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Going online: What we want you to know about our workshops

Like many folks who’ve been privileged enough to be able to continue to work throughout the last 9 months, I’ve faced the challenge of having to quickly learn to translate my skills into new socially distanced methods. For me, as the Anti-Violence Project’s Education Coordinator, a large piece of this has been transitioning AVP’s two regularly held workshops to an online format while attempting to maintain the same kind of interactivity and depth of content as our in-person workshops.

Now, I, for one, love facilitating. I love being in a room filled with people and drawing them into discussions that leave them with the sense that we both arrived with something to contribute and that we’re leaving having all learned from each other. While I absolutely hate public speaking, when I started to facilitate workshops about consent and gender diversity about nine years ago, I found I wasn’t overwhelmed by the usual symptoms of butterflies in my stomach and panic in my chest. In part, I think this can be explained by the beauty of facilitation — it’s not a one-way lecture or rehearsed presentation, but instead it draws on the knowledge already in the room and therefore ends up looking different every time. The ways in which everyone else participates in a workshop are just as important (or even more important!) than the structure provided by the facilitators. With this in mind, we’ve set about bringing our Understanding Consent Culture and Supporting A Survivor workshops to you, wherever you are, this fall.

Creating online spaces is something I’m new to. As someone who’d never facilitated online or even attended more than a handful of virtual meetings before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting our workshop content was a project that I relied on the support of both staff and a handful of dedicated volunteers to complete this summer. We spent weeks talking about how we could encourage participation, build safety, and not bore everyone to death. And despite all our planning, we’re still figuring it out — every workshop this term has been slightly different because we’re still trying to work out what combination of slides, activities, breakout rooms, and other elements gives participants the most opportunities to ask questions, share thoughts, and learn.

If you’re curious about our online workshops or are perhaps even apprehensive to join, here are 4 things we want you to know about AVP online workshops:

  1. Our workshops are open to everyone – AVP workshop registration isn’t limited to UVic students. Staff, faculty, and community members are invited to join. Over the past couple months we’ve had folks join our workshops from across Turtle Island (what’s colonially known as north america) and we think that’s pretty awesome!
  1. There are many ways for you to participate – We’ve found that while some folks are stoked to turn on their cameras, unmute themselves, and take part in discussions over Zoom, that mode of participation doesn’t work for everyone. Talking over online platforms can sometimes feel oddly formal, or that if you’re going to say something it has to be important (plus, there’s the chance you’ll end up speaking at the same time as someone else and have to do the “you first, no you first” dance). We all have different comfort levels when it comes to online interactions. Our staff and volunteers get how difficult engaging online like this can be, so we’ve attempted to create many different options for modes of participation. In our workshops, you’ll have opportunities to use the chat function or private message the facilitator, to write on collaborative digital whiteboards, as well as to unmute yourself in the full group or in smaller breakout discussions.
  1. We want to answer your questions – I know it’s been said before, but it bears repeating that there is no such thing as a wrong question. Your questions aren’t annoying or trivial, and they don’t slow down or disrupt the workshop. Questions drive our workshops! They create opportunities for us to dig deeper into a topic and tailor the workshop to the needs of the folks participating. Even if we can’t answer your questions during the workshop because of time constraints, you always can follow up with me after the workshop over email () or we can set up a time to chat over Zoom.
  1. We’re here to support you – We know that talking about gender-based and sexualized violence can be hard. This violence isn’t theoretical or abstract; it has real felt impacts in many of our lives. If you’re feeling triggered or overwhelmed at any point in a workshop, you can call our support line at 778-400-5007, which is open during our workshops and for 30 minutes afterwards. Calling our support line is also a great option if you’d like to debrief with someone or have a question following the workshop. 

We can’t wait until it’s safe for us to meet in person again, but until then we hope you’ll tune into one of our upcoming online workshops or discussion groups.

AVP is currently offering two workshops via Zoom! Workshop registration and dates for next term will be posted in the coming weeks here. If you’d like to stay up to date on AVP workshops and other services and opportunities, sign up for our newsletter.

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