Reflections after Week 3 of an open AVP Basic workshop

Posters on flip chart with the agenda and feedback

We’ve completed 3 sessions of our experiment with an open Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Basic workshop. Unfortunately, a COVID outbreak in Newcastle meant we had to cancel tomorrow’s session so we won’t be back until 11 January 2022.

The third session went very well and it was a great session. Even though only one person has been to every session, it still felt like we had built quite a lot of community. At the first session we had 8 participants, at the second there were 10 people (5 of whom were new) and at the third we had 7 people (3 of whom were new). The variation in attendance suggests that, with the people we hoping to attract, having it as an open group (where people can attend when they feel up to it) is important.

We aren’t sure of all the reasons people have missed sessions, but some of them have had other important things on or there were crises in their lives. We expect quite a few people will start the workshop and not be able to finish it, but that is OK. While it would be better if participants could attend every session, the sporadic attendance suggests that for, at least some people, it is important to provide participants with the flexibility they need.

While there is no doubt that some of the group could do well in the normal structure of our workshops, others of them could not. People who attend regularly will help provide stability and create the foundation for a sense of community, which will make it easier for new people to integrate into the workshop.

A poster on flip chart showing a mountain next to the ocean with people doing a variety of things like walking or climbing the mountain, looking out from the top of the mountain, lazing under a beach umbrella, swimming, and mediating.

At the start of the workshop we use a poster saying “The journey is yours…” to explain that where they are on their life journey or where they are in the workshop is OK. They might be very involved (e.g., climbing the mountain), they might be at the top of the mountain looking around, they might be chilling out. We will not judge them wherever they are. If we take this commitment seriously, it feels appropriate to accept that some people might start the workshop but not finish it, and to give them flexibility in how they attend.

Another advantage is that it will allow people to start a workshop as soon as they ready. When we have closed workshops with a set starting date, people often have to wait weeks (if not months) before they can join a workshop. With this way of doing it, as soon as they are ready or motivated, they can start. I think this will be very valuable.

Despite the fact that out of the 11 people in the third workshop, 4 were facilitators, 3 were new, 3 had joined the second session and only 1 had attended all three, we still felt there was a much greater sense of community than the first session. The feedback was very positive and we had some deep discussion.

One of the participants was not very engaged (e.g., checking his phone lots) and passed on most activities. During the session feedback we asked him if it was ok to ask what could have made the workshop better for him. He was happy to answer and said that he felt uncomfortable having to be in front of people. He might become more involved, or he might decide that workshop is not for him, or he might keep coming and not be very involved. I feel we need to allow him to make the decision. We might ask that if he comes he stays off the phone, but it is his decisions how involved he wants to be.

A few people didn’t like the affirmation names, where we add a positive adjective (that starts with the same letter or rhymes with) our given name, and we need to explain better why we do it and encourage them to give it a go. But again, we will respect their right to pass and not to give themselves one. I find there can be a subtle balance between encouraging participants to join in and respecting their right to pass.

The facilitation team spent quite a while discussing whether we would introduce Transforming Power before we took a few weeks off or wait until we came back. We decided to introduce it this coming week, but with the cancellation of the next session, it will have to wait until next year. I think we will need to spend a bit of time rebuilding a sense of community and regrouping when we meet again.

At this early stage, I feel very positive about our new approach. In fact, we think we will need to start another group to provide a bit of flexibility with time, and because we think this group will become too big.

One challenge will be to manage numbers. Even though we haven’t had more than 10 participants in a workshop, 16 people have attended at least one workshop. Including the four facilitators, if everybody showed up to the one session, it would be 20 people and (due to COVID restrictions) the workshop has to be limited to 16 people (including facilitators). We are going to need to develop a system to ensure that the workshops don’t get too big.

Even without COVID restrictions I think limiting the workshop to 16 is a good idea. It isn’t too big, and allows us to cope if we sometimes get a few extra people.

Of course, it is far too early to tell if this approach is going to be successful, but after three sessions, I feel hopeful.

The other facilitators are Annette Hoffman, Zoe Griffiths and Jacob Cummins.

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

  1. Offering Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops as an open group
  2. What are Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops?
  3. Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) flyer
  4. Offering Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops as an open group
  5. Moving Experiential Peace Workshops Online
  6. 20 tips for an online workshop
  7. An interactive exercise exploring parenting styles

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) and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Reflections after Week 3 of an open AVP Basic workshop

  1. Anne Wallace-DiGarbo says:

    Are the workshops “in-person” or online or hybrid?


    • Hi Anne, Sorry, haven’t been to my blog recently. They are in-person, so we have to limit it to know more than 16 people in the room so we can socially distance. Newcastle is in a bit of an outbreak of COVID at the moment, so we aren’t sure what will happen when we are due to go back in 2 weeks.


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