Extremism can be devastating to people and their communities.
From those radicalised to those who have lost loved-ones to violence or imprisonment, the effect of extremism has far-reaching and long-term impacts. And yet there are few online communities that can speak honestly and productively about extremism, and that use personal experiences to highlight new ways in which we can best go about tackling the problem.
Extremism is often thought of as religiously motivated, when in actuality, many may be drawn in through things like socio-economic hardship, family legacy, discrimination, a lack of government or social support, human rights abuses, or perhaps feeling the need to prove oneself.
The original concept behind the series
A journalist interviewed guests about their experiences and views
Talk-show style graphics to introduce each episode
In 2017, ExtremeLives was developed as a talk-show broadcast live on Facebook. The show spoke to activists, former extremists, and peacebuilders about violent extremism in a candid and unedited way. The aim was to highlight the wealth of knowledge at local levels and promote unheard voices to the digital development community.
The series hoped to attract an audience of those affected by extremism directly to show that there were peaceful alternatives to violence and/or support available to them. It would also dispel some of the common myths around extremism for a casual viewer.
The early ExtremeLives logo: bold and formal to match the tone of the episodes.
With first-hand accounts of the darkest days of ISIS-occupied Raqqa, dispatches from an insider of a network training militants across Asia, and journalists at the front-lines fighting misinformation, ExtremeLives provided a platform for exciting known figures in the Asia region.
Co-Founder, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Thinzar Shun Lei Yi
Human Rights Defender
Peacebuilder and Academic
Nur Huda Ismail
After two years, and with a refocus on prevention, the project wanted to speak more directly youth under the age of 30 who might be affected by extremism in different ways. The ExtremeLives project therefore began to expand its workflow. In addition to the talk-show style interviews, the team began experimenting with different voices and channels to speak more directly to youth. YouTube was identified as a new area of interest.
Nadir visited Thinzar Shun Lei Yi who had appeared in ExtremeLives Season 1
The video showed how important cross-cultural friendships can be
In 2019, the project collaborated with YouTube creator Nadir Nadhi on a 'vlogumentary', or video-blog documentary, providing youth with an intimate insight into the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and how some were continuing to nurture important friendships despite social, cultural or religious differences.
With over 34,000 organic views, the audience reception of the video marked a seismic shift in the ExtremeLives project in the years to come.
Watch it below.
ExtremeLives' interview-style video broadcasts were reformulated into a series of short documentaries up to 10 minutes in length in order to provide a contextualised deep-dive into the communities affected by extremism. Inspired by VICE reportage, the videos worked together with NGOs on the ground to identify previously unheard credible messengers.
ExtremeLives worked with a peacebuilder from the Southern provinces in Thailand, spoke to survivors of the Marawi siege, explored the groups jeopardising peace in the Philippine island of Mindanao, interviewed a family of Syrian refugees who had fled to Malaysia, and cross-examined a returnee from ISIS-occupied territory in Syria.
Results indicated a marked improvement in audience response to Season 3 upon launch. Over 3,1M minutes of the videos were watched by audiences in the region, receiving over 170,000 likes, comments, and shared. The season as a whole gained greater watch-time for fewer videos than the previous season and more than doubled engagement.
Watch the season below.
In 2019, the ExtremeLives project was one of 120 projects chosen to be showcased at the Paris Peace Forum, a global platform pushing forward innovative solutions for peace. The Forum was a key opportunity for leveraging new partnerships with related projects and highlighting UNDP and EU digital counter-messaging efforts. Over the course of the event, the #ExtremeLives hashtag reached over 1.9M Twitter users and gained over 819 post interactions in the first 13 days.
The ExtremeLives team with then-Head of EU's Foreign Policy Instruments,
Promotional poster at the Paris Peace Forum
Promotional flyer handed out at the Paris Peace Forum
Covid-19 triggered a series of health, economic, and social crises that exacerbate the root causes of violent extremism. To respond to the surge in pandemic-related hate speech and misinformation, the ExtremeLives project developed "Creators Against Covid", a YouTube influencer-led video campaign. The creators involved in the campaign collectively represented an audience base of around 5.9 M YouTube subscribers.
The videos received over 2.3 M views and 117,712 thumbs up, reinforcing the power of credible messengers to diversify the reach of counter-messaging.
Watch the videos below.