Whether the selection criteria for PVE programming needs to be explicit and find a way to identify and prioritise those who are genuinely at risk or whether it should prioritise broader vulnerability is not an easy decision to make. A narrow focus can carry the risk of stigmatisation for programme participants and miss those potentially on the cusp of vulnerability. It can unwittingly raise the profile of the intervention, and risks provoking a hostile response from VE organisations and/or the wider community.The language around PVE programming frequently references the need to target ‘at-risk communities’ or ‘vulnerable youth’, thereby labelling entire populations based on the presumption that they may or may not commit violence.
Taking a broader approach, rather than ‘capturing’ those on the fringes of risk, is also complicated and can miss focus on those who actually need the intervention or support. The stigmatisation that broad approaches are trying to avoid can achieve exactly the opposite and conversely stigmatise an entire community.
Targeting through identification of ‘hotspots’
Some projects opt for targeting by geographical location (hotspots) working with whole communities within these identified areas. Whilst in many ways this approach reduces risks of stigmatisation by narrow targeting, it still holds the dangers of having a non-tailored/ broad-brush approach within the hotspot area. How hotspot areas are chosen can raise risks, particularly in politically charged contexts or where areas have been historically marginalised and where geographic targeting would still have a stigmatising affect. In crowded spaces where a number of actors use similar targeting methods, this can result in a proliferation of PVE programmes in one geographic area with similar (or the same) groups thus having a cumulative stigmatising affect as communities become aware of the growing focus of so many actors on their region for PVE.