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By Stephanie Jackson-Ali, LMSW
This week I had the delight of speaking with Patricia Broughton, director of development for Cure Violence, our third-quarter Human Rights beneficiary. You’ve probably already learned the basics about Cure Violence. But, like Cure Violence and their interrupters, we wanted to go directly to the source for more details.
Do you think this is a model that can work in any community, of any size? What about communities with different ethnic or cultural backgrounds?
[The model] has been piloted, tested, and evaluated with communities with the highest levels of violence. It is really designed for communities with a high concentration of violence. We’ve had questions from areas with no particular concentration and without a high enough scale of violence, but it isn’t designed for those communities. The model can be adapted for various cultures. We just had a staff member come back from Syrian refugee camps (in Jordan and Turkey) training them on the use of the model in those temporary communities. We believe it must be tested and evaluated, but the basic principles can be used in any situation with that high concentration of violence.
It seems you run predominately on a model of partnership and building a reusable model. How much oversight is there at locations outside of your main location in Chicago?
We continue to provide training and technical assistance. It is an ongoing partnership. We require continual data from partners so they can monitor and adapt as needed and we can see the effectiveness of the model. That includes both people coming to Chicago and onsite locations [training].
What must someone do to become a CV partner?
Once we’ve determined it could be effective, we have a number of requirements – the first is fidelity to the model. They must be working in the area with the greatest concentration of violence. They must be working with the right population (targeting highest risk individuals) – like gang members, [those who have] a gun or access to guns, and ex offenders. So they must be in the right place, with the right people, and the right staff. For our staff we use credible messengers – members of community who have the connections necessary.
What do you think is the single greatest thing an individual can do to stem violence in their community or school?
There’s really four things a person can do:
Some people may have heard about CV, or at least the model, through The Interrupters. How did that film help promote the work of CV? Did it give the public any false ideas about the work you do?
That gave us a huge national audience when it aired on Frontline, and we continue to get donors from people seeing it—it was very helpful in that regard. It misrepresented, somewhat, what interrupters do. It shows a lot of work in the school—that is not the work they do—the long-time work in the schools, that isn’t the population they work with. It is more the work outreach workers do than what violence interrupters do. So, it was less about interrupters. What it also didn’t do very well: talk about the system that is in place, and interrupters are part of a system—people take just that piece. They are the point of a pyramid. Without outreach workers and without community programs to change the norms and thinking about what is accepted/expected, it isn’t effective—it didn’t show the whole system.
What do you consider your greatest success?
Our biggest success is in the leadership—that it has played in beginning to change the thinking about how to approach the problem. If you Google “public health approach to nonviolence” you get 5 million hits. The idea that you don’t need arrest/incarceration is revolutionary. We’ve had a limited impact in a handful of communities (although very strategic in some of the most dangerous), and we haven’t been able to scale the program in the way we’d like to, but we’re seeing more acceptance and advocacy to this approach.
How can someone support your work, aside from donations?
We don’t have the best advocacy—we need to develop and will be developing a more targeted campaign. We’re trying to put someone in our DC office who will be working on a policy level—it is a high funding priority. People can get connected to us (through our e-newsletter) so they can stay up to date with the work we’re doing. Advocate for this kind of work with your legislator. That is hard without a letter or organized campaign, but [start] encouraging alternatives to the criminal justice approach. The way to do this is to be a part of constituency on an ongoing basis.
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[UPDATED 9/11/13 to reflect that Cure Violence programs have been independently evaluated in Chicago, Baltimore, and New York.]