GEN III Convening Informs and Inspires: A Grantee Perspective

By Rob Banaszak on January 4, 2011 in GENERATIONS

by Dafina Ward,
Project Coordinator, Alabama Community AIDS Fund and Beauty in Knowing
AIDS Alabama

AIDS Alabama received a GENERATIONS III grant to support Beauty in Knowing, an HIV prevention intervention originally created to target African-American women in a beauty salon setting.  Due to key research funded during the Formative Phase of the grant, the intervention has since transformed.  In its current incarnation Beauty in Knowing is a five session intervention targeting African-American women studying cosmetology.  Research revealed a number of potential challenges that could hinder the impact of a salon based intervention.  Key informant interviews with salon owners, staff and clients guided this transition to a program that targets stylists-in-training before they actually enter the profession.  Data collected through a survey of cosmetology students and focus groups at area cosmetology schools revealed that students were anxious to learn accurate information pertaining to sexual health and HIV that they could share with their clients—and also utilize in their personal decision making.

Prior to arriving at the convening in Boston, we were nervous about having to present our program to the other grantees, National AIDS Fund (now AIDS United) and Johnson & Johnson.  AIDS United provided us with a great template to utilize in developing our presentation, but we were still uncertain of what the response would be to this change in our program.  We could not identify any prior HIV prevention interventions that had been focused in a cosmetology school setting.  We were concerned that the funder might not be enthusiastic about funding an intervention that could be perceived as a “risk.”  However, we were pleasantly surprised when AIDS United and Johnson & Johnson reacted very positively to the changes.  The positive feedback and suggestions provided by both funders, as well as the other grantees, was invaluable.  We learned once again that GENERATIONS is not your typical funding opportunity.  The funders are not focused on replication of the same old programs, with little concern for innovation.  Rather we (i.e., grantees and funders collectively) are engaged in a team effort to reach women of color in new ways with consideration given to the unique needs and cultures of our respective communities.

The significant amount of time spent discussing each of the grantees’ programs was the highpoint of the convening.  It was a unique opportunity to attend a convening and become immersed in the work being done by other grantees.  It not only gave us insight into what is happening in HIV in other parts of the country, but also provided us with fresh ideas and approaches for implementation of our own intervention.  We also benefited greatly from the sessions that addressed the specific roles of the project managers and facilitators of our programs.  By dividing programs staff in this manner it allowed for each person to gain new perspective on their role during implementation.  I gained a new appreciation for my role as a program manager as it pertains to supporting program facilitators and making strategic decisions regarding program staffing.  Our program facilitator stated that the facilitator training at the convening reinforced the “ingredients” needed for facilitating sessions effectively, including being prepared for unforeseeable issues during sessions.

As we move forward, Beauty in Knowing will benefit greatly from everything gained at the convening.  We are currently developing Procedures and Protocol for program facilitators to assist them with issues that arise during sessions.  We are also adjusting some of our exercises to incorporate some of the creative approaches shared by other grantees.

GENERATIONS III is a unique opportunity that not only benefits the program funded, but greatly influences an organization’s approach to HIV prevention.  As a result of the standard set by GENERATIONS, our prevention staff is planning to implement regular facilitator trainings for all of our interventions.

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