Exploring the impact of Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)

(Image: Pixabay)

Although the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) began in 1975 and has since spread to over 50 countries around the World, there has been little formal research or evaluation done in relation to its impact.

In the context of an increasing emphasis on evidence-based practice and evidence-based programs there has been increasing pressure to be able to demonstrate that AVP does make a measurable impact.

While AVP practices and processes mean that AVP workshops are recognisable anywhere in the world, their is a great deal of variation from group to group, and workshop to workshop. Evidence-based programs often have clear program guides and standardised agendas so that there is a consistent agenda, structure and process (to help maintain program fidelity). AVP, on the other hand, involves a broad approach and no set agenda, AVP manuals include a wide range of activities that can be selected depending on context, and facilitators are free to add other material as needed.

This variety and flexibility means that the workshops are easily adapted to different countries and contexts, but it means that outcomes are unlikely to be consistent and it makes it harder to state, “This is the impact of AVP.”

The AVP International Research team, which I’m part of, is exploring how we can measure the impact of workshops, while maintaining the experiential, flexible approach of the workshops.

We are starting by develop a program logic which will help explain why we believe AVP makes a difference. Program logic models are like “road maps” which show how an initiative works and why we believe that if we do certain things, we will get the results we are working towards. They essentially show the relationship between program resources (the inputs), activities, outputs, and short- and longer-term outcomes for a specific initiative. By encouraging us to identify the outcomes, the program logic can help shape research and evaluation.

Our first step was thinking about what sort of short-term outcomes we might see when people finish a workshop or series of workshops. Drawing on some work done in Britain around 2011 (Alternatives to Violence Project (Britain): an overview of theory and evidence) and some other work various people have done, we suggest that the short term outcomes of AVP are:

  1. People increase their self-awareness
  2. People increase their sense of self-esteem and self-efficacy
  3. People strengthen their communication skills including their listening skills
  4. People develop their capacity for trust, empathy and cooperation
  5. People are better able to constructively express and manage their anger
  6. People improve their ability to solve problems and to transform conflict using alternatives to violence
  7. People value and build community.

Because of the experiential nature of AVP, these outcomes will not necessarily apply to everybody, but they are the types of outcomes we could expect to see.

The next step will be to think about how we can measure these short-term outcomes (any suggestions would be welcome!) We are looking for a range of tools and processes including:

  • Standardised surveys or questionnaires
  • Self-developed surveys or questionnaires
  • Pre and post measures
  • Closed or open-ended questions for surveys or questionnaires
  • Questions for focus groups or one-on-one interviews
  • Creative ways of identifying impact.

This will be a long-term project because the wide variety of contexts and approaches means that it could be challenging to develop a program logic and measurements that are widely supported. Fortunately we are not looking for one approach to evaluation but, like the workshop manuals, intend to identify a range of processes that can be adapted to different contexts.

If you have suggestions for any tools or measures, please add them to the comments.

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

  1. What are Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops?
  2. The Alternatives to Violence Project: Reflections on a strengths-based approach to nonviolent relationships and conflict resolution
  3. Strengths-based measurement
  4. What is evidence-based practice?
  5. What are evidence-based programs?
  6. Rethinking the roles of families and clients in evidence-based practice

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.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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