Do we need a blog by another straight, white, male?

Blog written in speech bubbles
(Photo: Pixabay)

I started the Sustaining Community blog to highlight resources and information that I thought were relevant to students and practitioners. Soon after, I also started writing content that I thought might be useful. The style and voice of the blog was shaped by believing I needed to live up to my expectations of students by

  • Relying on, and referencing, reliable sources
  • Not making generalisations or unfounded claims
  • Being able to justify my position or arguments.

I’ve discovered that my most popular posts are from the “What is …” series. I also find those posts very helpful personally because they force me to research a subject, understand what the literature is saying and condense a broad body of literature into key themes. I find them particularly useful when I want to deepen my knowledge about a topic, especially when the focus of my work shifts, or I take on a new project (e.g., What are 5 styles of conflict management?; What are program logic models? )

At the moment I’m working on a couple of posts: What is trauma? and What is trauma-informed practice? I’m focusing more and more on Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) so I’m doing the posts for three main reasons:

  1. To improve my understanding of trauma and trauma informed practice
  2. To explore the extent to which Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) is trauma informed
  3. To keep improving my AVP practice.

At the same time, writing posts like these take a lot of time (which is why I haven’t posted in a while) and raise questions for me about my role as a blogger and the implications of presenting myself as an authoritative voice on a range of topics. I sometimes wonder: Who am I to introduce a topic when there are usually other good overviews available and I don’t necessarily have any particular expertise in the area? I justify it for myself in a number of ways:

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Special days and dates for the environment – 2023

(Photo: Pixabay)

Here are some significant international and Australian national days/weeks that focus on environmental issues for 2023. (Days marked with * are mainly for Australia.)

Please let me know if I have missed any important ones.

Note that some of the websites are not updated for 2023 yet.

For a large number of animal awareness days (e.g., World Bee Day, Shark Awareness Day) visit https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/animal-awareness-days

February  

World Wetlands Day — Thursday, 2 February 2023

International Polar Bear Day — Monday, 27 February 2023

Business Clean Up Day — Tuesday, 28 February 2023 *

March  

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List of posts for 2021 and 2022

Following on from an overview of the blog statistics for 2022, here is a list of all my posts from 2021 and 2022 (with the number of views they received as at the end of 2022). As you can see I didn’t post anything for 10 months and non of them have had all that many views.

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. Blog statistics for 2022 (Transparency report)
  2. Changing focus of the blog
  3. What are the 5 styles of conflict management?
  4. 12 principles of a problem solving approach to conflict resolution
  5. Principles of nonviolence
  6. Lists of blog posts from previous years

If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.

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Blog statistics for 2022 (Transparency report)

I provide an overview of my blog statistics each year (although I missed 2021) in case they are of interest.

Key statistics for 2022

  • Number of views for the life of the blog at the end of 2022 – 2,299,854
  • Number of views in 2022 – 290,945 (311,659 in 2021 and 400,492 in 2020)
  • Average number of views/day in 2022 – 797 (854 in 2021 and 1094 in 2020)
  • Number of visitors in 2022 – 207,100 (222,589 in 2021 and 271,703 in 2020)
  • Number of post likes in 2022 – 27 (104 in 2021 and 74 in 2020)
  • Number of comments in 2022 – 54 (75 in 2021 and 206 in 2020)
  • Number of followers of blog at the end of 2022 – 1444

It could be that my blog has reached its peak and is declining, but it could also be that I spent less time on my blog in 2021 and 2022. (In 2020 I averaged 1094 views a day, but this decreased to 854 in 2021 and 797 last year.)

I find it interesting that while the blog does get quite a lot of views, it isn’t widely followed and it doesn’t attract many comments or much discussion. I would like to hear more about what readers’ experience and insights, so I might think about how to increase the two way communication.

Top posts for 2022

The following are the top 10 posts for 2022. Because most of my views come from internet searches, most of them were written a few years ago.

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Key activities in our trial of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) open group

Flip chart with Red and Green Messages brainstorm

We’ve been asked what are the key activities that we make sure are included regularly in our trial of an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Basic workshop as an open group (weekly 2-hour sessions where people can join any week).

Each 2-hour session has a similar structure:

  1. Welcome and acknowledgement of country
  2. Group stretch where we go around the circle with each person doing a stretch that is copied by the group
  3. A grounding and gathering, where we do a quick grounding activity and then go around the circle with each person saying how they are feeling this morning and (usually) responding to a question related to the day’s focus
  4. An overview of the last session or key aspects from previous sessions (which is important if we are building on an activity from a previous week) and a preview of what we are doing this week
  5. Two or three main activities and one or two light and livelies (which are quick games or energisers that help participants focus, have a change of pace, build community and have fun)
  6. Feedback about the session (as a brainstorm about what they liked, what they didn’t like or could be improved, and any “aha”’ moments or ideas for improving the session)
  7. A quick closing activity

We don’t rotate the main activities (in Item 4 above) in any particular order and, in planning the next week’s agenda, decide what would be most useful for the group. The following are the main activities we use regularly (generally every 8 to 12 weeks, but sometimes more frequently) grouped under some of the main themes of the workshop. Most of the activities are in the AVP manuals and I have provided a very brief overview of each activity.

Community building

  • Safety Circle: We go around the circle twice answering, “What I need to feel safe in this group.…” And “What I can do to help others feel safe in this group….”
  • Community Drawing: Group drawings in small groups around a theme (e.g., an ideal community)
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2 questionnaires identifying conflict management style

(Source: Orlando Blake)

In a recent point, I provided an overview of 5 styles of conflict management:

  1. Avoiding (the Turtle)
  2. Confronting (the Shark)
  3. Accommodating (the Teddy Bear)
  4. Compromising (the Fox)
  5. Collaborating (the Owl)

In this post I discuss two questionnaires that can be used to identify people’s main style: the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) and the Adkins Conflict Management Styles Assessment.

Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument

Kenneth Thomas and Ralf Kilmann developed the TKI in the early to mid-1970s [1-3]. It involves 30 forced choice questions, where you have to choose which of two statements is more like you. For example:

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More details of our trial of a weekly, open AVP group

As discussed in a recent post, our local Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) group has been trialling a Basic AVP workshop as a weekly open group (in partnership with the Samaritans Recovery Point) where people can join any week. In this post we will discuss some of the finer detail of this approach.

While there are variations in a traditional, closed-group AVP Basic Workshop, (e.g., to adapt to differences in the number and length of days for the workshop), we largely follow the same sequence of activities and have a relatively standard agenda. However, The open group, however, is quite different. As mentioned in the recent post, participants in the open group receive a Basic certificate after completing 9 weeks. This does not mean that we rotate through a series of nine agendas. After each session, we debrief and plan the next week’s agenda depending on what we think will be most useful for the group. Issues or problems are identified and discussed as they arise and we can address them the following week if needed. For example, one week there was a lot of distraction because a few people were leaving the group to take phone calls and then returning to the group. (One person was needing to find housing and another person had a family issue.) One of the participants commented in the feedback that they were disappointed that the facilitators didn’t address the distractions especially during the Gathering. (When we explained some of the background in private after the workshop, they understood why we didn’t respond in the workshop, but still thought we should have done something.)

In response to the feedback, the next week (Session 25) we had a real focus on listening, including a variation of the Safety Circle. We explored, “How can we make the Gathering a place where people really feel listened to?” [We start each workshop with a Gathering where we go around the circle saying our Affirmation Name and responding to a question or prompt (e.g., In this session it was “How I feel/react when I am not listened to?”). The Safety Circle is similar to a Gathering, but we go around the circle twice, once responding to “What do I need to feel safe in this group?” and then “What can I do to help others feel safe in this group?”

We try to ensure that participants have covered all the key topics in a Basic workshop before they graduate. We record which sessions participants attend, but we want to improve how we do this. If there is somebody who has nearly completed nine sessions, but hasn’t done a key topic, we will try to introduce it. (Of course we might plan something like that, and then the person misses that session.) Sometimes people do repeat an exercise (e.g., Light and Live-lies, Broken Squares, and the Violence, and Peace Trees), especially people who have graduated. One of the good things about AVP, however, is that each time we do an exercise, we learn something new. None of the participants have complained about having to do an exercise another time. The person who has done 20 sessions has done some of the major exercises three (maybe four) times.

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What are the 5 styles of conflict management?

I find the five styles of conflict management a useful, easy-to-understand way of thinking about different approaches to ways of responding to conflict:

  1. Avoiding (the Turtle)
  2. Confronting (the Shark)
  3. Accommodating (the Teddy Bear)
  4. Compromising (the Fox)
  5. Collaborating (the Owl)

These five styles, identified by Kenneth Thomas in 1971 [1] and since refined by him and his colleague Ralf Kilmann [2-5], are widely used, particularly in discussion of management styles.

According to Thomas and Kilmann, the five styles can be placed on a matrix involving two underlying dimensions: assertiveness and cooperativeness (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Five conflict management styles: assertiveness and cooperativeness matrix

I find it more helpful to think about the five styles as being on a matrix based on how important the goal is to you and how important the relationship is to you. I also like the additions of the animals as a metaphor for each of the styles. (See Figure 2.)

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Trialling an open AVP group with people recently out of prison or rehab

AVP participants having completed two newspaper towers as part of the "Masks" exercise.
Alternatives to Violence Project Masks exercise at Recovery Point

Since 2018, the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in Newcastle has been working in partnership with Samaritans’ Recovery Point, which provides support to people who have been in prison and/or alcohol and drug rehabilitation centres. We found that we needed to adapt the traditional format of AVP workshops to meet the needs of people involved with Recovery Point.

Full AVP workshops are traditionally offered as a closed group (meaning that once the workshop starts, new people can’t join the group) of at least 18 hours (usually over 2 or 3 days). Because of other pressures and priorities in people’s lives (including finding housing, medical or legal appointments, anxiety), we found that full-day workshops at Recovery Point were too big a commitment. When we held them weekly over 9 or 10 weeks, however, many of the participants missed two or more sessions meaning that they didn’t complete the required 18 hours. We thus decided to trial weekly 2-hour AVP sessions as an open group (where people could join any week) and, once participants complete 9 weeks (i.e., 18 hours), they receive a Basic-level certificate. (There are three levels of AVP workshops: Basic, Advanced and Training for Facilitators.)

Having completed 35 sessions this year and having 15 people graduate, we are confident in saying the trial has been a success.

A total of 54 people have attended one or more sessions. Usually if people complete more than two sessions, they go on to graduate. Twenty-one people attended only one or two sessions and eight have attended four or five sessions before stopping. There are a range of reasons why this happens: some of them have moved away, for some there has been a crisis or a major change in their circumstances (e.g., they got a job or returned to prison or rehab), and some (if they only attended one or two sessions) found that AVP wasn’t for them. A few people have stopped coming for now, but plan to return (e.g., once they have secured housing or other things in their life settle down). Recovery Point also often support medical and other university or TAFE students on placement and 10 students have attended a few sessions while they have been on placement.

As already mentioned, 15 people have graduated (meaning they have attended at least nine sessions) and a further eight have attended sessions recently and are on their way to graduating. Once they graduate, participants are welcome to keep attending and five people have attended 12 or more sessions (including one who has attended 20 sessions) because they appreciate the ongoing support.

One of the foundations of AVP is “community building” and the main concern we had about trialling AVP as an open group was that we would not be able to build community to the same extent. We now feel the open group builds community as successfully as the traditional group. New people are incorporated into the group quickly; in fact we feel that it happens more quickly than the start of a traditional workshop. We start each session as follows:

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My daughter was arrested

Alexa Stuart, my 19-year-old daughter, was arrested today along with Ivy Lane (17), Oliver Rowe (19), Frederick Beiboer (16) and Matilda Ramsey (17) when they refused to leave the Newcastle office of Whitehaven Coal after delivering a cease and desist letter.

In 2015, world leaders agreed to try to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees to limit the disastrous consequences of climate change. In releasing the Emissions Gap Report 2022: The Closing Window – Climate crisis calls for rapid transformation of societies in the lead up to COP27 (which starts today), the UN General Secretary warned that:

Under current policies, the world is headed for 2.8 degrees of global heating by the end of the century. In other words, we are headed for a global catastrophe.

Decades of denial, inaction, and delay mean that the older generations (like mine) are leaving coming generations (like Alexa) a huge environmental, economic and social calamity. We have so badly failed our children.

Having been involved in climate action since she was 15, and seeing their calls ignored, Alexa feels she has no choice but to increase the pressure and take stronger action in a desperate attempt to motivate politicians, business, and other leaders to address climate change as an emergency.

While we wish this type of action was not needed, Alexa has our full support and we are very proud of her commitment and dedication.

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