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Alternatives to Violence Project in Australia

Nonviolent Relationships
Conflict Transformation
Community Building
Self esteem


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  The Alternatives to Violence Project

What is AVP?

Who is AVP for?

AVPís Mission
and Purpose

History of AVP
How did AVP originate?

AVP Philosophy
How does AVP work

AVP Workshops
What are they ?

Basic Workshop

Advanced Workshop

AVP Facilitators

Structure of AVP
How is AVP Organised ?

AVP Booklet


c   What is the Alternatives to Violence Project† (AVP)† ?

  • It is a program of experiential workshops, helping people change their lives
  • It is a community program, offering a new approach for community groups, social service agencies, youth organisations and individuals who would like to learn
  • It is a school program, called the Help Increase Peace (HIP) offering a new approach to teachers, counsellors and students on conflict resolution skills
  • It is a prison program, helping inmates learn new skills and attitudes that can help lead to fulfilling and nonviolent lives
  • It is a program for everybody, drawing its participants and its facilitators from all religions, cultures, races and walks of life
  • It is a personal program, using our own experiences to explore how we personally respond to other people and to consider new ways of relating to others. The focus is not on dealing with or mediating other peopleís conflicts
  • It is an intensive learning experience, offering two or three day workshops on two levels:
    1.†† The Basic Workshop,††and
    2.†† The Advanced Workshop
  • It is based on
      -†† Our power to transform
      -†† Respecting ourselves
      -†† Caring for others
      -†† Expecting the best
      -†† Thinking before reacting
      -†† Seeking a nonviolent way.
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c   Who will be interested in or benefit from AVP ?

The level of violence in our society is of wide concern. Many people are caught in a cycle of violence as victims and/or perpetrators. Violence occurs in many forms, physical, verbal, emotional and psychological. It can be "high level" violence that makes headlines and generates wide-spread fear and apprehension, or the "low level" bullying, criticism, put-downs, denegration, exclusion, discrimination, and disrespect that harms in more subtle and hidden ways.

AVP is of value to anyone whose life is affected by violence.
  • people in relationships
  • family members
  • children
  • parents
  • anyone who would like to change
  • anyone who has been violent and who wants to change their violent or angry response to conflict
  • victims who want to respond to violence and anger differently
  • teachers
  • team leaders
  • social workers
  • counsellors
  • youth workers
just to mention a few

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c   AVPís Mission

The Alternatives to Violence Project is a network of volunteers offering experiential workshops.† These workshops empower individuals to liberate themselves and others from the burden of violence.

The fundamental belief is that there is a power for peace and good in everyone, and that this power has the ability to transform violence.

The Alternatives to Violence Project builds upon a spiritual basis of respecting and caring for self and others.† It is working both in prisons and with groups in the community.

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c††† History of AVP - How did AVP originate?

The Alternatives to Violence Project began in 1975 with a group of inmates, the Think Tank, in a New York prison who were working with youth gangs and young offenders. They asked some visiting Society of Friends (Quakers) to help develop workshops exploring nonviolent relationships.

The process they used grew out of the nonviolence principles and experiential learning methods developed to train marshals in how to keep peace marches and demonstrations nonviolent during the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam Moratorium campaigns. They also drew on the experience of the Children's Creative Response to Conflict (CCRC) program which was using experiential learning processes for teaching nonviolent conflict resolution to primary school students.

After several years, the need for community workshops was realised as demand developed from community groups not related to prisons. By 1987, AVP was running 150 workshops a year in New York and New Jersey. In 1989/90, workshops were started in Britain and Croatia, AVP is now active in more than 35 countries, including Nigeria, under the sponsorship of the International Red Cross, and recently in Rwanda.

In 1991, the AVP program was brought to Australia by the Society of Friends (Quakers), when an AVP facilitator from New York lead the first Australian facilitiator team in Queensland. AVP in Australia has been steadily growing ever since, and is now a network of grass-roots volunteer organisations in each Australian state and territory.

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c   The Philosophy of the AVP

How does AVP work? AVP is based on several insights.

  • Within each of us, there is a power for good and a potential to transform conflict
  • In any situation, there are nonviolent alternatives to violent responses to conflict.
  • Every culture has its own range of nonviolent alternatives to violence in response to conflict.
  • Each of us has the option to choose our response to each experience of conflict.
The key features of AVP workshops are:-
  • Voluntarism - no one participates on a mandated basis, and the facilitators are unpaid volunteers
  • Teamwork - there is always a team of several facilitators of diverse background and life experience, with shared leadership and no guru
  • Diversity - the participants come from a range of ages, cultures, walks of life, and interests, and bring a wealth of life experience to the workshop.
  • A safe learning environment is maintained by group agreement:-
    • no put-downs
    • affirm oneself and others
    • listen and don't interrupt
    • respect confidentiality
    • volunteer oneself only, speak from the "I"
    • everyone has the right to pass if that is the right thing for them at that time
  • Reliance on Transforming Power
  • Experiential rather than conceptual focus
  • A holistic focus, recognising the spiritual dimension of the person, rather than a behavioristic or rigidly rule-governed focus
  • Building community is an integral part of the workshop process
  • Fun and laughter is an integral part of the workshop process
  • A varied pace, generally brisk, but with time for reflection
  • Feedback throughout the workshop, with session evaluation and activity debriefing.

adapted from: Garver & Reitan 1995 Nonviolence and Community:
Reflections on the Alternatives to Violence Project
, Pendle Hill

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c   AVP Workshops - What are they ?

Each 20 to 25 hour workshop consists of between four to nine sessions over two and a half to three days. Each session consists of a variety of activities that help to build self-esteem, a sense of community and trust. The group practices basic skills and appropriate strategies before getting into conflict resolution and role plays. Quick activities are included to lighten the mood and energise the group. AVP facilitation uses an experiential process of learning . Each activity includes time for participants to reflect on and share the learnings that took place for them.

There are two levels of AVP workshop. In the Basic workshop, the group progressively explores the AVP "building blocks" of conflict transformation, and applies them to realistic scenarios, usually using a role play. The Advanced workshop explores a consensus process and then explores the selected topic to greater depth.

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c   How does the Basic Workshop work ?

The Basic Alternatives to Violence workshop focuses on attitudes and skills which help resolve conflicts.

  • Step-by-step experiences and exercises explore:
    • Affirmation - Building self-esteem and trust
    • Community Building - Establishing and nurturing connections with others in a group
    • Communication - Improving both listening skills and assertive methods of expression
    • Co-operation - Developing co-operative attitudes that avoid competitive conflicts
    • Trust - Developing confidence to share and to change
    • Creative Conflict Transformation - Getting in touch with our inner power to transform situations and ourselves
  • Alternatives to Violence workshops seek to assist individuals in personal growth and change.
  • AVP is not therapy or counselling.
  • Each workshop is limited to between 10 to 15 participants.
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c   How does the Advanced Workshop work ?

The Advanced Alternatives to Violence workshop focuses on things which contribute to violence.

  • Some of the common themes explored are:
    • Fear- Reveals the hidden fears that underline anger, jealousy and prejudice
    • Anger- Results in a deeper understanding of the personal situations that trigger anger
    • Communication - Develops communication skills and the ability to communicate in tense and stressful situations
    • Stereotyping - Builds awareness of stereotyping, bias and prejudice in personal relations
    • Power and Powerlessness - Helps individuals understand power structures and get in touch with their inner power
    • Forgiveness - Builds the groundwork for true reconciliation and freedom from guilt.
  • Participants must have completed a Basic workshop.
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c   How to become a facilitator ?

AVP Facilitators are volunteers.† If you are interested in becoming an AVP facilitator, ask your AVP group coordinator / registrar or your workshop facilitator how to go about it.

Begin by participating in the Basic AVP workshop and an Advanced AVP workshop. If you would like to become an AVP facilitator, discuss it with some facilitators.† For aspiring facilitators, AVP provides training, including an introductory Training for Facilitators workshop focused on developing team leadership methods and group process skills, followed by experience as an apprentice facilitator on the team for several Basic workshops.

There are also many other ways you can support and contribute to the AVP program.

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c   The Structure of AVP - How is AVP Organised ?

The structure of the Alternatives to Violence Project is based on grass-roots local groups of volunteer AVP facilitators and supporters, linked together for support.

AVP International is a support community of AVP groups across the world. Bi-annual AVP International Gatherings are held in different countries (Nigeria in 2002 and New Zealand in 2004). The local groups in each country are organised together in differing ways.

In Australia, there are autonomous local groups of volunteers in each Australian state and territory. They run AVP workshops in their region. Some of these groups are incorporated, and some have tax deductible charity status. AVP Australia is a support community of groups providing support and sharing experiences, training and resources. AVP Australia has a national website, an annual National Gathering and a range of facilitator support activities and resources.

Members of each group are mainly facilitators who have graduated from the three levels of workshop and have remained in AVP to facilitate workshops and/or participate in the organisation of these workshops. The committee, membership and organisational structure of varies in each group. Each group has a different mix of prison, community and HIP school workshops.


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c   AVP Booklet

There is an excellent booklet about AVP, written by two AVP facilitators from New York.†† Nonviolence and Community - Reflections on the Alternatives to Violence Project, is a 44 page booklet describing the practical elements of AVP workshops and exploring the basis of the AVP approach.

You may be able to get one at a workshop (cost $6.00), or order one by post (cost $7.00) from your local AVP group or from AVP(NSW).

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© AVP 2003, 2005          www.avp.org.au