Running Your Group
Create a friendly and welcoming space
Creating a positive, welcoming, supportive and accountable environment should always be the primary goal. Many of the men that will most benefit from your group are also the most socially isolated. Because of this, they may be especially concerned about rejection and averse to entering a critical or judgemental social situation. Listen to, welcome, and validate men who may be trying something out of their comfort zone.
Adopt an asset based approach
Cultural influences have engrained in many men the belief that they must be self-sufficient and strong, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. As such, it is common for men to want to come up with their own solutions to any challenges they face. Consider adopting an asset-based, solution-oriented approach to community development wherein you aim to promote resilience in group members by encouraging them to focus on the gifts, skills, strengths, and resources that they have personally developed, or are currently available within their community. We have observed that an asset-based approach works very well for all men of many different cultural backgrounds.
Avoid excessively offering advice or lecturing the men in your group as this may discourage their full participation in group conversations or activities. If one of your group members has a challenge, there is a good possibility that other members have a solution or can at least provide some support. One of the hallmarks of a skilled facilitator is being able to bring out the shared wisdom and experience of your group while encouraging supportive connections between group members.
from those who have run men’s groups include:
• facilitating conversation and reflection between and among group members
• creating inclusive conversations rather than a one-sided communication
• asking targeted solution-focused questions
• listening for personal and community resources that group members may not currently be aware of that could help them resolve their challenges (eg. peer supports, family, mentors, strengths, skills)
• creating group exercises which lead to understanding through experience
• creating opportunities for group members to share personal stories or insights
• building up group members and seeing the best in the members of your group
• embodying values like respect (for women, children, other men, yourself), compassion, and accountability
• being a positive, healthy role model for other group members
Share power and responsibility through consensus decision-making
Men’s groups tend to function best if decisions are made democratically and group members feel their opinions and perspectives are valued and respected. In addition to promoting the harmonious and equitable functioning of your group, consensus decision-making also tends to increase the level of engagement and contribution from all group members. Another important benefit is that it takes pressure off of you, the facilitator, because you don’t need to be the expert or have all the answers yourself. Consider the years of experience and the lessons learned by the men in your group and do your best to leverage this collective experience to the benefit of your group.
Keep your eyes open for men who are motivated to be role models and support their development. Their passion, time, and experience can bring valuable energy to your group and increase the group’s ability to grow and sustain itself. Also, remember that the men in your group come from many diverse backgrounds. By supporting and encouraging them in their desire to contribute to your group, you are also supporting them to be healthy relationship role-models in the various communities they are connected to. This is just one way in which your group can have an influence on the larger society.
References and Resources
Alberta Men’s Network (2018). Consensus Decision Making: A Guide to Men’s Organizing Work. Calgary, AB: Alberta Men’s Network.
Alberta Men’s Network (2018). Well Being and Healthy Relationships: Insights and Experiences of Latino Men in Alberta. Calgary, AB: Alberta Men’s Network.
Lorenzetti, L., Lantion, V., Murwisi, P., Hoyt, M., Oliphant, F., Sadhwani, H., Oshchepkova, T., & Este, D. (2016). The Alberta Men’s Survey: A Conversation with Men about Healthy Relationships. Alberta Men’s Network, Calgary, Alberta.
Nath, M., Sadhwani, H., & Lorenzetti, L. (2018). Well-being and Healthy Relationships: Insights and Experiences of South Asian Men in Alberta. Calgary, AB: Alberta Men’s Network. Next Gen Men. (n.d). See https://nextgenmen.ca
Oliphant, F., Sadhwani, H., Lorenzetti, L., & Villegas, G. (2017). Well-Being and Healthy Relationships: Insights and Experiences of Hombres Latino Men in Alberta. Calgary, AB: Alberta Men’s Network.
Sebastian, B. & Lorenzetti, L. (2015). Healthy Family Relations: A Community Response. Calgary, Alberta:The United Way of Calgary and Area.
Wells, L., Lorenzetti, L., Carolo, H., Dinner, T., Jones, C., Minerson, T., & Esina, E. (2013). Engaging men and boys in domestic violence prevention: Opportunities and Promising Approaches. AB, Canada: Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary.