The University of New Mexico is one of 45 schools worldwide participating in the Peer to Peer (P2P): Challenging Extremism initiative. The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, and facilitated by EdVenture Partners with other interagency governmental support, tasks student teams to create digital media content in the form of an initiative, product, or tool that empowers networks of youth to counter the social media presence and effectiveness of violent extremists' online messaging.
The Internet - and specifically social media - has emerged as one of the primary battlefields on which the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) engages with the public in order to propagate extremist narratives, build public support for extremist actions, and recruit or inspire willing participants to either travel abroad to fight or commit violent acts at home.
One of the best ways to respond to the proliferation of violent extremist content online is to mobilize individuals to create social media campaigns that counter ISIL's rhetoric and refocus attention on positive alternatives. This program seeks to be part of that solution, by empowering the very people ISIL and other violent extremist groups are trying to recruit - young people.
As part of the initiative, undergraduate marketing students in the Anderson School of Management promotion management class have formed a student-run agency to develop and implement a campaign using a $2,000 budget.
Student participants in the program are encouraged to use their creativity, digital proficiency, and expertise on their community of peers to formulate effective narratives and identify how best to motivate and encourage youth to become involved in countering violent extremism.
"The P2P: Challenging Extremism initiative is a unique opportunity for us to apply classroom learning to a real-world issue while making a meaningful impact on a global stage," said the UNM team's agency coordinator.
The program is leading towards an international competition on Jan. 14, 2016. The top three participating schools will be invited to Washington, D.C. to present their research, plan, and results to senior government officials and industry leaders at the U.S. Department of State to determine the P2P: Challenging Extremism winner. The top team will receive a scholarship prize of $5,000, followed by $3,000 for second place, and $1,000 for third.