A Brief History of Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)
The all-volunteer Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) started in 1975 and continues today as a private, non-profit educational corporation funded entirely by donations. A group of inmates in Greenhaven Prison in New York requested a local Quaker group to provide them with non-violence training so that they, in turn, could be prepared to counsel under-age offenders in an experimental mentoring program. From Greenhaven, the program spread to other prisons and eventually programs for communities and other institutions were developed. Although started by Quakers, AVP is non-sectarian.
Fundamental to the program is the idea that we are all good and capable. It is an experiential process, one of seeking and sharing, knowing that we all have our own answers. AVP is designed to help participants find those answers. The topics and exercises are centered around a number of AVP “principles” that are experienced in the workshop. These include:
- Affirmation of ourselves and others—the ability to recognize our qualities and our goodness and find these in others.
- Community skills—trust, respect of others (and self), and inclusion.
- Co-operation—team work by compromising personal wants for the benefit of the group, trying to seek win-win solutions.
- Conflict resolution—Finding a common ground and letting “Transforming Power” (see box) work through us for a non-violent solution.
- Communications—listening with caring attention, speaking with clarity, ownership rather than blaming, and awareness of body language.