Since 2015 the Violence Prevention Forum has encouraged and enabled collaboration between policymakers, researchers, community-based organisations, development partners, international organisations and, more recently, the private sector. Since 2018 participation in the Forum has expanded to include more representatives from private sector and donor agencies. Good relationships across all sectors that have a role to play in preventing violence are key to addressing the challenge of violence and its prevention.

The forum works to ensure that effective programmes and interventions on preventing violence are both available and sustainable across the country in the communities where they are needed. The VPF is convened by the Institute for Security Studies, and led by a multi-sectoral Driver Group.

The VPF meets twice a year, with many opportunities offered for ongoing engagement between these meetings. The meeting process is interrogative and deliberative. Participants are given ample time for reflection and sense-making. Meetings are facilitated by skilled, experienced facilitators who draw on a range of methods and approaches.

The forum is value driven. Because participants know what to expect from others, and trust that if the values are violated there will be recourse, they can have difficult conversations with one another, raising uncomfortable truths and dialogue in ways that are respectful.

The Violence Prevention Forum’s Theory of Change identifies the three ways in which the forum works toward its ultimate goal – relationship building, evidence, and strengthening the workforce.
The forum was established to foster trusting, respectful, and collaborative relationships between the researchers and practitioners who have developed and tested violence prevention programs and the public officials responsible for providing service; and to share information and knowledge and to come to shared understandings about what is meant by evidence.

Good relations between individuals, representatives of private sector and institutions concerned with preventing violence facilitates the sharing of evidence and information. Here government departments share and receive information that shapes policy and the public sector response to violence. At the same time, researchers receive information and gain new knowledge to shape research, programme design and future interaction with government.

Implementers share their experience of working with communities and benefit from understanding how their work interfaces and is related to national and provincial policies and policy processes. Relationships are also built between institutions in the same sectors i.e. between researchers, NGOs, etc.
New evidence is shared, through formal and informal presentations and participants engage in a collective sense making process. In this way the forum builds a shared understanding of what violence is, how it can be prevented and the role of different organisations and sectors in that process.
Discussions in the Forum build and strengthen participants’ understanding of violence prevention. The forum maintains a community of practice for individuals who understand and are committed to preventing violence.

Since the work with survivors of violence, or in communities to prevent violence, can cause vicarious trauma in the workforce itself, the forum is intended to provide a container for those emotions and help participants process that trauma by encouraging them to be aware of it, and realise their own transforming power.
The VPF was evaluated in 2020. The findings of the evaluation are available here. The evaluation found that the Violence Prevention Forum is enabled through the activation of six mechanisms:

Awareness   Participants who were not aware of research evidence and its importance in violence prevention, now are. Participants are more likely to demand evidence-use in their own organisation and integration of evidence in their programmes. The forum is building awareness of, and positive attitudes towards, research evidence.
Agreement   By co-producing knowledge products and reflecting on existing knowledge, the forum has cultivated shared understanding of violence and the need to prevent it. Although participants do not agree on everything, there is sufficient agreement to move the work of the forum forward.
Access   Participants have access to individuals they would otherwise not have. The forum discourages the use of jargon and other exclusionary communication. Presentations are broken up by individual and collective sense-making activities. Insights and new knowledge from the forum are summarised in easy to access policy briefs. This contributes to research or information about complex government processes being accessible to participants.
Trust   Interpersonal sharing, dinners, playing games, etc. have all been incorporated into the forum's methodology to encourage relationship building and empathetic understanding between decision makers, implementers and researchers. Results show that participants have developed empathy for colleagues in different sectors, are building relationships with individuals who they would otherwise not, and report seeing each other as collaborators and not as competitors or adversaries.
Ability   The forum has supported decision makers in developing skills and in accessing and making sense of evidence. Researchers understand the policy environment better and can thus improve their research and communication. Implementers understand government processes and how their work relates to policy. Through modelling deep democracy and encouraging self-awareness, the forum builds participants' skills to engage with dissenting voices in other settings.
Healing   In the context of high levels of stress, trauma (vicarious, collective, historical, etc.), the forum has created a safe space that contributes to healing some effects of toxic stress and trauma. This was experienced by participants from all sectors.
Confidence   Encouraging all voices to be heard and respected, facilitating respectful dialogue and lowering knowledge hierarchies have contributed to building and strengthening participants’ confidence in their individual capabilities, and their ability to speak about evidence informed violence prevention.
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