The AVP Program

The Basics


prison workshop - USA


communication skills - Johannesburg, South Africa

The Alternatives to Violence Project is a network of volunteers running workshops for anyone who wants to find ways of resolving conflict without resorting to violence. We work in the community and in prisons.

the thinking behind AVP

We understand that conflict is a natural and normal part of life, and that it is possible to learn new ways of handling it. By holding workshops in which the participants consider the underlying causes of friction and violence, practical ways of dealing with situations of conflict are worked out.

Our workshops build on everyday experiences and try to help us move away from violent or abusive behaviour by developing other ways of dealing with conflicts. They help us to increase the respect we have for ourselves and others.

Workshop Settings

AVP is for everyone, everywhere.

AVP workshops are designed to easily adapt to the particular characteristics of each setting.


AVP has been known to help reduce violence within prisons, reduce recidivism, and improve communication both among the incarcerated community and with prison authorities.

AVP workshops are being held in:
community residential facilities / halfway houses
local jails
state and federal prisons
youth detention centers


AVP has been known to help improve interpersonal relationships and reduce incidents of domestic violence.

AVP workshops are being held with:
companies and corporations
faith communities
government agencies
non-profit organisations
remote communities
rural communities
urban communities
youth groups


AVP has been known to help reduce classroom-related violence and improve playground friendships and academic skills.

AVP workshops are being held with:
children aged 4 to 8, with special curricula designed for a series of 1 ½ hour sessions
elementary / primary school children
middle and high / secondary school youth
university students

Our workshops build on everyday experiences and try to help us move away from violent or abusive behaviour by developing other ways of dealing with conflicts. They help us to increase the respect we have for ourselves and others.

How AVP Started

AVP began in 1975 in a New York prison at the request of long-term prisoners. A workshop was held for youth coming into conflict with the law. The success of this workshop quickly generated requests for more, and the programme quickly spread to many other prisons.

It soon became obvious that violence and the need for this training exists as much outside prison as within, and that everyone in all walks of life and circumstances is exposed to and participates, in some way, in violence, whether it be physical or psychological.

This programme has now spread to over 50 countries around the world, including New Zealand, Costa Rica, Israel, Russia and South Africa.

AVP began with support from the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) but the programme is non-denominational, and works in many social and religious contexts.
our principles

The Alternatives to Violence Project is an international voluntary movement which organises workshops empowering people to lead nonviolent lives, based on respecting and caring for ourselves and others.

We believe there is a power for peace and good in everyone, which can transform our relationships.
AVP is open to all ages, backgrounds and genders. Our workshops are not allied to a particular faith or sect.

About AVP Workshops

To participate in a workshop, contact your local group.


deepening communication skills - Hereford, Britain



a lively exploration of cooperation! - Orange Farm, South Africa


trust exercise to explore community - Kerala, India


using roleplay to explore conflicts - Mombasa, Kenya
An AVP basic workshop takes 2-3 full days, and explores the five pillars of AVP: affirmation, communication, co-operation, community building and transforming power.

affirmation and communication

Improving communication skills forms an essential part of our workshop. We begin with introductions, agreeing on boundaries for the workshop, sharing names, and getting to know the group.

The exercises help us improve our listening skills, and share what is good about one another (affirmation) - something we typically don't do enough of.


Learning to co-operate in a group can take different forms, even without communicating verbally!

AVP is an experiential programme - everything we do in our workshops begins with our own experiences.

Before we start discussing co-operation in the workshop, we first remind ourselves how it feels to work in a group, either co-operating with the others or not!

Reflecting on what we learn from our experiences, and listening to what others have learned, helps us to grow as a person.

community building

Group construction and trust exercises help build a sense of community, as do fun games and shared storytelling of experiences.

Doing such exercises together is fun, and also teaches us a lot about ourselves and others.

Our trained facilitators will debrief each exercise, drawing out lessons and insights from the group.

AVP workshops are great teambuilding tools - participants get to know each other much better, and build a valuable basis of trust and understanding.

transforming power

A key element of AVP is pre-emptive conflict resolution by creatively transforming unhealthy relationships through sharing, caring, improved communication skills and sometimes even surprise and humour.

Role-plays and other forms of drama allow us to explore possible approaches to different forms of conflict.

Important insights are gained through the roleplays, which are flexibly adapted and debriefed as they run, again helping us to assess and digest whatever we learn.

further workshops

An 'advanced' workshop builds on the principles of the first workshop, and each group works towards a consensus to choose topics they will explore in more detail.

Participants who have experienced our workshops and want to deepen their involvement can also train to become facilitators with AVP.

To participate in a workshop, contact your local group.

The AVP Mandala

The AVP Mandala
by Steve Angell

Presentation of Transforming Power has been a special concern of mine from my very first exposure to it in the Basic Workshop. The “TP Rap”, as we first titled it, seemed very much a lecture and out of character with the more experiential nature of the other parts of the workshop. I wanted to see something that was more visually graphic and more participatory.

The Mandala gradually developed from a poster, to a handout, to an enlarged graphic in color which could be laid out on the floor in the middle of the circle. Even so, it lacked the degree of participatory involvement that I was seeking to achieve. This, however, was assisted by coupling the presentation of Transforming Power with the exercise, “Sharing a Conflict I Solved Nonviolently”. Then when the Mandala was laid down, it was possible to refer to the stories shared as they related to the pieces of the Mandala.

I have found the Mandala a growing symbol. Just as we know that it takes water, warmth and fertile soil for a seed to grow, we have observed that the five elements surrounding Transforming Power in the middle of the Mandala are what open us up to Transforming Power and enable us to find ways to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner.

It is not my intent in this article to describe in detail what might be said to a group as the Mandala is being presented, because I think this is best developed by each individual out of his or her own experience. I would, however, like to share some of the connections I have seen which I think help individuals to better understand Transforming Power.

Personal stories are often the most powerful to tell. However, I have found the Marge Swan story particularly useful in getting the initial idea across that this is a power that comes to us if we have done the right things to open ourselves up to Transforming Power rather than just a power we can call upon whenever we want it. For those unfamiliar with this story, Marge was carrying a heavy arm load of books across a park and heard some steps approaching rapidly from behind her and figured she was about to be attacked. When she turned and looked and saw this large man beside her she thought for a moment and then expressed appreciation for him coming to help her and dropped all the books into his arms. He then took them and walked with her all the way to her apartment at which point she took back the books and thanked him for helping her out. He then said to her, “But lady, that wasn’t what I had in mind.” I tell the story and then ask the group, “Who had the power when this story started?” and “Who had it when the story ended?” It gives an excellent opportunity to point out some especially salient aspects of Transforming Power such as it is more likely to come to the person with seemingly the least power because the person with the greater power is probably used to getting what he or she wants through the use of his or her own power.

The “Expect the Best” piece offers special opportunities to provide insights into Transforming Power because the opposite of expecting the best is expecting the worst, and if we are operating out of expecting the worst, we are operating out of fear. Fear causes us to carry weapons and to be focused on violent ways of resolving conflicts. When we are dominated by fear, we are shutting off our fuller capacity to “Think Before Reacting”. Fear blocks creative thinking which is vital if we are to “Look for a Nonviolent Path”. These five elements in the Mandala are the only things that individuals can get for themselves, if they would like to be open to Transforming Power. No one else can get them for us.

Excerpts from an article that appeared in The Transformer, Summer 1994

Presenting Transforming Power
by Steve Angell

Transforming Power is the central concept in Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP). It is not a power we use but rather a power that uses us if we open ourselves to it. How we open ourselves to this power is best described in the Transforming Power mandala.

The elements in the mandala are all things that only we can do for ourselves, no one else can do them for us. Others may help us accomplish these tasks but in the final analysis the action taken is ours and it is then that we become open to a transforming response.

AVP workshops help us accomplish the application of these guides through thought provoking exercises and interpersonal activities. Under “Respect for Self”, some activities challenge us to be trusting, to risk changing ourselves, avoid self-depreciation, acknowledge the good in others, be honest, hold loving thoughts, etc. Under “Caring for Others”, we are challenged to really listen, to look for the good in others, avoid using put downs, offer help to others, be careful with our words, and in many other ways be caring. With “Expect the Best”, we look at how to accentuate the positive, trust our inner self, think positive, stay calm, speak our truth and expect inner power to succeed. In “Think Before Reacting”, we learn how to seek common ground, be patient, avoid using put downs, risk being creative, use humor appropriately, show respect, and many other needed and helpful reactions. And finally, “Asking for a Nonviolent Path” helps us with how to stay cool and positive, avoid getting caught up with fear, the importance of positive body language, avoiding negativity, willingness to suffer for what is right, ways to talk it out and many other approaches to a conflict situation.

There are times when withdrawal or avoiding involvement is the wisest way to proceed if a transforming power response is or may not be forth coming.

The definition I like to use is "Transforming Power is a power we all have, whether we know we have it or not, that allows us to change a relationship or a situation that might become violent into a nonviolent outcome."

Excerpts from an article that appeared in The Transformer, Fall 2006

AVP Core Values

The Underlying Core Values of Our AVP Organisation and Workshops

Core values are the fundamental principles that guide our actions and behaviours. The following core values, appearing in no particular order, are present throughout AVP, from our workshops to our
organisations, to our daily lives. They influence our behaviour and our way of thinking. They set AVP apart.

AVP-Trained Teams
A community of AVP-trained facilitators working in teams. We practise and model the attitudes, skills, processes and knowledge of AVP. This is present in workshops and throughout the organisation.

Shared Power and Leadership
Enabling everyone to participate in leadership roles. Acknowledging that none of us has all of the
answers, we share responsibility and draw on the strengths and wisdom of everyone in the group.

The belief that we always have options and choices in any given situation. We choose how we respond.

The conscious effort to acknowledge and consider, without prejudice, all natural and social differences, perceived or otherwise, in the AVP Community. We seek common ground by identifying and embracing

Good Within Everyone
The belief that there is something of value in all of us. We seek to affirm and connect with that capacity for good. We accept each person on their life journey.

Journey of Personal Exploration
The understanding that each person’s path is different. We each empower our own path, and begin by
being open to change.

Experiential Learning
Doing, listening, interacting with others, and reflecting on present and past experiences leading to reframing perspectives. Re-experiencing the self with peers.

Building, rebuilding and maintaining a sense of belonging, connectedness and safety with others.
Respecting and caring for oneself while respecting and being present for others.

Personal Nonviolence
Taking personal responsibility for not harming oneself or others. When we recognise there are
alternatives, violence is no longer an answer to conflict.

We are all part of this decision-making process seeking to reach an agreement that everyone can
accept, work with, and apply.

Creating an environment that is conducive to collaboration, personal growth and taking risks to change ourselves and our relationships.

Accessibility and Consistency
Staying true to AVP best practices and ensuring our processes, learnings and organisational operations are open, clear and easily understood. This is how we can recognise AVP anywhere in the world.

Mutual Respect
Building strength and confidence in oneself while honouring and connecting with others.

Transforming Power
We are guided by our optimism that when we are open to Transforming Power, every situation has the
potential to have a hopeful, positive outcome.

AVP International & AVP USA
Joint Education Best Practices Team
May 2017

AVP Core Values

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