Trusting the Mistrusted: Norwegian Social Workers’ Strategies in Preventing Radicalization and Violent Extremism
Keywords:Violent Extremism, Radicalization, Prevention, Social Work, Trust
Social workers are a part of the wider counter-terrorism efforts in many European countries, such as the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Belgium. While there are several theoretical and discursive studies on social workers’ involvement in preventing violent extremism, few studies have explored and analyzed how these prevention workers understand radicalization and the strategies and approaches they employ. This paper addresses this research gap with findings from a qualitative study that utilized data from 17 individual in-depth interviews and two focus-group interviews of experienced social workers doing indicated prevention work against violent extremism in Norway. Goffman’s frame analysis and Weber and Carter’s theory on the construction of trust are applied to the findings. A thematic analysis found that, first, the participants frame radicalization cases in the same way they do other cases—as a social problem. Second, a two-way process of trust was revealed, as a critical component in their work is creating openings for dialogue about values and ideology. Contrary to other studies, this paper finds that social workers manage this work as close to “business as usual.” Also, it reveals that well-established strategies in social work, such as client-directed practice, Socratic questioning, and motivational interviewing, potentially play an important role in face-to-face prevention work against radicalization and violent extremism.
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