Programming Connection

The M2M Network 


Toronto, Ontario
2012

Joining Forces: Using Networks to Consolidate Outreach Workers’ Efforts

The M2M Network is a group of outreach workers dedicated to improving gay men’s sexual health. It was established to coordinate the efforts of different organizations conducting outreach in the same gay men’s bathhouses according to a common calendar, thereby reducing the need for each organization to contact bathhouse staff directly. This coordinated effort reduces the amount of planning on the part of bathhouse staff, making it more effortless for the staff to welcome outreach workers from different organizations into their establishments and simpler for workers to plan their outreach.

Beyond getting bathhouses to better understand and embrace outreach and HIV and STI testing, the M2M Network serves as a support network for outreach workers from a diverse group of community-based organizations, each of them conducting outreach in the same venues but focusing on a different sub-population of gay men. Members of the network not only discuss scheduling conflicts but also strategies for effective interventions and tips for overcoming challenges as well as emerging trends in sexual behaviours among the diverse populations who are (and who are not yet) accessing testing, counseling and other outreach in the bathhouses. 

One enormous benefit of the M2M Network is its ability to foster consistency in the efforts of the participating organizations. Anyone involved in outreach work in the ASO sector knows that turnover in our organizations can be high, and often efforts that start out with the best intentions are abandoned for a time while staffing issues are settled. When new staff is finally hired, there can be a lag in services as new outreach workers “learn the ropes.” By maintaining monthly meetings of participants from across different organizations, the M2M Network can bring new outreach workers up to speed quickly. Rather than starting from scratch, a new employee from one organization can model his outreach activities on the work of his veteran peers from other organizations in the M2M Network, eliminating the need for any outreach worker or service organization to “reinvent the wheel” regardless of how new they are to outreach.

As of 2011, the following organizations have outreach workers participating in the M2M Network:

  • Africans in Partnership Against AIDS (APAA)
  • AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT)
  • Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP)
  • Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS)
  • Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP)
  • Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples
  • Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance
  • Hassle Free Clinic
  • Toronto People With AIDS Foundation

Collectively, they reach out to the wide diversity of men—from different racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds—who have sex with men in Toronto in a bathhouse setting.

Originally, the program was called G Men and received two years of funding for a part-time coordinator; this funding was subsequently cut. Outreach workers from funded organizations continued their involvement in the program under its new M2M name by categorizing their attendance of monthly meetings within the “networking with other agencies” deliverable of their organization’s funded mandate.

The M2M Network model focuses on outreach to a very specific population in an even more specific setting. Those who are conducting outreach in different populations with equally specific settings may find the establishment of a network to be equally beneficial. For example, other groups of workers from different organizations who are conducting outreach in the following environments could surely benefit from routine networking:

  • schools
  • prisons
  • bars
  • injection sites
  • remote Aboriginal communities

What’s more, with the advent of improved low-cost communication methods, such as video-conferencing through Skype, service providers needn’t be confined to one city or region when reaching out to each other to consolidate their efforts, share knowledge and provide support.   

For more information on the M2M Network, please contact:

Zavare Tengra
Hassle Free Clinic
Email: zavare@hasslefreeclinic.org