Project ENVISION

Project ENVISION

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Project ENVISION mobilizes communities to end sexual violence. It is a multi-year pilot project that: 1) engages community-based organziations and community members in analyzing how sexual violence manifests and impacts their community; and 2) supports community groups to develop specific interventions to prevent sexual violence in their community. It focuses on changing social norms.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Project ENVISION is addressing the problem of sexual violence. Sexual violence is any completed or attempted act against a person’s will. It encompasses a continuum of acts, ranging from unwanted sexual comments or advances to completed rape. Sexual violence is a significant public health problem and human rights issue. Victims of sexual violence suffer debilitating immediate and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences. When the myriad consequences of sexual violence are left untreated or poorly treated, victims face the risk of disease, disability, and even death. Yet, the impact of sexual violence goes beyond the affected individual, rendering costs to the victim’s family, community, and to society at-large. Rooted in inequality, poverty, and race, sexual violence is also associated with other social and health problems, such as prostitution, HIV/AIDS, homelessness, substance abuse, and other forms of violence.
About You
Organization:
NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault
Section 1: You
First Name

Meghan

Last Name

O'Connor

Website URL
Organization

NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault

Country

, NY

Section 2: Your Organization
Organization Name

NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault

Organization Phone

212.229.0345

Organization Address

27 Christopher Street

Organization Country

, NY

Your idea
Country and state your work focuses on

, NY

Innovation
What makes your idea unique?

Project ENVISION applies public health frameworks and social justice theories to build communities’ capacity to prevent sexual violence. It is the first project of its kind in the nation and has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an innovative and promising approach to sexual violence prevention. The field of sexual violence prevention has been focused on short-term efforts that focus on trying to change individual behaviors that lead to perpetration of sexual violence. Project ENVISION is unique because it seeks to impact the social and cultural environments as the way to influence individual behavior. It applies a systematic model of community mobilizing to an issue that is prevalent in communities, but which community members often do not have the resources or collective will to address. Community mobilization is defined as a participatory process focused on changing community norms, basic patterns of social interaction, values, customs, and institutions in ways that will significantly improve the quality of life in the community. Project ENVISION has used participatory methods to engage community members from the outset in defining how sexual violence manifests in and impacts their communities, and has sustained their involvement in prevention through education, mentorship and skills-development.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
What impact have you had?

Project ENVISION, has reached thousands of New Yorkers, and thousands of people across the nation with the message that sexual violence is preventable. We have directly engaged over 1,000 New Yorkers in dialogue about what causes sexual violence and what they think can be done to prevent it in their communities. Rigorous data collection in each pilot community led to the production of research reports that highlight the scope of sexual violence in the three pilot communities and what community members articulated as their vision of prevention. These research reports were shared with NYC residents via community events, a press conference at City Hall, and through our website. The project has led to the development of three coalitions in each pilot community, comprised of 15-20 people, whom are representatives of community-based organizations and community members. All coalition members have received training on creating and maintaining healthy coalitions, and on how to design primary prevention programs. Each coalition completed a project proposal for a two-year intervention that will target individuals, families, community groups and institutions. Each coalition is led by a two-person community member team. The Alliance has provided on-going leadership training and development and mentorship to these community members. Project ENVISION has been highlighted by the CDC and recognized by professionals in the field as a promising, innovative and groundbreaking program. The Alliance has presented Project ENVISION at several professional conferences and has provided technical assistance to others in the field who want to model this initiative.

Actions

Project ENVISION has been designed based on data, uses a capacity building approach, and incorporates monitoring and evaluation into every phase. The project’s approach is based on a review of existing programs and methods in the sexual violence and prevention fields. After identifying community mobilization as the most promising and relevant method for our context, we began engaging community members in dialogue about sexual violence and building their capacity to organize their community around this issue and inspire them to take action. Lastly, successful programs always collect data during the project—to assess how it is being implemented, to document challenges and successes, to make changes to the project, and to evaluate if the program is achieving its objectives. The major challenge that coule prevent this project from being a success is the stigma and silence that surrounds sexual violence and society’s tolerance of it. There is a lot of work to be done.

Results

By the end of our five-year project we expect to see the following results in the pilot communities: 1) an increase in the knowledge, skills and leadership of community members to design and implement sexual violence prevention efforts; 2) an increase in community dialogue about sexual violence and how it intersects with other forms of oppression; 3)an increase in commitment from policy makers to prevent sexual violence; 4) increase in private and public resources for sexual violence prevention; 5) a reduction in the social norms that contribute to and promotes sexual violence; and 6) an emergence of pro-social norms that promote healthy, equitable and violence-free communities. Other longer-term results that we expect is that our project will be replicated in other communities in NYC and that we will ultimately see reduction of sexual violence.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Project ENVISION is entering a critical phase. Over the past two years we have selected pilot communities for intervention, we have conducted needs assessments in each of these communities, and we have formed coalitions of community members and community-based organizations to lead mobilization efforts. Each coalition is now in the process of using the data from the needs assessments to design a community-specific prevention program and will complete that by June 2010. From July 2010-June 2011, each coalition in each community will implement the intervention they designed. This will require significant human and financial resources, commitment from community members, and support from policymakers and legislators. Implementation will continue from July 2011-June 2012. From 2012-2013, the project will be evaluated. We are currently looking for resources to secure an evaluation partner, so that we can begin to design our impact evalaution.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

One important issue that could prevent our project from being a success is sustaining involvement and commitment from community members over time. Addressing an issue such as sexual violence requires a tremendous amount of emotional and mental energy. People who are in this field often experience vicarious trauma or burn-out. Thus, it can be challenging to sustain commitment from individuals to this movement. Similarly, it can be hard to engage people in an effort that is focused on prevention of sexual violence. We have found that it is difficult for people to imagine a world without sexual violence. And it is even more challenging for them to conceptualize the steps that can actually make that vision a reality. Many people need, want and expect to see change happen right away, but ending sexual violence is a long-term, slow process that requires social change. In addition, many people do not believe that sexual violence is preventable. We have become conditioned our society to accept that this is something that will persist. Understandably, the scope of the work often seems insurmountable and daunting. A second threat to our project being a success is a lack of funding. Despite the fact that 1 out of every 4 women will be a victim of sexual violence at some point in her life, funding for sexual violence remains insufficient. And funding for prevention, particularly in the United States, is dismal. Anti-sexual violence work has historically been funded by government agencies focused on responding to the criminal justice and health aspects of sexual violence. Funding for prevention of sexual violence is new to the United States and grass-roots mobilizing efforts are often over-looked.

How many people will your project serve annually?

1001‐10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$1000 - 4000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

Sustainability
What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

If yes, provide organization name.

NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Yes

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?

Yes

Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

The success of Project ENVISION hinges upon collaboration and involvement from civil society and government actors. The Alliance has enjoyed a history of working with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Education, the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence, and the New York Police Department, as well as the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Criminal Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of Violence Against Women. All of these local, state and federal agencies have been supportive of Project ENVISION efforts. Local and state policymakers and legislators have also been supportve of the project and have founds ways to promote Project ENVISION. Lastly, two of our coalitions have representation from small business owners that live and operate their business in the community.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

Three most important actions needed to grow our initiative or organization are: 1) diversify our funding sources. Currently our organization and Project ENVISION are funded from state government sources that will be significantly cut next year and over time. The Alliance needs to expand our individual, corporate and foundation donor base so that we are not reliant on government funds, and so that we can sustain our organization despite funding cuts; 2) increase our media presence and the right media attention to the issue of sexual violence; The Alliance carries out a tremendous amount of work with little human and financial resources, but we need to promote our work to the public in a more effective manner. In addition, when sexual violence issues get media attention, the issue is often covered in a way that is victim-blaming and does not support the shared accountability for the problem that the Alliance seeks to promote; 3)increase our human resources to carry out programming and operations. The Alliance has small staff of seven employees who carry out an inordinate amount of work. Implementing, monitoring and evaluating all of our work to the highest standard requires additional human resources.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. For far too long, the anti-sexual violence field has been focused solely on responding to the epidemic of sexual violence. That work is invaluable, but we have lost sight of the longer-term vision to eradicate the very need for our response. The staff of the Alliance are committed to making a world without sexual violence a reality. We carefully examined the scope of this problem in NYC, the causes and consequences of the problem, and identified the gaps that exist in imlpementing sustainable prevention movements. Project ENVISION really began with a vision for a city free from sexual violence. We wanted to begin re-framing the issue and a public health and human rights problem. We wanted to shift the dialogue from one that leaves it up to individuals to protect themselves from sexual violence happening to them, to one that demands that it is everyone's responsibility to prevent sexual violence from happening. We wanted to inspire and lead people to be part of making our vision a reality.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Meghan O’Connor has been working for ten years internationally and within the U.S. on the issue of violence against women, developing and implementing evidence-based practice for prevention and intervention. Ms. O’Connor is the Director of Programs at the New York City Alliance against Sexual Assault, where she oversees research, training and the provision of technical assistance to organizations working to improve prevention and response to sexual and dating violence. Ms. O’Connor is also a clinician at Safe Horizon’s Counseling Center, providing one-on-one long term trauma focused therapy for adult and child victims of interpersonal violence. She has worked with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) throughout the Horn and East Africa and in Thailand designing programs to address violence against women in settings affected by war. Most recently, she delivered an IRC training in Jordan on interpersonal violence. At IRC’s New York headquarters, Ms. O’Connor was the Program Manager for the Gender Based Violence Technical Unit where she provided technical assistance to IRC’s gender-based violence programs around the world and contributed to IRC’s global advocacy efforts to increase attention and commitment to ending violence against women. Ms. O’Connor has co-authored many published articles and has presented her research at academic and professional conferences around the world. She received her M.S.W. from Columbia University School of Social Work and her M.P.H. from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer