The AVP program teaches through experiential learning with a minimum of lecture. The AVP workshops consist of a series of structured experiences or exercises. Intellectual knowledge is generally not very useful in the midst of conflict, but repeating nonviolent behavior that has been previously practiced is helpful. Role plays are a key focus of AVP Basic Workshops. They help participants discover new ways to deal with conflict nonviolently and give them an opportunity to practice new behavior.
The best way to kill the program is to require people to attend it.
A fundamental requirement is voluntary participation in the program on both an individual and an institutional level. When the program is required or imposed by others, the probability of its leading to personal growth is quite low. Sometimes in spite of our best efforts to prevent coercion or the appearance of coercion, prison inmates register in our workshops because they are, or believe they are, under institutional pressure to do so as a condition of parole or for eligibility for institutional privileges. Should this motive become the norm, most of our prison workshops would be unsuccessful. We find, however, that most participants decide very early that they have more to gain from an AVP workshop than a certificate for their parole file. From that point on, their participation is voluntary.
The process works by itself.
Over a period of years, AVP has evolved a structure, a process and a set of exercises for workshops that really work. If the leaders stick to the process, the process will work with good leadership, with ordinary leadership and, sometimes, with bad leadership. It has been said any organization can prosper with great and charismatic leadership, but only a great organization can prosper with ordinary leadership. AVP seeks to develop great leaders, but it is not dependent on them.
The true source of nonviolence is spiritual power. We call this Transforming Power.
AVP leaders recognize that it takes more than mere techniques and skits to defuse nonviolence. Facilitators seek to stay in touch with their spiritual power and to allow this power to transform their lives. Transforming Power is the power we have within ourselves to move a situation in a positive direction toward resolution of conflict, or in a negative direction which may end in violence.
The AVP program is a ‘win-win-win-win’ model.
AVP participants, whether in prison or in the community, win because they get the training they need to cope with violence, both their own and others’.
AVP facilitators win because they have an opportunity to develop and improve their leadership skills and to gain new insights about themselves, other people, and a nonviolent life.
Prison administrators and staff win by hosting a program that can improve the level of cooperative and nonviolent behavior in their institutions, making their jobs more rewarding.
Communities win because community life is enhanced when their members learn new skills to manage violence and gain a new commitment to community life.
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