, podcast and radicalization awareness toolkit. Visit the FUSE project at: https://www.fuseconversations.org/
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA: To teach high school students critical thinking skills to foster an open mind, help identify misinformation and use the truth to make decisions for themselves, this team created The THiNK Campaign. The THiNK acronym represents Talk, Hear, Infer, Note and Know to capture their mission and key message which is “think critically, think kindly.” The campaign offers a website with resource links, a complete instructor-led lesson plan with accompanying videos, and a Reporter Zero video game. Visit The THiNK Campaign at: https://www.thethinkcampaign.org.
EdVenture Partners’ peer-to-peer programs empower competitions worldwide that invite university students to develop messaging and digital media campaigns to address hate, bias and extremism.
“The hard work and creativity showcased in these student-designed campaigns, products and tools far exceeded our expectations,” said Tony Sgro, founder, and chief executive officer of EdVenture Partners. “The use of technology, imagery, graphics and gamification has been outstanding, and valuable local partnerships cultivated by these teams has resulted in far reaching, impactful projects. Most important, I2P students experienced the critical role they play in making their communities safer through peer-developed strategies that are credible and appropriate to their chosen audience.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships is the sponsor of the virtual competition with the center’s director, John Picarelli, serving as one of the five judges. Finalists will compete for cash prizes with first place receiving $5,000, second place $3,000 and third place $1,000. Additionally, all 25 teams are eligible to apply for scholarships and sustainment funding sponsored by the DHS Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships. The final event will be streamed live on YouTube from 1 – 3 p.m. EST on Tuesday, June 15. To RSVP, visit: https://event.edventurepartners.com/