Nov 05 2009

Comparing Victories of the Heart and Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure: A Summary

Posted Nov 05 2009 12:45pm

To the critical eye, there are many similarities between these two men’s programs in purpose, structure, and programs.

Both programs began in the same geographic area in the mid-1980’s and are examples of  large group awareness growth programs for men.

A significant difference is that MKP is an international program with Men’s Centers around the globe. The last data I read suggest tens of thousands of men have participated in MKP’s programs.

Also, MKP has a new policy of transparency which encourages participants and staff guys to speak openly about the processes, exercises, and experience of the weekend. This is a new development and one that distinguishes it above and beyond the other awareness programs in the Chicago area at least.

Victories of the Heart has not really resolved the dilemma of secrecy in its programs. The schedule and activities of the Breakthrough Weekend is posted on the website, but the Shadow Weekend  still adheres
to a “keep things secret” policy.

The website does not specify any detailed information about this program, while the Breakthrough Weekend has an accurate schedule of activities.

VOH  is mainly an Evanston/Chicago based program with a fledgling program in Boston for it’s Wisdom Years program. However, there is no scheduled Boston Wisdom Years weekend and no explanation. Their website suggests about 4,000 men have participated in VOH programs.

Unlike MKP, the future for VOH suggests remaining a local entity, rather than the international organization MKP is evolving. I’ve heard a major difference between the organizations is MKP’s development is a bottom- up, while VOH is a top-down process. MKP has a dynamic foundation, while VOH has founders in charge with a weaker Board system.

In my opinion, here are some other similarities I see in both organizations and programs:

1.    Visions of both organizations are similar… “men healing men, healing communities, healing the planet…”;

2.    Both programs advertise and promote men continue their personal growth work in ongoing groups;

3.    After the weekend, there is a “celebration” for all participants, their family, and their friends which also functions as a way to introduce the program to others and encourage participation;

4.   Men are encouraged to “suspend belief” in the routine world and enter into a slightly altered state of reality;

5.    Each program utilizes psychodrama. VOH calls it heartwork and MKP
calls it as carpet work or guts work;

6.   Both programs have policies about openness and transparency with
MKP having the most positive and enlightened policy of letting people
know exactly what will happen during the weekends. (More on this later.);

7.    Participants are encouraged to “step-up” and become volunteer
staff to help the program in various ways;

8. The cost of the weekend is about the same ($600-700);

9.  The leaders are very ambitious and want their programs to spread
around the globe. This has happened for MKP.  For VOHthe desire is
there to spread the program however they continue to have trouble filling all their weekends in the Chicago area;

10.   Leaders receive financial compensation for their work;

11. Both programs advertise being not-for-profit corporations and
operate with volunteer Boards of Directors;

Here are some differences between the programs:

Conflict Resolution:

MKP teaches clearingsaccountability and personal responsibilityincluding paying attention to what may be unconscious.

VOH fails at addressing conflict resolution as an organization policy, even after over 25 years of delivering programs. However, conflict within the leadership dyad is assumed to be robust.


MKP is a very diverse organization.

VOH remains a mostly, white, middle to upper-middle class organization.


MKP uses nudity in appropriate situations and it is not required;

VOH’s current website states there is no nudity at the Shadow weekend. (update Aug 2016)

Shadow Weekend has used nudity extensively in the past,yet its purpose during the weekend has not universally been understood among the Board of Directors,leaders,and participants. I will continue to request public disclosure about the use of nudity during this weekend, especially on their website where it may be readily available to anyone interested in participating. Update: 2015. The VOH website and Board states there is no nudity at the Shadow weekend.

Publishing more information on their website would answer many questions about this. In my opinion and experience, the extensive and confusing use of nudity during this weekend is an example of how VOH leaders and organization sabotage themselves.

Program Design:

MKP has chosen to develop and implement one program and all who participate and volunteer feel some piece of ownership.

VOH has chosen to develop several programs, but specific leader teams have been responsible for program development. Therefore, these leader teams feel tremendous ownership issues and competition with other leaders, ultimately damaging the quality of programming and personal relationships between leaders and volunteers.

Rather than look for a more collaborative development process the program over the last decade has experienced a pattern of unilateral decision making in which leaders may think their program ideas are
fantasticbut the market of men looking for a weekend experience are not that interested. This is especially true of men who actually participate in these weekends.

If they can not be relied upon to encourage their friendswellyou end up getting what you always gotnot what you hoped for or were led to expect.

One might be led to believe that the failure of the programs themselves to attract a wider audience of participants is an example of how the VOH organization and its programs have mainly served the leadersnot the community of men it claims to serve.

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