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Case Study: Tackling the early signs of radicalisation with Counter Terrorism Policing

Counter Terrorism Policing logo

The challenge

The National Counter Terrorism Policing Headquarters (NCTPHQ) launched its ‘ACT early’ (Action Counters Terrorism) campaign to encourage friends and family to come forward and share concerns about a loved one at risk of radicalisation.

At the time of launch, the ACT early website featured a wealth of impactful content – including powerful ‘letters to my younger self,’ written by people who had been personally affected by radicalisation. Despite these stories' power, the initiative struggled to generate meaningful engagement across its digital channels. So the team at NCTPHQ looked for ways to bring the letters ‘to life’ to boost engagement and improve user experience.

The revitalised content was part of an interactive workshop toolkit for officers from the Home Office programme, PREVENT, to take into schools, colleges, and universities.

The solution

Transforming and building user engagement with these deeply personal and emotive stories would take a lot of work. Still, at CDS, we love a challenge and used every ounce of our creative problem-solving expertise to tackle this critical and sensitive topic for an at-risk demographic.

Meticulous research, planning and review were vital to success. The project began with a discovery session to gain insight into the context of the campaign and to learn more about the individuals whose letters would be the subject of the content. 

Our design team then began creating mood boards of possible creative treatments for each letter, giving the client team at NCTPHQ the confidence that they could deliver an impactful but sensitive outcome.

The research showed that the interests of the target audience (11–35-year-olds) were diverse and that anyone could be a victim of radicalisation. This influenced the ideas. Such a broad target audience required a wide-ranging approach, and it was decided that three different styles of video would best resonate with the audience and maximise engagement.

The project saw two animated films enter production, with specific animators commissioned based on their signature style. Amy Tibbles’ sensitive and thought-provoking style was chosen for Michael's story, while the manga style of Kris Howes defined John’s story.

A still video image from Micheals Story. Various staircases appear on a dark blue background. A silhoutted figure stands on the stairs behind a glass box with another figure trapped inside. At the top of another staircase more figures peer through an open doorway.

Watch Michael's story

A still video image from Johns Story. An unhappy looking animated character looks over his shoulder towards the camera

Watch John's story

The story of Mustafa – a spoken word artist – was performed in such a way that the images presented to the reader were metaphorical, which made interpreting the letter visually much more subjective. 

The team felt that animating this story would be too frightening, so they needed to take a different interpretive route. The tempo and cadence of the words Mustafa had used in his letter had a natural rhythm and flow that led the team towards dance as the ideal medium, the dancers' movements flowing towards a positive outcome.

Still video image from Mustafas Story. A blurred picture of a person dancing in a room with neon lights

Watch Mufasa's story

A piece of original music was commissioned to convey Mustafa’s innermost feelings. At the same time, a choreographer interpreted his words into a contemporary dance routine that perfectly suits relevant social media channels like TikTok and Instagram. 

The result

As NCTPHQ represents the UK-wide collaboration of police forces working to prevent, deter, and investigate terrorism, the videos are part of the country’s broader strategy for tackling this sensitive challenge. 

Following the campaign’s digital unveiling in Q4 2021 – which included a mini social media campaign for each film, average engagement time has increased by 28% while page views have grown by 431%. Moreover, 3,158 new users engaged with the page in the first two-month measurement period.

At a glance...


  • Policing


  • Generate meaningful engagement across digital channels
  • Bring 'letters to my younger self' to life
  • Boost engagement
  • Improve user experience


  • Discovery phase including research, planning and review
  • Creation of 3 videos


  • 28% increase in engagement upon release
  • Page views increased by 431%
  • 3,158 new users engaged with the page in the first two-months
We are immensely grateful to CDS for the dedication, care, and commitment the team brought to this project. All three letters are exceptional and are already gaining a lot of traction amongst professionals who have been shown them. An incredible achievement handled with utmost grace and sensitivity.

Lisa-Jo Salvona
Head of Campaigns

increase in average engagement time
page view growth

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