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I CAN WE CAN Peer Group Workshop

Pre-workshop Planning:

The first step in hosting a peer group workshop is to take a moment to consider when, where, how and with whom you will gather to create. To help you prepare you will also need to consider the following:

  1. Prepare yourself: Be sure to try out the project yourself in advance, from beginning to end. This is very important and will give you an idea of what your participants will be experiencing during the workshop and how you want to organize your supply layout and timeline.

To get an idea of what a facilitated workshop looks like click here to watch AWBW’s I CAN Community Workshop video 

  1. Prepare your supplies: You might be surprised by the materials and how they feel as you use your hand as a canvas. Becoming familiar with the supplies and the creation process yourself will make it much easier to support those you're leading and also identify any supplies you’d like to include or omit. The list below is just a suggested list of supplies; we welcome you to be bold, get creative and add any supplies you like such as Henna or cosmetic make-up. Anything goes!
  1. Prepare your group: Some people may have preconceived notions about art. You may want to begin by asking your group, “Who’s scared of art?  Who hasn’t done art since grade school?” After they reply, it is a wonderful opportunity to assuage any apprehension by assuring the participants that there is no wrong way to do this project. During Windows time it is all about enjoying the process and allowing your authentic expression to come out.

Suggested Materials:

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Suggested Materials
  • Pens and paper
  • Scissors
  • Face paint, makeup, washable markers—anything washable to write on skin 
  • Tissue paper and permanent markers (you can write on the paper and then apply it to your hand using water!)
  • Paint Brushes
  • Water
  • Baby wipes or make-up remover and cotton balls
  • Music (you may want to play something jazzy during the I Can’t journaling portion and relaxing or soothing music during the I CAN creation portion)
  • Camera
  • Consider planning a backdrop (for photographing your hand)

Time and Space:

Set aside 2 hours of uninterrupted space and time to lead a group. The 2-hour time frame is recommended to give ample time for check-ins, creation, processing, a closing circle and photography. Create an outline of how you will manage your time and share it with the group to help them pace their creation process.

Note to Peer Group Host:

When guiding an empowerment art group of any size, creating a safe and calming environment is of utmost importance. To help you “set the stage” for your I CAN WE CAN group, we have included a welcome that promotes empowerment using AWBW’s philosophy of creating a window of safety, freedom, creativity and respect.

Feel free to add your intention for this workshop and what your role will be in the group. Explain in advance if you plan to participate or be in the room as a compassionate observer to support and document their I CAN WE CAN pledge.

You will need to establish guidelines with input from group members. Guidelines should include mutual respect for one another, acceptance of all feelings and expressions, and an agreement of confidentiality.

I CAN WE CAN Workshop Steps:

I. Welcome
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Three survivors standing in unison.

"This project is about noticing what YOU can do to end interpersonal violence in all its forms (physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual). Your I CAN expression is a personal commitment, or pledge to yourself, of taking a step in creating your vision of what WE can accomplish if we all say 'I CAN end violence.' There are many ways of getting to this place inside yourself.

"If you need to take a break or opt out of any aspect of the project, please do so. If you need some support, let me know as part of my role here today is to be here for each of you. We encourage you to respect whatever comes up and allow it to flow without judgment.

"This is 'a window of time' to practice respecting your thoughts, feelings, needs and vision. Be gentle with yourself and honor all that has come before this moment. Embrace and notice that today you are safe and free to chose I CAN.

"Whether what comes to you seems 'too small' to be important or seems 'too big' to be possible, please try to trust that your ideas are just right.  When you truly honor your heart, you can create a change that ripples out from you to those around you and to the community at large, as part of a global change. Your I CAN, no matter how small or big, is part of changing the world."

II. Check-in:

Take a moment to check-in with the group by asking everyone to share a word or a sentence about why they are attending this workshop. The check-in is important as it brings everyone's voice into the room and allows for connection and trust.

III. Introduction to the creation process:

"The I CAN WE CAN project is about the difference we can ALL make in ending all forms of abuse by taking a moment, a creative 'window of time' to notice your personal vision and commitment to end violence using you own hands. Today each of us will embrace a personal commitment for ending violence through creative expression. Please know that there is no wrong way to participate in this project and every aspect of this workshop is voluntary. Please honor your feelings, thoughts and ideas about how you want to create your expression for ending violence. Whether what comes to you seems 'too small' to be important or seems 'too big' to be possible, please try to trust that your ideas are just right. When you truly honor your heart, you can create a change that ripples out from you to those around you, to the community at large as part of a global change. Your I CAN, no matter how small or big, is part of changing the world."

IV. Releasing "I Can’ts" (Optional step):

"In preparing to move the threshold of what we can do to help end violence, it can be quite powerful to take some time looking closely at any "I Can'ts" we carry. Be aware that acknowledging what we feel we can’t do can bring up intense feelings in participants. This is a step that is done with the intention of unburdening participants from perceived limitations and negative thoughts. Be mindful of your group's needs when choosing one of the choices below.

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Writing her I-Cant's

Option 1: "I Can't" Journaling

If you choose to do this exercise, be sure to allow 5 to 10 minutes for participants to free-write or journal without stopping and editing, about any I Can'ts they can think of. Next, ask them to share what came up for them with a partner or with the group (allow for at least 5 min. per participant). Lastly, you can provide some way to let go of their I Can’ts whether it’s by literally destroying them or creating a ceremony to unburden themselves.

Before you begin this exercise, remind participants that every aspect of the workshop is voluntary, that they are in a safe space and their expression is welcome. Allow each participant to share without interruption and remember to validate each person as they share (or choose not to share) by acknowledging them with gratitude for respecting what may have come up.

Note: If you do the I Can’t journaling, we encourage you to do the I CAN circle immediately after to help the participants transition from Can’t to Can.



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Participating in the Circle

Option 2: I CAN Circle

"Let's start by taking a moment to notice our past victories over things that seemed impossible. I’m going to ask each of you to share about one thing you thought you couldn’t do, but did, and it made you stronger. What is an "I Can't" that you have overcome? It can be something simple or something monumental; there is no right or wrong way to share. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, just say pass when it is your turn to share.”

You may want to do this with everyone standing in a unified circle, holding hands or by allowing peers to share with a partner during a timed sharing exercise. This can help create a feeling of intimacy. After everyone has shared, validate the group and each person by acknowledging that all of us have done things we thought we couldn’t do. 


Option 3: I CAN Reading with Brief Relaxation

Reading an inspirational poem or even a quotation can be a powerful, and a quick way to prepare your group. Below we are offering a reading by Marianne Williamson that one of our leaders has found to be useful. Feel free to share another poem, story or quote that you find inspiring. If you have the capacity, you might consider projecting AWBW’s Virtual Meditation Room for the participant to view (the full meditation slide show is 7 minutes.) 

After doing a reading, you might try a brief relaxation to help participants get centered before beginning the creation process.

"Before we begin creating, I want to share a reading called Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson to help encourage us to think boldly and envision what I CAN we want to embrace today.”

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?'' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

"Now, if you feel comfortable enough to do so, please close your eyes or just sit quietly. Take a minute to breathe and think about or imagine your vision for your I CAN. Try to picture it in your mind however it comes to you, as an image, a place, or a list of things you truly want. Notice how it feels in your body to make this pledge to yourself and share it with the world. Do you feel joy, power, peace? Take as long as you need but remember your I CAN can be something simple and personal or it can be your greatest vision.

"Keeping your vision and the poem in mind, be bold when creating your I CAN hand! The founder of A Window Between Worlds, Cathy Salser thought her vision for using art in a way that would make a difference could only come true in her wildest dreams and now the organization reaches 65,000 people per year, including you!"


V. I CAN Creation
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Drawing letters on her hand

"Now think about being part of a circle of people around the globe committed to ending violence. If each of us notices a new step we want to claim and act on, we can move the world. What I CAN do you want to claim today?  Again, no idea is too small or too large. Just notice what resonates in your heart as most meaningful for you. When you're ready, begin to create your I CAN hand using your hand as your canvas. Place your I CAN message on it however you like. Your I CAN expression can be painted on, glued on or placed on paper and held in the palm of your hand. Anything goes!  

Supply tips for participants:

  1. Washable markers on tissue paper may run and stain when wet, so take care to cover your work surface and clothing. The colored tissue paper may also run and stain your hands.
  2. Some types of face paint are more difficult to get off so you may be required to provide a sink with soap and water, make-up remover or even rubbing alcohol.
  3. Be gentle when writing on tissue paper with permanent markers and/or white out pens since they may rip the paper.
  4. Sharpies and other permanent markers will stain your hand for several days.
  5. Provide scratch paper for people who may want to sketch their design prior to creating.
  6. Suggest to participants that they create and gather all components they will need create their hand before they start working, as it will be more difficult to work using only one hand.
  7. You may want to encourage the participants to be mindful of the background they will use when photographing their hands.
VI. Documenting I CAN Pledge Hands:
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Documenting the hands

You may want to have a camera ready and encourage the participants to have you take their picture once they are done creating. This can streamline the photography process, as people will finish creating at different times.


"Taking a photo of your I CAN hand is part of the creative process, so be as creative as you like with it. Your I CAN hand could be against whatever background you wish, a color of paper, your face, blades of grass, or torn/shredded I Can'ts. Whatever most powerfully expresses your I CAN!"


VII. Closing Circle:

You may want to end by giving each participant an opportunity to share anything they want with the group about their experience with the workshop. After each person is done creating you can say, “Now I’d like to give everyone an opportunity to share something about their experience here today. We will go around the room and each take turns sharing anything you want about your I CAN, what you created, your overall experience with the workshop, anything you like.”


Let the group know that you’ll be adding their voice to the I CAN WE CAN project by uploading a photo of their creation to the I CAN WE CAN website. Or you can ask the participants to upload their photo themselves and sign the I CAN WE CAN pledge online.

Thank participants for adding their I CAN pledge hand to the online gallery where it will be counted as they join the ripple of hands across the world that are rising up. Encourage them to go to to join our online community and share their pledge via social media.

Thank you for taking a window of time to notice your strength and broadening your ideas about what you CAN do to end abuse! And thank you for helping AWBW start a movement of people coming together to collectively embrace I CAN!
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