Safe Spaces is a community-led violence prevention initiative developed by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Safe Spaces was developed to be a comprehensive community resilience program that: 1) is flexible enough to be applied and modified in different local American Muslim socio-political contexts; 2) is independent of, but compatible with, government-led countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts and broader non-CVE public safety strategies such as community-oriented policing approaches; 3) provides community leaders with a community-friendly techne (the PI framework) with which they can articulate and build upon community work they are already doing; and 4) is written with sufficient (but accessible) detail to provide communities with an effective set of actionable recommendations and skill sets to learn and/or develop. MPAC has developed a Safe Spaces toolkit and training materials, and has conducted multiple outreach and pilot activities that have further refined and strengthened the program. The Safe Spaces rollout to communities is an opportunity to conduct community-based research on a national scale that will inform the wide-scale implementation and effectiveness of community-led CVE.
At the time this project commenced, no known published research had rigorously demonstrated the effectiveness of community–led CVE programs. With the current emphasis on the importance of community-led CVE, there is an urgent need for building knowledge on its implementation and potential effectiveness. Research on programs in preventing or suppressing other kinds of criminal activity, such as gang-related violence, has helped to advance understandings of the implementation process and potential outcomes which have had important practice and policy implications. There is also a pressing need for evaluation tools and procedures that could support the further development of CVE prevention programming. Measures in criminal justice interventions have been directed at such key issues as impact, process, partnership, and community context. Developing and testing relevant evaluation tools and procedures is critical for operationalizing community-led CVE. This project will conduct an evaluation of Safe Spaces so as to understand how it is being implemented and to gain insight on its possible impact.
This is a three-year, multi-site, mixed methods, participatory action research study. Data collection takes place in in 9 U.S. cities where MPAC will adapt and implement the Safe Spaces program. This study first uses participatory action research to modify Safe Spaces, then conducts an evaluation of the implementation and impact of Safe Spaces, a community-led violence prevention initiative developed by MPAC. Overall, the findings will build on existing CVE best practices and research and inform the development of evidence-based community-led CVE programs and policies. It will generate evaluation tools and procedures that will help community-based organizations, law enforcement, and other government agencies to initiate and/or strengthen community-led CVE programming. It will also produce reports, presentations, and peer-reviewed articles on Safe Spaces and community level CVE programming and evaluation.