1. Introduction

 

The Alberta Men’s Network

The Alberta Men’s Network, supported by Men’s Action Network Calgary and Men Edmonton, is a community committed to nonviolence and working across the gender spectrum to create healthy families and communities. We support healthy masculinities by identifying and working within a human rights and anticolonial framework. The Network is made up of dedicated members who belong to community, non-profit, academic, social service, government, business, and other sectors across Alberta. Our human rights and anticolonial lens is a firm foundation from which to build community supports and programs to transform our structures and the social norms that perpetuate violence and inequality. Working with diversity as our strength, AMN believes that cultural humility, respect, and solidarity through love are cornerstones of men’s violence prevention work.

Through the development of an online and in-person resource network, men will be able to access supports to improve their ability to maintain healthy relationships, learn about various aspects of their own mental health, and develop positive peer groups for richer community supports. Using a human rights and anti-colonialist approach, we engage men from diverse backgrounds, foster peer-support, and share knowledge of community-supports and services.

What is human rights and anti-colonialist work with men?

AMN works to promote healthy and positive masculinities by recognizing and working to end all forms of oppression, including, patriarchy and gender inequity, colonization, racism, white privilege, economic inequality, gender and sexual stigma, ableism and other dehumanization. These historical relationships of power and oppression create various levels of marginalization and social exclusion, which together, promote enduring systemic inequality over generations. In the Canadian context, historical and intergenerational trauma through European colonization and ongoing colonial relations maintain white, male privilege. This resonates with histories around the world.

Human rights organizations worldwide recognize the need to involve men in gender equality work, with a focus on capacity-building and peer mentorship roles as primary strategies for the prevention of gender based inequality and violence. Building on this momentum, organizations and communities in Alberta have important roles to play in shifting social norms and advocating for progressive policy changes.

Introduction

Important points to consider

Ensuring Program Safety

AMN supports the creation of safe, invitational, accountable, and creative program spaces. This includes respecting the policies, procedures, and scope of your respective programs. Please maintain the safety of your program, your staff, and those you support by working transparently within these boundaries as you explore the information in these documents.

Demonstrating Respect and Inclusivity

When extending invitations, advocates for “Healthy Relationships” are encouraged to practice empathy, patience, and understanding. Our diverse cultures and life experiences create equally varied conceptions concerning these topics. This offers us an opportunity to deepen our cultural learning, and build trusting relationships.

Respecting the Privacy of Program Participants

Depending on the nature of the conversation, it may become important to consider privacy and confidentiality concerns. Standards of privacy and confidentiality may be suggested by group members at an appropriate time, or you may need to initiate this particular dialogue on behalf of group members.

A community-based approach to preventing domestic violence and enhancing well-being

The work of promoting healthy and harmonious relationships must begin in the places where people spend their time. Our communities are the places where daily life is practiced and key environments to learn and role-model the work of self-care, healthy relationships and violence prevention (Wells, L., Lorenzetti, L., Carolo, H., Dinner, T., Jones, C., Minerson, T., & Esina, E., (2013).

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There are many ways to define community.

Neighbourhoods, faith, culture, social, and educational groups are examples of communities. Many of us belong to multiple communities. By coming together, communities can build healthier people, caring families, stronger community relationships, safer and welcoming neighborhoods (Sebastian & Lorenzetti, 2014, p.5).

How was this toolkit developed?

In the late months of 2015, the Alberta Men’s Network, supported by a Leadership Team of eighteen organizations and dozens of citizens, developed and distributed a survey for men regarding barriers and enablers to well-being, healthy relationships and violence prevention. Responses by over 2200 men underscored that issues such as discrimination, the absence of financial security, and violence are significant barriers to well-being, healthy relationships and harmonious communities (Lorenzetti, Lantion, Murwisi, Hoyt, Oliphant, Sadhwani, & Este, 2016). Key identified barriers included financial insecurity, housing, discrimination, family conflict and trauma. For certain communities of respondents (Latino, South Asian, Indigenous and GBT2SQ) men, challenges related to social or structural inequality were more frequently reported.

Building on the results and recommendations provided by men through this survey, AMN, supported by Alberta Human Rights, initiated Men as Agents of Change.

AMN has participated in an ongoing dialogue with various organizations and groups providing healthy relationships support to men throughout Alberta. The information contained in this toolkit is based on what we have learned from these groups along with insights from the Alberta Men’s Survey. The “Strategies for Planning and Running Men’s Groups Toolkit” was created by healthy relationships advocates in Alberta as a user-friendly guide for agency stakeholders and community leaders. This toolkit is intended to provide specific information related to the planning and implementation of men’s groups; to empower you in your efforts to assist men and ‘walk alongside’ them in their efforts to build and maintain positive and healthy relationships. More specifically, these strategies will help you increase attendance while enhancing the positive benefits that men derive from your program.

Emphasis on group work

AMN has observed that, because many men have a tendency to isolate themselves when encountering hardship or personal challenges, group interaction is particularly useful and relevant. Furthermore, a majority of men who responded to the Alberta Men’s Survey stated that peer support and healthy male role models were their preferred conduits for seeking assistance. There are a number of benefits that are more readily gained by working with men in a group context.

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Benefits of Group Work Include

• role modelling

• peer support

• spontaneous conversation

• development of close connections and friendships between members

• group celebrations of important events (birthdays, marriages, birth of a child, accomplishments, etc)

• increase in self-worth that arises from group membership

• productive and collaborative projects and activities (For example: Camrose Men’s Shed)

• contact with people from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences

It takes a great deal of courage to join a new group, especially if one is a new member entering a preexisting group. It is also difficult for some men to self-disclose in a group. As such, we acknowledge that some men may not be comfortable joining a group. This is part of the reason we recommend making a shared activity or project the focus of group interaction, rather than a one-way lecture or more conventional therapeutic interventions. While there are certain benefits that may only be realized through becoming integrated into a supportive group, some men may benefit more from individual counselling or peer support at first. After some time, they may feel comfortable enough to enter into the type of men’s group we are highlighting in this document and experience for themselves the benefits that this type of interaction can provide.