Men As Peacemakers

Report date
March 2015

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 and MN State High School League: these collaborations increased our access to athletic communities locally and statewide. The partnerships added credibility and critical feedback from stakeholders within the athletic community, 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 package 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 included 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. Currently the demand for our educational tools is outpacing our supply. This is an excellent 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 inclusive, collaborative or resourceful problem-solving

Inclusion has been the most important element in our 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 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. One example of this appears in the online training Coaching for Change. In this scenario based training, users hear coaches directly respond with the steps to prevent and intervene in harmful situations.
Additionally, MAP intentionally engaged collaborative partners and upper-level administrators throughout the state of Minnesota, including the Assistant Director of the MN State High School League. This has added credibility and expertise to our efforts.

Other key elements of Community Innovation

MAP utilizes radicalism in its community process. We define radical as the ability to affect the fundamental nature of something in a far-reaching or thorough way. MAP’s programs create innovative prevention methods. This requires looking at problems from every angle and determining the root causes, then creating a solution. Often that solution involves an entirely new understanding of the fundamental nature of problem at hand. With prevention of violence against women (VAW), MAP recognizes the perceptions, socialization, and behaviors of men as the ultimate cause of VAW. Ending this violence requires a fundamental shift in the culture of masculinity. In order to create solutions to this seemingly insurmountable problem, MAP intentionally fosters radicalism by giving its staff support necessary to identify and develop unique ideas. The element of radicalism, allowed for the creation of an online training that inspires athletic coaches, with no previous knowledge of VAW, to speak to their male athletes about healthy, equitable relationships. We find this element to be critical to community innovation.

Understanding the problem

Working intimately and consistently with coaches has allowed us to evaluate the effectiveness and relevance of our educational materials. It became evident that coaches responded well to activities and discussions that had concrete direction and next-steps. We realized that the coaches’ lack of understanding of the issues would require us to lay the groundwork for discussions of gender violence and gender equity in athletics, rather than stage conceptual community discussions about domestic violence and sexual assault. This meant creating scenarios that were realistic (and even quotidian) to the average coach, regarding male dominance and gender inequity in youth athletics.

MAP has also clarified its expanded understanding of cultural change. In order to shift the culture of athletics we recognize it requires change on many levels. This includes changing individuals, organizations, media representations, state policies and procedures, national perceptions, and more. Moving forward, this program is striving to impact as many of these levels as possible in order to maximize impact, especially on the next generation of young boys and men.

If you could do it all over again...

The project would be even more successful if we had the time and resources to deepen our marketing strategy in the athletic community thereby increasing coaching participation in trainings. In the future, we would like to implement incentives for coaches to attend our discussions and trainings. For example, coupling gender equity trainings with presentations from well-known athletes may increase awareness of our work and intent.

Additionally, if we had known the exact nature of our the products produced through the innovation process (online trainings, coaches educational materials) we could have designed an evaluation strategy that was more effective in capturing the process of development.

We also would have included more flexibility into the framing of the project activities. Given that the program has required significant feedback on a formal and informal basis, creating space for this feedback process directly into the activities within the structure of the grant application, would have allowed for increased focus on these critical processes.

One last thought

The work to utilize athletics as a platform for prevention was nominated for a Duluth-Superior Community Foundation Touchstone Award. In October 2014, this Men As Peacemakers project won the Touchstone Award for Civic Engagement out of hundreds of nominees in the Duluth-Superior region.

Additionally, the Impact program has received significant local media attention including three TV and two radio interviews.