by Carol Brooks, Founder, Platinum 3P Limited

The Government’s recent publication “CONTEST the United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism” June 2018, which is essentially an update of the CONTEST Strategy from 2011, provides a statement of current understanding of where the threats lie from terrorist groups and their ideology, and where the UK’s vulnerabilities lie in relation to those threats.

The four pivotal factors of CONTEST, Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare, (4 Ps) are illustrated within a “Risk Reduction Model”. The assumption being that by engaging in activities around the 4 Ps in countering terrorism, we are able, as a country to achieve the 4 Rs;

  • Reduce intent
  • Reduce capability
  • Reduce vulnerability
  • Reduce impact

There are, as we might expect, key commitments outlined by the Government and the “how” of delivery is described, which is the contribution to reducing risk, or the 4 Rs.

Of course, we have seen the devastation and destruction terrorist attacks can have on lives, communities and the environment in the UK – all too recently – and it is has to be without question that we all have the intent to play our part in delivering on the 4Ps and 4Rs, consciously or otherwise – however, we do have a major challenge. All too often, there is an assumption that if we modify policies and procedures, if we introduce new business processes, if we organise large scale conferences, all with the purpose of increasing capacity and capability to be able to work more effectively to counter terrorism – then that will happen. Experience and research shows that unless the human factor, the people side of the equation, is addressed and receives attention – then change either does not happen at all or is not sustained. If we want to deliver on this current CONTEST strategy, we need to pay attention to behaviours and relationships across the whole security eco-system as the only way to achieve change the depth of change required.

The strategy identifies some key changes required in the way public sector agencies work together and how public-sector agencies interact with the private sector.


All of the above require the passing of intelligence or the sharing of intelligence between different parties, – communication, communication, communication.  However, experience and anecdote show that barriers currently exist to effective intelligence sharing and communication across parts of the public sector, this is without the complications that can arise from the public sector and private sector working together. We can design, and be proud of, protocols, procedures and processes for intelligence sharing, but unless we tackle the cultural barriers between and within organisations, both public and private sector, (between leadership teams, between disciplines, between professional groups – as examples), the business infrastructure we set up for intelligence sharing and communication will at best be weak and impotent, at worst, not be used at all.

Sharing and communication of any type of intelligence between and across sectors depends on;

  • People being able to deliver the right message and that message being received and understood in order to be acted upon.
  • People personally taking a less risk averse approach, because the sharing and communication of intelligence is for the greater good and the right thing to do (accepted within agreed parameters)
  • People breaking old habits and ways of working and being rewarded and incentivised for doing so (and this is not simply about money)
  • People developing greater understanding of the different cultures and priorities of organisations and businesses within the security eco-system
  • People, specifically managers and leaders, adopting an ecosystem view of their role and developing a greater sense of social responsibility in relation to the part they play in countering terrorism

In summary – we need organisations and businesses to be “intelligence-sharing ready” if the current CONTEST strategy is to be implemented with full potency. This can only be achieved if we accept and pay attention to the importance of the HUMAN FACTOR IN COUNTERING TERRORISM