Rotary Global Grant Blog August 2018

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For the first part of August, I was home in Colorado visiting my family. It was great to have a chance to soak up some Colorado summer and to visit my loved ones. While I was home, I also got the chance to visit the Rotary Clubs of Fort Collins and Loveland, to thank them in person for their support of my research. It was wonderful to get to reconnect with Rotarians who I have been in so much email contact with and to meet a few new friends! I continue to be amazed by and endlessly grateful to the Rotary community for the work they do.

While in Colorado, I also delivered an Introduction to Restorative Practices in Schools training for Mountain Sage Community School in Fort Collins. I have deep ties to the Mountain Sage community, having been a Waldorf student myself growing up, and I also have a love and admiration for the educational philosophy at the root of their school. It was a privilege to get to share my work in restorative practices and some practical skills for building healthy communities and resolving conflict with the Mountain Sage staff.

Towards the end of August, my colleague Haley and I delivered a two-day Restorative Justice Facilitator Training for Victoria University of Wellington staff. Through these trainings, we are growing the community understanding of what it means to be a Restorative University and are growing our team of facilitators who can take cases. I always love the opportunity to spend two days taking a deep dive into restorative philosophy and skills with a group of learners! We also had a chance to try out a couple new games I had designed for teaching facilitation skills, which was  a lot of fun!

You can read the most recent edition of the Peacebuilder Newsletter on the topic of Paradigm Shifts: An Argument for Studying Peace here. My contribution describes how restorative practices can teach students how to handle difficult conversations.

During July, I got to pilot a project I have been trying to get off the ground in the university for over a year. The “Sustained Restorative Dialogue” method is a proactive restorative process to hold difficult conversation about important community issues. The inaugural dialogue explored the issue of sexual harm and harassment on campus. It was a “sustained” dialogue in that it was run over four sessions with the same participants. It was a “restorative” dialogue in that the conversation moved in sequential sessions through the main steps of a restorative analysis – What is happening? What are the impacts? What is needed to make things right? The aim of the dialogue was to explore the broader climate that gives rise to sexual harm in the campus setting and beyond and to explore possible solutions.

This month, I received feedback from the Sustained Restorative Dialogue participants and compiled a report on the project. I am happy to say that the pilot was a great success, and the university is excited to move forward with wider implementation. The report below includes background information, the circle outlines for each session, feedback from participants, recruitment processes, and lessons learned.

Sustained Restorative Dialogue Report

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Beyond the Carrot and the Stick

What is the best way to promote good, pro-social behavior? Is it rewarding good behavior or punishing bad behavior? The carrot or the stick?

This question has been asked across a wide range of contexts from the criminal justice system to schools to workplaces to international relations. Those in authority in each context have tried one or the other, or most often, a combination of both, in an attempt to persuade the members of their community to behave well.

It strikes me in examining this dynamic that we have been extremely limited in our two options: the carrot or the stick. In order to best inspire good behavior, perhaps we need to think beyond rewards and punishment.

The “stick” or the threat of punishment is often employed as a deterrent for harmful behavior. The thinking goes: if people know that they will be punished for a certain action, the threat of that punishment will deter them from following through. There is an appealing logic to this line of thinking, but it isn’t as effective as we generally think. As Paul Rock notes, the ability to threaten and deliver sanctions has been found minimally effective in shaping people’s law-related behavior.[1] Additionally, re-offence rates following punishment remain stubbornly high, suggesting that the “stick” does little to prevent future negative behavior.

The “carrot” or the reward for good behavior is often used in an attempt to incentivize people to act a certain way. For example, in schools, students may receive stars or treats for good behavior or in workplaces, employees may receive a bonus for good performance. I remember classmates in High School who were paid by their parents for good grades. As Daniel Pink (2001) explains in Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, external rewards are not actually the best way to motivate people. The problem here is that the motivation for the positive behavior is based on external factors rather than internal.

The solution to this problem may be to expand our options; to think beyond the carrot and the stick. Restorative Practices suggest that the best way to encourage good, pro-social behavior is to listen. Ask open-ended question with a tone of curiosity and respect and listen genuinely to the answers. Strive to understand individuals’ needs and to make them feel heard and respected.

All people share a core need to feel they are valued and that they belong. Work to create spaces in your community that foster collaborative communication with an emphasis on equal voice. One great tool for this is the restorative circle process.

It is not deterrence through threat of punishment or incentivizing through promise of reward that holds the greatest influence on our behavior. Rather, it is an experience of our connection to others and a sense of being valued and heard by our community that fuels us to do well.

[1] Paul Rock, “Rules, Boundaries and the Courts: Some Problems in the Neo-Durkheimian Sociology of Deviance,” British journal of sociology 49, no. 4 (1998).

Sustained Restorative Dialogue – Understanding and Preventing Sexual Harm on Campus

Over the past two years, Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) has taken significant steps towards becoming a Restorative University. This has involved the use of restorative processes both in a reactive way, as a response to misconduct or incidents of harm, and a proactive way, in order to build community, enhance belonging and mutual responsibility, and identify shared community norms.

The “Sustained Restorative Dialogue” method was piloted in July 2018 as a proactive restorative process to hold difficult conversation about important community issues. The inaugural dialogue explored the issue of sexual harm and harassment on campus. It was a “sustained” dialogue in that it was run over four sessions with the same participants. It was a “restorative” dialogue in that the conversation moved in sequential sessions through the main steps of a restorative analysis – What is happening? What are the impacts? What is needed to make things right? The aim of the dialogue was to explore the broader climate that gives rise to sexual harm in the campus setting and beyond and to explore possible solutions.

The report below includes background information, the circle outlines for each session, feedback from participants, recruitment processes, and lessons learned. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions!