Sorting through some old folders on my computer, I recently came across a blog entry I wrote, but never posted, about a Nonviolent Communication training that occurred at Sponsors, a Eugene prison re-entry program in June 2011. I wrote this blog before the training actually occurred, and I’m posting it here because I think it tells a brief story about how alumni activities can develop and function. Here is what I wrote: “I first became familiar with Nonviolent Communication (also known as Compassionate Communication, or NVC) when my mother joined an NVC practice group, and eventually became a facilitator over five years ago. NVC is a style of communication that was developed by a man named Dr. Marshall Rosenberg and focuses on empathetic listening and the identification and articulation of one’s own feelings, needs, and requests. It has been effectively used in conflict mediation on many scales, and can be used in almost any social environment. I have done a little NVC training, in spurts, over the course of the last five years or so. However, on June 4, I will have the opportunity to participate in a daylong NVC workshop at Sponsors, a re-entry program located in Eugene, Oregon.
When the UO Inside Out Alumni Group began brainstorming ways to get involved with Sponsors, an NVC training workshop was one of the ideas we came up with. In a lucky combination of events, we found an NVC trainer, Gary Baran, willing and excited to host a workshop at Sponsors. The workshop will hopefully include about eight students from UO and eight people from Sponsors. The training will cover the basics of NVC-style communication, as well as use exercises such as role-plays to help attendees begin to see how NVC can be used in real life situations. I hope that this workshop will be the first of many opportunities for the alumni group to be involved with Sponsors, and that it will provide all the participants with a chance to learn a new tool for effective and empathetic communication.”
The training actually went quite well. We had good attendance on the part of both UO and Sponsors participants, and the one-day workshop provided participants with basic (albeit limited) understanding of Nonviolent Communication. However, the larger reason for posting this now is that I think the Nonviolent Communication training is an example of how a successful alumni event can develop. It used alumni resources and knowledge to engage UO students with the community, and more specifically with an organization that works with formally incarcerated people. We created an Inside-Out-like environment based on equality and looked for an opportunity for mutual learning (both UO and Sponsors participants learned a new communication skill). And, it happened on a small scale. Unlike the Serbu book club, the workshop was a one-day commitment on the part of participants. To me, this is an example of another way that Inside-Out alumni groups could grow-- small but meaningful ways of reaching out to organizations and people in the local community.
What ideas do you have for one-time alumni events? Are there organizations you would like to partner with? Share your ideas in the comments section.