Offering Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops as an open group

The facilitators: Annette, Zoe, Jacob and Graeme

We have started a series of weekly, 2-hour Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops in partnership with the Samaritans’ Recovery Point. Recovery Point provides support to people who are leaving prison and/or alcohol & drug rehabilitation centres and they have been offering AVP for a while.

Normally AVP workshops are closed groups (i.e., once the workshop has started, new people are not able to join the group) and are normally held over 2 or 3 days to make up the required 18 hours. In the past we have offered weekly sessions over 4 to 7 days to make the workshops more accessible to people who can’t devote a full day to the workshop (e.g., parents of young children).

While the sessions we have started at the Recovery Point are shorter than we have tried before, the main difference is that the group is an open group, which means that participants can start any week and don’t need to come every week. We think this approach will work better for some of the people who are part of Recovery Point. Transitioning from prison or rehabilitation can be a very a challenging process and life often gets in the way of plans. We hope that giving participants flexibility in how regularly they attend AVP will make it easier for them and give them greater control over their experience.

We will keep a record of attendance and, once participants have completed 18 hours and covered all the key topics in an AVP workshop, they will be given a certificate for a Basic workshop. They will then be welcome to attend a normal Advanced and Training for Facilitators workshop if they are interested.

We believe that this approach is consistent with some of the foundations of AVP including the voluntary nature of the workshops and participants right to pass. We are essentially extending the right to pass from an exercise to a session.

Another foundation of AVP is community building, and the community building in an open group is different to that of a closed group. We are sure that we will be able to build a strong sense of community still, and that the sense of community might even become stronger. Rather than the community dissolving after an 18-hour workshop, these groups could keep going for years and, like most communities, people will come and go.

The first session went well, and we are sure there is a great deal of potential in this approach. We have to work out how we are going to manage new people joining the group and ensure they have any needed background. For example, once we introduce Transforming Power (a key part of AVP) how will we introduce AVP to new people? We also need to think about how to introduce new participants to things like the group agreements (will we need to recreate group agreements on a regular basis?), affirmation names (a positive name starting with the first letter of their name), speaking from the “I” and the philosophy behind AVP.

One possibility is meeting individually with participants the week before they join a session or having a introductory session 30 minutes before the workshop starts for the week.

Having done well over 100 AVP workshops myself, I know that every workshop is different, that there are benefits from repeating activities and that I still learn from the workshops. Thus, I don’t think there will be a problem if we offer some of the key topics or activities every couple of months or so. For facilitators, it is also going to be an opportunity to try out new exercises and to deepen our knowledge of nonviolence and conflict resolution.

We aren’t sure how the group will develop, and that is one of the things that excites me about starting this process. One of the things that I love about AVP is that it encourages flexibility and innovation in ensuring that the workshops are appropriate for the context. I hope this approach is going to make AVP more accessible to people who might otherwise not attend.

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. Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) flyer
  3. The Alternatives to Violence Project: Reflections on a strengths-based approach to nonviolent relationships and conflict resolution
  4. An interactive exercise exploring parenting styles
  5. Creating a safe space for a workshop on Zoom
  6. Conflict resolution and nonviolence workshops with young people

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.
This entry was posted in Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), Facilitation & teaching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Offering Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops as an open group

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am a AVP Facilitator from NY just moved to Port St Lucie Florida

    Liked by 1 person

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