Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Workshops
We live in a violent society.... and violence comes in many forms besides the physical side. Violence knows no class, racial, economic or geographical boundaries.
The Alternatives to Violence Project seeks to reduce the violence in society by reducing the felt need to resort to violence as a solution to problems.
 History and background:
The program began in 1975 when an inmate group felt the need of non-violence training in preparation for up coming roles as counsellors in an experiential program working to deter delinquent-prone youth from prison.   The inmates asked a local Quaker group for this training which formed the basis of the program that later became AVP.
 The program evolved to include workshops both in prisons and in community with objective to empower men, women and youth to manage conflict in non-violent ways.
 AVP workshops are held in Canada and in 50+ countries around the world.
The Alternatives to Violence Project is a non-sectarian, non-profit organization funded through donations, grants, and workshop registration fees paid by community participants (for those who can afford).   

Look for and affirm one another’s good points
Refrain from put-downs of ourselves and others
Listen to what each person has to say
Volunteer yourself only
Observe confidentiality
Everyone has the right to pass
State your needs

Statement of values and philosophy of the project (essential for the spirit the workshop engenders):

honours that something of good in all people (a principle referred to as Transforming Power)
experiential learning format (if a picture worth a thousand words, experience – a million)

“Ours is a process of seeking and sharing, and not of teaching.  We do not bring answers to the people we work with.  We do not have their answers.  But we believe that their answers lie buried in the same place as their questions and their problems –within themselves.  Our job is to provide a stimulus and a ‘seeker-friendly’ environment to encourage them to search within themselves for solutions.  People come with lifetimes of experience behind them.  We believe that all experience is valuable [to learn from]…We try to draw out those experiences and help people to look at them.  In doing so, we are ourselves in a constant process of learning… We try to make AVP an opportunity to examine life and make it more worth living [in respectful ways to self and others].”

all volunteer – facilitators and participants (no one mandated to participate)
team work
decision making by consensus
community building in groups of 10 to 20 participants

 The Basic AVP Workshop uses a series of step-by-step processes in an intensive, 2 + day learning experience.  Large group, small groups and one-to-one interactions build a sense of community and trust through exercises focusing on the following objectives:

Affirmation -- Building self esteem and confidence
Communication -- Improving both listening skills and assertive methods of expression.
Co-operation -- Developing co-operative attitudes that avoid competitive conflicts.
Creative Conflict Resolution -- Getting in touch with the inner Transforming Power to resolve violence. Role-plays provide an opportunity to explore this power and learn new and creative ways to respond to real life conflicts in our lives.

AVP workshops seek to assist individuals in personal growth and change, AVP is not psychotherapy.
Participants evaluate each workshop session and the overall experience.  These evaluations assist in accomplishing workshop objectives.  AVP reports are for planning purposes only and are not circulated outside of the organization.  In prison workshops certificates have no influence with the Parole Board unless positive on-going changes in behaviour are noticed by the authorities.  Facilitators are responsible for providing feedback, encouragement and affirmation to apprentices and team members for the purpose of on going growth and improvement in skills.  Affirmation is provided to participants (building on strengths), but no reporting is given due to the voluntary nature of the program.
Participants have said the following about the AVP experience:

I learned to use the tools that AVP taught me in my everyday life. I am a new man and I love it. Transforming Power really works. I have begun life anew.
Through the program I learned communication with my family and friends that I never thought existed.... I learned trust again.
Friends asked me why I attended an AVP workshop, since I didn’t seem like a violent person. The fact is, a lot of violence I carry is directed towards myself in the form of self- criticism. AVP is helping me see that and is helping me change.

The actual technique of conflict resolution centers around a "medallion"  has three layers:
 The outer ring is divided into three. These are the basic guidelines with which to approach conflict:
First: "Think before reacting".
Second: "Expect the best".
Third: "Work for the win-win solution".
 The middle ring is divided into two:
"Respect Yourself" and
"Care about Others".
 At the center of the whole medallion is something called "Transforming Power". It is a principle of AVP that each and every person is of great value and, accordingly, deserving of understanding and respect. At the deepest level of human being, which various traditions refer to by different names there is, we hold, a motivation to goodness. This motivation is all too often blocked or forgotten. When allowed to work through us, it can manifest as the power to transform violent situations into peaceful ones. AVP works to reveal the Transforming Power that each person has to promote peace and justice.
Here is another way of thinking of transforming power…
 A former facilitator, Martin Hattersley liked to use this analogy.  “A bare electric wire can give a shock that will kill if it is touched.  Wrap it around with insulation, and it can give power to light a house, or a city.  So, these layers, of self-esteem and care, of positive thought and action, provide the insulation that transforms our energy from potentially dangerous violence into constructive solutions”.
 What time commitment do participants need to make to complete the AVP workshops?
Workshops times vary so contact the nearest Area Council for information. 
 INMATE Participant Reporting
At the closing of the AVP workshops when Certificates of Completion are presented, we are sometimes asked by participants, whether or not we could provide a written report for them.  We respond that because we are volunteers and are not making presentations in an “official professional capacity” and because we make a commitment to participants to maintain confidentiality within the group (what is said in group, stays in group),  we do not provide individual reports.  
Instead, we stress the importance of taking personal responsibility in making real changes to behaviour and attitudes and we remind participants, that it is only real changes, in the longer term, which are noticed by, and carry any weight with authorities.  We encourage participants to share their perceptions and learnings with their correctional team who are in the best position to monitor their progress.  
What’s next after a Basic Workshop?
Those who complete the basic workshop receive a certificate and are able to take a "second level" workshop.  Through the process of consensus, the group chooses a topic(s) for exploration and understanding.
After completion of a Level II workshop, those who wish to become facilitators take a "Training for Facilitators" workshop, after which they may begin as apprentice facilitators on teams with experienced facilitators.
Feedback from Participants
 “When I viewed AVP through the windows, I thought it was a joke. I didn’t understand it and I didn’t care to either. After I went through AVP the first two days, I respected it to a point. The people around me in the workshop made me feel it was something a person could really believe in. You could let your guard down, express yourself and not be criticized or threatened in any way. This was the first time I had experienced this. Every time I would talk to someone there was some kind of threat coming back, except with AVP. The people in the workshop made me feel so comfortable; I could let my guard down. This was one program that made me look at myself and at another person without disrespecting them. That is how it has affected me.”
“All my life, negativity has been around me. I am negativity. It has created me. My thoughts were negative. When I dealt with other people, it was in a negative realm, even when I tried to do what I thought was right. AVP took out the negative and put in positive. It gave me new avenues to view, new alternatives, other ways to see things. Where as before, I saw everyone as a potential enemy. Like most of us here, we came from a war zone, America is a war zone. You have to look at life as a soldier, every day. Now I sit back and look at the world in a different way with a different perspective. I wasn’t into male bonding, but now I look at that in a totally different light.”
“Before AVP I only thought about violence, there was no second option. AVP saved my life, it gave me another option. The violence in my life got worse and worse. I spent most of my 11 years in prison in the hole. I am not a sensitive, caring, understanding individual, but this program has really had an impact on me. During my first basic as a trainer, there were a number of inmates there whom I had been very violent to before. I knew if I was to be a role model, to live AVP, I had to apologize to them for what I had done. It was odd to apologize to someone I had defeated and who had pleaded for his life to me. Some friends got out of maximum for having beat up some correctional officers and came to me anxious to get some action. I explained to them that that type of activity was not me anymore. You could see the hurt in their eyes and it hurts me because I know I cannot do it and I cannot allow them to do it. It is a whole different world, it’s different for me. When I was a warrior, I fought with all the tools I could fight with. I learned to be the best that I could be. Now to be a warrior for nonviolence, I had to learn the tools of AVP.”
“There is good in everyone. We have not known how to see that good without being perceived as weak and vulnerable. AVP showed me how to reach down and see it, to tap that guy that has always wanted to come out but was afraid to come out. When growing up, if you couldn’t fight, you were a cast-a-way. Being tough was the thing. When I became an adult, I should have outgrown it, but it became a learned behavior and I carried it into my marriage and I lost it all. When I see someone now, I see them with a different perspective. I’m looking for something good, whereas before I was looking at all the negative things in someone. It’s a great program.”
 “I went into the workshop as a pessimist and I came out a changed person. I was alive, I was actually alive. I liked what I saw in myself. It was a real high and I’ve been doing it for two years and I love that feeling; and to see other people awakened in the workshops, to see their lives change.”
 "I had been in every group in the institution and they were all generic. They gave the same information. There were very few solutions offered. When you are given the information without the solution, you are still lost. AVP gave me some concrete solutions."
 "Thank you for showing us how to divert our violent attitudes into a positive and peaceful outcome. Peace of mind is so hard to find these days. By some miracle, I found it here in the AVP program. I looked inside of me and found a loving and caring me."
 "If there is such a thing as a miraculous change in an individual, I can truthfully say that it was during my involvement with AVP that I began to grow from a person filled with hate, anger, and despair, into a person who believes he too is responsible for the protection, preservation and enrichment of humanity."Read more



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