The struggle of trying to write

I’ve been struggling with my writing for a while now. Although my blogging varies quite a lot depending on how busy I am, I usually average five to six blog posts a month. So far this year, I’ve only averaged two a month.

I feel like I go into thick mode when I sit down to write. It’s the classic sense of not having the necessary ability, being distracted, and experiencing raging self-doubt. I really don’t feel like I’m a great writer. I’m pretty good at summarising concepts and writing reports, but I really struggle with storytelling or introducing a creative element in my writing.

The real barrier, however, is a sense of unworthiness and inadequacy. What do I really have to say? Who am I to say it? And this is coming from a position of privilege as a white, well-educated, middle class male who has essentially cruised through life. Actually, this is one of the things that undermines my confidence. Do we really need to hear from another white, well-educated, middle class male? Continue reading

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Voluntary participation in group work – the example of Alternatives to Violence Project

An important foundation of AVP is that it is based on voluntary participation [1, 2]. We expect that workshop participants have made a choice to come to the workshop and generally do not accept mandatory referrals (e.g., court orders). At times, however, the voluntary nature of participation is debatable. If a court has “recommended” that someone does a workshop or if a child protection agency has suggested that it would help a parent regain custody of their child if they do a workshop, clearly a person may feel they have little or no choice.

According to AVP [1] “Our workshops are about personal growth, and people can only grow when they choose to do so themselves” (p. 3). Given that the workshops are based on a philosophy of nonviolence, recognising people’s right, and ability, to make decisions for themselves is an important foundation. We are promoting an approach which cares for others and that avoids coercion, so we need to model it ourselves.

Being mandated or “strongly encouraged” to attend, however, does mean that some people access the workshops who otherwise would not. When participants feel they have been coerced into coming, we encourage them to make a decision about what they will do, and are careful we that we do not react in a negative way, or overreact, to them if they are angry or testing the limits within the workshop [3]. Continue reading

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Presenting 2 papers at the Family & Relationship Services Australia conference

I’ve had two papers accepted for the Family & Relationship Services Australia conference in Cairns in November this year.

One on the Alternatives to Violence Project and one on Uni4You: the abstracts are below. If you are at the conference, please make sure you say hi.

The Alternatives to Violence Project – a strengths-based approach to nonviolent relationships and conflict resolution

Co-presenter: Gener Lapina (Alternatives to Violence Project and Family Support Newcastle)

Offering interactive, experiential workshops on nonviolent relationship and conflict resolution, the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) has been established in over 50 countries in a wide range of contexts, since starting in 1975 in a USA prison. AVP in Newcastle has adapted the workshops to work with parents and partners.

The workshops are built on a number of principles including: Continue reading

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Alternate pathways for young people who have perpetrated violence

Peace sign made out of pebbles

(Photo: Beth)

I’m excited to have been invited to join this project developed by a colleague in social work, Tamara Blakemore. I’m looking forward to building on my experience with the Alternatives to Violence Project, exploring how we can address domestic and family violence perpetrated by young people, learning from the others involved.

The following is a press release put out by the University of Newcastle last week about the project.

Practitioner academics from the University of Newcastle have been awarded $582,361 by the Australian Government, Department of Social Services (DSS) to deliver an innovative, cross-sector initiative addressing the issue of interpersonal violence in the lives of young people (10 to 17 years of age).

Led by Dr Tamara Blakemore, the initiative will involve the design, implementation and evaluation of an early intervention program. It will run over two years across the Port Stephens, Lower and Upper Hunter regions.

The program will facilitate and rely on strong interagency relationships with key partnerships in the government and non-government sector.

Continue reading

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Alternatives to Violence Project around the world – Call for chapters

Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) logoI’m part of an editorial team that is seeking proposals  for chapters for a book exploring the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) around the world. The purpose of the book is to demonstrate the flexibility of AVP and the way in which it can adapt to different contexts. It aims to:

  1. Capture the way AVP has been used and adapted around the world
  2. Highlight similarities and differences around the world
  3. Present the case for AVP as a broad approach rather than a narrow program.

Details of the timing and requirements for proposals are below.

Send submissions to avpbooks2@gmail.com

Outline of the book

While the contents will largely be shaped by the proposals for chapters received, a broad outline of the book (with content or questions that could be addressed)  is as follows: Continue reading

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Evidence-informed practice, evidence-based programs and measuring outcomes

This post is based on a workshop on evidence-informed practice, evidence-based programs and measuring outcomes that Alan Hayes, Jamin Day and I facilitated for the Combined Upper Hunter Interagencies. The slides from the workshop are above or you can download them here. It was quite a long workshop so this is a long post. It includes:

  1. An introduction to evidence-based practice
  2. How the nature of complex problems suggests a slightly different approach is appropriate
  3. An introduction to evidence-informed practice
  4. What we mean by “evidence”
  5. Measuring outcomes
  6. An introduction to evidence-based programs (including a brief discussion of adaptation)
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

Introduction

There is an increasing emphasis on evidence-informed practice and evidence-based programs in family and community work. In Australia and elsewhere, government and other funders increasingly require family services to adopt evidence-based programs. For example, Communities for Children [1] —a federally funded program in 52 disadvantaged communities across Australia with a focus on improving early childhood development and wellbeing of children from birth to 12 years—now requires that 50% of the funds for direct service delivery should be used to “purchase high quality evidence-based programs” (p. 11). Another example is the NSW Targeted Earlier Intervention Program Reform [2] where the first service reform principle is: Continue reading

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Bringing Alternatives to Violence Project workshops to parents and partners

One of the strengths of Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops is that they can be easily be adapted to many contexts. Rather than being a set, inflexible program, AVP is based on a number of broad principles and practices which means facilitators are encouraged to experiment and modify the workshops depending on the group.

Since starting in 1975 in a USA prison, AVP has grown so it is now offered in over 50 countries in a wide variety of settings including in prisons, schools, universities, refugee camps and conflict zones.

In Newcastle, the Family Action Centre (University of Newcastle) and Family Support Newcastle are working with Alternatives to Violence Project to adapt the workshops so that they have a specific focus on families and parenting. We’re not aware of anybody else who has done this.

While not being a specific domestic violence program, the workshop will explore attitudes and skills that can help us be nonviolent partners and parents.

AVP workshops are built on the idea of transforming power – a power that can help us transform situations and ourselves. Transforming power is based on a number of simple ideas: Continue reading

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Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders

Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders by the Victorian Department of Environment‚ Land‚ Water and Planning.

In 2005 the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment released a three part resource on Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholder.

In 2015, it was re-released by the Department of Environment‚ Land‚ Water and Planning (which had replaced the previous Department). It had some useful material and I often refer to it in courses I teach. I was thus quite disappointed to discover it was no longer available. Fortunately, however, I had a PDF version of each of the volumes and, as it is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence, I can make it available to others as well.

It really is too valuable a resource to lose.

Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders. Book 1: An introduction to engagementDepartment of Environment‚ Land‚ Water and Planning. (2015). Effective engagement: Building relationships with community and other stakeholders. Book 1: An introduction to engagement (4th ed.). Melbourne: State Government of Victoria. Download here. Continue reading

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Evidence-based programs in rural family services

(Photo: Pixabay)

In Australia and elsewhere, government and other funders increasingly require family services to adopt evidence-based programs. For example, Communities for Children[1]—a federally funded program in 52 disadvantaged communities across Australia with a focus on improving early childhood development and wellbeing of children from birth to 12 years—now requires that 50% of the funds for direct service delivery should be used to “purchase high quality evidence-based programs” (p. 11).

This post reflects on the experience of nine children and parenting support programs in regional and rural NSW in relation to adopting and implementing evidence-based practice. It’s based on some work I did though the Family Action Centre (University of Newcastle) did funded by the Department of Social Services through the Children and Families Expert Panel. (There’s more information and posts related to this work here.)

Evidence-based programs are programs that have research evidence demonstrating they are effective. Generally there is an expectation that evaluations of programs have included:

  • Rigorous, systematic, and objective procedures which obtain reliable and valid knowledge about the impact of the program
  • The collection and analysis of adequate data to justify the research conclusions
  • Appropriate measures that substantiate claims about improved outcomes as the result of participation in the intervention (Williams et al., 2015) [2].

There are a range of registers (e.g., the Australian Institute of Family Studies Program Profiles and the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare Program Registry) that list evidence-based programs meeting their criteria. The criteria for inclusion on these registers can vary widely.

The practitioners from rural services we worked with essentially supported the use of evidence-based programs and recognised the role they could play in service delivery. They were concerned, however, that many programs had been tested in other contexts and needed to be adapted to address the context of the families they worked with. For example evaluations undertaken in an urban setting with non-Aboriginal families, were not necessarily relevant to their work with remote Aboriginal families. Continue reading

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Transition Newcastle – some videos we used to spark an evening of conversation

At a recent Transition Newcastle evening one of our members (Stuart Carter) led us in evening of conversations around the idea of a new story for a Living Earth. After each video we had small group conversations about our reaction to the video and what practical responses we could make.

The first video set the scene by introducing some ideas from Thomas Berry about the need for us, as humans, to change our relationship with the Earth – to create a new story. (There’s an introduction to his life and work here, or you could read a lecture he gave in 1991 on the Ecozoic Era.)

The second video, a TEDx talk by Patricia Siemen, introduced the idea of recognising regal rights for Earth’s systems and creatures.

In the talk she mentions Ecuador giving constitutional rights to nature. In 2008/2009 Ecuador changed its constitution and recognised humans as being equal to all other entities (and vice versa). In 2011 it introduced 11 new rights for nature including:

  • The right to life and to exist
  • The right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration
  • The right to pure water and clean air
  • The right to balance
  • The right not to be polluted
  • The right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. (The Guardian)

She also refers to Whanganui river in New Zealand being granted the same legal rights as humans. It’s worth noting that this only happened after a 140 year struggle by the local Maori tribe.

Last year, the Conversation had an interesting article called “When a river is a person: from Ecuador to New Zealand, nature gets its day in court“.

We finished with two brief videos on alternatives to our current economic system: the first of seven videos on doughnut economics; and an introduction to the circular economy.

We had some interesting conversations and it was great to reflect on some of the issues involved. As we covered three very large topics, we didn’t really have the time to think deeply about how to respond and the implications for our lives, but it was a thought-provoking and meaningful evening.

I’d love to hear what you think of the videos.

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

  1. The paradox of inconsequence
  2. Consumption and the Transition movement
  3. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  4. Our addiction to growth
  5. Blue Men: Message to Humanity
  6. Social change and strengths-based approaches

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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