History of WAVE

1996: The Beginning of WAVE

WAVE – Worldwide Alternatives to ViolencE – began as a group which responded to a call from George Hosking early in 1996.

In the early 1990s George had become more and more concerned at the cruelty to children which went on throughout the world. In January of 1996 he decided concern without action was of no value, and he resolved to do something about the issue. Newly on the internet, he began to contact other members of his internet provider, CompuServe, to see if there were other people interested in taking action to stop child abuse. There were, and this soon grew into a shared concern about all forms of interpersonal violence. In an exchange of e-mails with Donna Wodke in Chicago, a decision was made to form "WAVE" – Worldwide Alternatives to ViolencE.

On 6 April 1996, Judy Bell, Karyl Chastain, Joanne Doucette, George Hosking, Paul Warner and Donna Wodke linked up in a CompuServe on-line meeting room, hosted by Martie Tyler, and decided on the philosophy for the group. Karyl’s energy proved invaluable in getting WAVE under way, organising and running on-line meetings, and later in April an initial ‘motto’ was adopted:

"A world of learning, joy and self-expression for every child; a world of peace and non-violence in human relationships, where every person acts with respect towards all others."

By 18 May four on-line meetings had been held. It was decided that in order to tackle violence effectively WAVE must first understand the root causes of violent behaviour, and this was selected as the focus of early work by the group. Donna and Paul provided much of the energy and humour which characterised these early meetings.

An initial left-brain, right-brain strategy was adopted, and more members attracted to the group. Fresh energy was added by new on-line activists such as Jan Arnow from Louisville, Kentucky and Catherine Briggs from Boston. The global spread of membership was helped by the enthusiasm of Jochen Bettgens-Gäng from Germany, Natti Ronel from Israel, Ingrid Gäng from Australia and Jacqui Knight from New Zealand.

In July 1996 the group held its first face-to-face meeting, with Karyl (US), George (UK), Jochen (Germany) and Ingrid (Australia) getting together at George’s home in Surrey, England. Amongst other issues they discussed the problem of how to widen active participation and spread the organisational work. Some restructuring was decided on, Jochen taking over Karyl’s organisational role.

George began networking, creating relationships with other organisations involved in similar issues, such as the UK National Children’s Bureau, the UK Parenting Education Forum, US Positive Parenting, the International (Swedish) Non-Violence Project, the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), and Imagine Nations United.

Early research focused on identifying and summarising international expert reports on how to address violence – e.g. the Australian National Committee on Violence (1990) and the UK Gulbenkian Commission Report on Children and Violence (1995) – and the writings of people such as Alice Miller, James Gilligan and Bob Johnson, all of whom stressed the importance of childhood experience.

In the early months there was heated debate as controversial issues were discussed. A minority of members, who prized personal rights, fiercely opposed the views of the more active members in favour of some degree of gun control and limitation of TV/video violence, and a decision was made not to formulate policy on these issues at that time, though there was a clear majority in favour of some control on both issues.

By October 1996 there were 46 members, half observing and the other half actively exchanging e-mails and contributing to discussions on strategy, Vision and Mission Statement. The Vision created by the membership was: "To create a world without violence, where everyone acts with respect for all others." The chosen Mission Statement was: "To build an international network dedicated to understanding the root causes of violence, to sharing information, to finding and promoting effective practical solutions and to direct action to create a world of peace."

Membership now spread over four continents, with eight different nationalities involved (nine if you consider Scots different from English!), and included psychologists, therapists, teachers, doctors, business people, mothers, an ex-prison psychiatrist, computer specialists, a lawyer and a writer.

A team of 5 Co-ordinators was put in place to run WAVE. George, as Research Co-ordinator, led the effort to understand the root causes of violence; Jan Arnow as Education Co-ordinator advised on the material being amassed by WAVE; Catherine Briggs, as Network Co-ordinator, built on-line links with other organisations; Jochen Bettgens-Gäng as Information Co-ordinator, communicated news and progress to members. Paul Warner, as webmaster, energetically took on the work of creating this web site.

1997: Establishing Ourselves

During 1997 Paul Warner worked hard developing the web site; Jochen Bettgens-Gäng produced our first on-line newsletter; Catherine Briggs built a database of organisations with whom we could network; Karyl Chastain fostered the participation of the growing membership in proposing and selecting goals; Jan Arnow was highly active off-line; and George, now qualifying as a Criminologist, researched and reported findings on the root causes of violence. The WAVE library was begun, and he took the first steps to develop a wider support structure for WAVE, setting up the international panel of expert advisers, with Sir Michael Rutter becoming the first member of the panel.

In mid-1997 membership was more than 50% American, and wholly based on the internet. By late 1997 George was attempting to move the group on to a phase of recruiting members with no access to e-mail, and working actively with other organisations, including bodies not linked to or active on the internet. This proposed change of direction proved less interesting to many of the e-mail activists, and WAVE reached a fork in the road. Should it remain a wholly on-line organisation, spreading understanding and information solely by electronic means, or should it also develop an active off-line membership and become engaged in direct work in local communities around the world?

Once more a fierce debate took place, with some members strongly favouring one policy and some the other. In December 1997 those favouring strong off-line activity, led by Jan Arnow and George Hosking, won majority support.

With some of WAVE’s most active members now very busy off-line, the e-mail discussion groups fell away, and WAVE entered a new phase in its development. With no active recruitment having taken place during the year membership in December 1997 was 80, just over half American.


In early 1998 Paul Warner opened the web site. His vision of how WAVE could fulfil its self-appointed task of global communication was now in place, if still unfinished. Later that year other commitments led him to relinquish this role and hand it over to new webmaster Niall Hosking.

Now mainly joined by people in local communities, both lay and professional, concerned about issues such as domestic violence, child abuse and interpersonal violence in society, off-line membership grew to exceed numbers on-line. There was no active effort to recruit, but George was now delivering WAVE’s findings to seminars and conferences in the UK and people often joined WAVE after hearing George speak. As a result, UK based membership grew to the point where it exceeded American.

The switch to link with off-line members brought in new activists such as Felicity de Zulueta, author of "From Pain to Violence", with her insights on the roles of attachment and PTSD in the origins of violent behaviour. Phil Shepherd, Chair of Imagine Nations United, joined us. We benefited from the insight of new members such as Ed Straw, Chair of the Marriage Guidance Council "Relate", and the criminologist/film producer Roger Graef.

Much effort went into the creation of a strong organisational structure. WAVE was formed as a limited company and trustees appointed. Later WAVE Trust was created as a separate organisation from the membership-oriented WAVE Limited, and received international charitable status. The system whereby trustees of Limited attend and observe the trustees’ meetings of WAVE Trust, and vice versa, was established. Titus Alexander joined as Chairman, bringing a wealth of educational experience. Mac Derwig joined as Finance Director, his grasp of – and insistence on – organisational efficiency adding greatly to WAVE’s capabilities. The arrival of Sir Richard Bowlby, with his wealth of knowledge of his father’s work, reflected our growing awareness of the crucial nature of the earliest years and early mother-baby interaction.

The International Panel of Expert Advisers was expanded, with world-renowned experts such as Kevin Browne, Jim Gilligan, Jerry Patterson and Bruce Perry adding their know-how to WAVE’s purpose, as well as others with specialist but vital knowledge.

During these three years WAVE mainly engaged in the unexciting task of developing a grounded understanding of the root causes of violence, and to finding – but not yet promoting – effective practical solutions. In mid-1999 "Digging up the Roots of Violence" summarised findings to that date, while by end 2000 "Nursery Crimes" updated the earlier report, and drew attention to the importance of the earliest years of life.

Still without any attempt at active recruitment, by end 2000 WAVE membership stood at 280. Amongst members whose nationality was known, 46% were British and 18% American, followed by Russians, Canadians, Germans, Cypriots, New Zealanders, Australians, Indians and Irish.


Root Causes, Alternatives, and Solutions to Violence


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