Men As Peacemakers
What has been most instrumental to your progress?
Ongoing feedback from the athletic community regarding the effectiveness of our educational materials: community coaches’ reflections drove the content for all of the trainings and curricula. We were able to immediately adjust delivery and content based on coaches thoughts, leading to even more accessible, effective educational materials over time.
Strong community partnership with AYSA, campus athletic programs, the Duluth School District, First Witness Child Abuse Resource Center, Gender Violence Institute, Anoka Public Health, MN Department of Health, the MN State High School League, the Minnesota Youth Athletic Association, and national relationships with organizations like A Call to Men who contracted us for trainings with professional sports teams. Many of these collaborations increased our access to athletic communities locally and statewide. The partnerships also added credibility and critical feedback from both stakeholders within the athletic community, and prevention activists, allowing for greater overall impact.
The creation of entirely new tools to educate athletic coaches was also integral to the success of project. An online training and comprehensive toolkit that educates coaches about violence against women and children has never been created before. Through collaborations and feedback processes, Men As Peacemaker created the first pack of educational materials of its kind. Creating and continuing to refine these materials has propelled this project forward at a pace significantly beyond our initial expectations.
Key lessons learned
The coaching community works and learns best with concrete, action-oriented trainings and educational materials. Initially we thought abstract discussions about gender inequity in sports, and our communities broadly, would be a key component in our project activities. After coaches’ feedback from early community feedback sessions, we recognized that the conversations and discussions were initially effective, but coaches immediately wanted to move to concrete action steps. Without a clear plan of action, our initiatives were less effective and lacked community engagement. As we adjusted our trainings to include concrete action plans and developed tools using specific examples in various team sports, increases in coaches’ engagement and relation to the issues has drastically increased. The demand for our educational tools has stretched us beyond our staff capacity to deliver those educational resources. This is a good problem to have, when trying to engage men in a field where they have been historically absent.
Given enough resources, organizations that foster innovation like Men As Peacemakers (MAP), can create revolutionary strategies, with the potential to impact individuals on a national level. This lesson is critical to MAP’s strategy of creating an atmosphere of innovation throughout all of its programs. When it is necessary for staff to constantly produce shortsighted results with limited resources, innovation is significantly less likely. With funding streams like the Community Innovation Grant, staff are given the opportunity to look at the entire picture and develop new ideas that increase local impact and drive strategies for national impact.
Reflections on the community innovation process
Inclusion has played a critical role in our innovation process. There was a tremendous need for comprehensive educational materials for Duluth coaches and coaches throughout the state of MN prior to this project. We were able to collaboratively create a unique and unprecedented training in a male-driven climate that was unused to discussions of gender norms and gender equity. In order to achieve successful, impactful trainings, we needed to create discussions and action plans that resonated with an audience new to combating gender violence and sexual assault. Coaches, players, and administrators from local Duluth sports organizations, and those throughout the state of Minnesota, were constantly engaged in the process of development. The intentional inclusion of these stakeholders was critical to all of our work, especially with coaches who were skeptical of the role of athletics in prevention of violence against women and children.
Progress toward an innovation
We have made significant progress toward achieving a community powered innovation. In partnership with the athletic community, advocates, and activists, we have developed a suite of resources that embed gender equity and prevention of violence against women and children into the policies and practices of athletic organizations. Resources include age appropriate online training modules, coaching manual inserts, job descriptions, “Impact Coaching” handouts with prevention and intervention tips, policy templates, and communications/marketing materials for fields and stadiums. We have succeeded in creating the foundational materials so athletic organizations can change the job descriptions of coaches to include promoting gender equity and violence against women and children. As we head into a new innovation cycle, the key need is a mechanism to scale-up and normalize the use of resources like ours across the state and the country. How do we ensure that every youth coach in America is role modeling respect, nonviolence, and gender equity, and prepared to act in situations of sexual harassment and teen dating violence?
This project is continuing in multiple ways. We are flooded with opportunities for new and expanding athletic partnerships. We are also catering athletic resources and programming to our local school district, and continue to partner with statewide athletic associations and develop connections to organizations influencing athletics nationally. Staffing capacity is the only barrier we face to expanding the impact of this project. We did not budget the project to include significant staffing costs (.5 FTE). As it turns out, the innovation we created now requires significant staff time to build new partnerships, take on new projects, and leverage the resources we have already created. Regardless of future staffing levels, the resources we have created will be a concrete foundation we will continue to utilize and adapt. It is a great feeling knowing we were able to develop an innovation that has become established, and will continue to impact the national conversation and practices to prevent violence against women and children.
If you could do it all over again...
Bush foundation funding is the central reason we were able to generate this community powered innovation, and we are thankful for the entirety of the investment Bush made in us. Knowing what we know now, we would have requested additional funding for this project. We designed this project to facilitate a community based process of impacting athletics culture. Once we achieved an impactful innovation, however, the opportunity and potential impact of scaling up the innovation for broader impact became tremendous. We have done an excellent job utilizing our vibrant staff to leverage these opportunities, but realistically, we needed at least double the funding to have the necessary staffing and resources to focus on broader impact for our innovation. Ultimately, we met and exceeded all of our original grant objectives, but when the breakthrough occurred—when we created a suite of prevention education materials (online training, coaches manuals, tips)—there was a large demand and significantly and more projecting funding would have helped capitalize on the momentum, collaborate with partners, and ultimately disseminate education materials to new local, state, and national partners.
One last thought
In addition to supporting our community-powered innovation in Duluth and across MN, Bush Foundation’s investment also resulted in additional successes. In 2014 we received the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation’s prestigious Touchstone Award for effectively engaging male coaches and athletes in violence prevention. MAP has received requests from other states to assist other organizations in developing prevention programming for athletics. We continue to utilize the Impact Athletics resources that we generated through this project as a foundation for contracting work with other organizations. Additionally, Bush Foundation’s investment played an important role in our ability to secure contracts through a national training organization to provide over 15 prevention trainings (and counting) with the NFL, NHL, and MLB. We are gearing up for an increased number of Division 1 NCAA college sports teams as well. We also were recently contacted by a new national project funded by the NFL to support prevention of sexual violence.