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Organizational Capacity Building Award

Award Recipient: Western Regional Training Initiative
Nominator: Lou Ann Williams Award  

In 2005, the FISA Foundation invited area domestic violence and sexual assault centers to gather to discuss a strategic response to the devastating state and federal funding cuts which agencies had been experiencing. One problematic area was the programs’ ability to offer the state approved 48-80 hour training required by all new domestic violence and sexual assault staff and volunteers. Programs reported that they were having difficulty meeting this standard due to the financial requirement and also as it was hard for them to maintain coverage for victims, while new staff and volunteers received in-person training.
In 2007, the concept of the Western Regional Training Initiative (WRTI) was proposed to members of the FISA Collaborative by Crisis Center North. Through the collaboration of Penn State University; Midnight Blue Technology; Thorp Reed and Armstrong, LLC; and the following eleven domestic violence and sexual assault agencies: Alice Paul House; Allekiski Hope Center; Crisis Center of Lawrence County; Crime Victims Center of Fayette County; Pittsburgh Action Against Rape; SPHS Care Center; Washington Women’s Center; Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh; Women’s Center of Beaver County and the Center for Victims of Violence and Crime, WRTI was born.
This initiative allows participating programs to share trainers and training materials, maximizing the use of already scarce resources. State mandated curricula was filmed and stored on DVD’s and on-line streaming video format, allowing centers to train staff and volunteers all year long. A website was created to host the streaming video and a library of editable live trainings as well as power point presentations, which capture changes in societal attitudes, changes in area legal systems, trauma theory, healing and prevention.
The state mandated domestic violence and sexual assault curriculums were blended into one convenient format by WRTI subcommittee members, thus reducing that burden for dual centers; securing funding and in-kind services; providing ongoing quality control; and recruiting technological talent to the table.
This project has had extensive benefits including: savings to the southwest region of $120,365 per year in training costs, 172 users have accessed the site with an age range of 18-73 thus illustrating the general ease and intuitiveness of the site, year-long access to quality training for staff and volunteers, greater ease and flexibility in dealing with employee turnover, shared expertise and training resources among programs in the initiative, consistent quality of training among centers, access to the most seasoned professionals in the region who are permanently recording their expertise for future generations, building bridges to the university community, exposing students to the field of victim services and engaging them in social change work, eased burdens on dual programs providing them with materials in one convenient location, and better outreach to individuals with disabilities making training accessible to all.
This collaborative training initiative assisted programs in meeting state mandated training requirements, strengthened relationships among the participating programs and helped those programs work together to face the difficult economic times.
On behalf of victims of crime and the field of victims services, we thank the Western Regional Training Initiative for its innovation, collaboration and unfailing commitment to victims of crime.