Rotary Global Grant Blog November 2018

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I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone! November really flew by with most of my time devoted to completing a full draft of my dissertation, which has now been submitted to my supervisors for feedback. It feels great to have hit this milestone! While it was difficult to be away from family on Thanksgiving, we had a nice time celebrating with friends and certainly have a lot to be grateful for!

An article I wrote about the use of Restorative Practices in the Residence Halls at Victoria University was published this month is Conflict Resolution Quarterly. You can read the full article here.

I contributed several pieces to the most recent NACRJ newsletter, the Restorative Well, which you can find here.

The most recent Rotary Peacebuilder Newsletter is on the topic of journaling and will be posted here soon.

Finally, I was very excited this month to receive a Postgraduate Research Excellence Award. This award recognizes a postgraduate student that:

  • Displays academic rigour, excellence, originality, and/or creativity;
  • Demonstrates an impact within the scholarly, economic, or wider stakeholder communities;
  • Displays clarity of expression that addresses an educated but non-expert audience;
  • Advances knowledge in the field and/or contributes to knowledge.

It was a real honor to receive the award and I feel very grateful!

Rotary Global Grant Blog October 2018

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Happy Halloween! As the leaves change colors and the weather gets cooler in Colorado, we are experiencing the first signs of spring here in New Zealand, though still with a fair share of rainy, cold days!

I kicked off the month by attending a Thesis Bootcamp. Designed for students in the final phase of their dissertation writing, the weekend brought together a group of PhD candidates for 2.5 days of intensive writing. It was a wonderful experience! So great to have the solidarity of writing alongside other students.

This month, Haley and I offered a training called Restorative Practices for Transforming Workplace Culture at VUW. It was a great day with an excellent group of professionals, diving into circle practice and restorative conversations. The first half of the day focused on using restorative tools proactively to build community and trust and establish positive group norms, and the second half of the day focused on how to use restorative processes reactively when issues arise. The course received great feedback.

This was a highly enjoyable course. It was thoroughly practical and immediately useful. Great facilitators and a really engaged group of learners. Restorative practices have existed in various forms across history – and not so ironically, they are the way for the future.

We also offered a Community Restorative Justice Facilitator Training, which was excellent! This is something I have been wanting to do for a while. We offer facilitator training through the university, but the cost that the university sets is often prohibitive for people from non-profits and other community groups. A few months ago, we sent out a message to a few people who had expressed interest saying we wanted to offer a Community RJ Facilitator Training. We calculated how much it would cost for us to provide the training and said we would divide that cost among the total number of registered participants, with a maximum of 20. The training quickly filled and it was an excellent weekend with a group of passionate and highly-skilled community members! One participant even came all the way from Perth, Australia after reading an article I wrote about Building a Restorative University and reaching out to me a couple weeks ago. This is something I would love to do again. I think it is so powerful for community leaders in a variety of settings to have restorative knowledge and skills!

During October, the Chair in Restorative Justice at VUW also hosted a conference titled “Effective and Humane”: Restorative and Māori Justice Approaches to the Prison Crisis. My partner, Sam, and I delivered a workshop on the potential of using circle processes in prisons, inspired by our experience delivering an RJ workshop at Manawatu Prison. I also helped out as a circle keeper, facilitating opening and closing circles at the conference. It was a great couple days and a chance to hear from some amazing international restorative practitioners.

You can check out the most recent edition of the Peacebuilder Newsletter on the topic of Cartoons and Peacebuilding here.

 

Rotary Global Grant Blog September 2018

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Lots of great opportunities to learn and share Restorative Practices this month!

The primary focus for me in September has been writing and revising my dissertation. I have a full draft due on October 8th, so am working away! Wish me luck! 

I have also had some great opportunities for engaged practice this month. My colleagues, Haley and Sarah, and I were asked to participate in a campus event called Sex in the Hub. Billed as “the sex talk you wish you had,” the event focused on sexual health and consent, and also had a very powerful exhibit where you could listen to audio recordings of stories of sexual assault from students. It was heartbreaking and incredibly moving. We were there to facilitate circles as a way to debrief the experience of the exhibit.

On the training front, Chris and I led a half-day workshop on Leadership and Restorative Practices as part of the Leading People Program at VUW. It is great to see the University increasingly embracing the restorative vision! I also gave a talk about restorative justice to a study abroad group visiting Wellington and had the chance to bring circle practice to a local church community. You can read more about that experience here.

One of the things I had the most fun with this month was playing with the idea of how images can effectively portray the idea of restorative justice. I ended up commissioning an image of a Restorative Lady Justice from a local artist. You can read more about my thought process and see that image here.

You can check out the lasted edition of the Rotary Peacebuilder Newsletter reflecting on Sticks and Carrots here. My contribution is titled “Beyond the Carrot and the Stick.” We are also now sharing these newsletters on a Rotary Peacebuilder blog.

I contributed several pieces to the most recent Restorative Well, the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice newsletter. You can read that here.

Finally, I mentioned in July that David Karp visited VUW and gave an excellent lecture on the use of RJ for sexual assault cases in the university context. A recording of that lecture has now been posted here.

 

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, How Can We Illustrate Restorative Justice?

The challenge of describing restorative justice and how the philosophy and approach differs from the conventional justice system is one that practitioners and scholars have grappled with since the beginning of the movement. The retributive approach to justice is so culturally ingrained that it can be difficult to fully communicate the restorative paradigm and the impact of this different way of understanding and responding to wrongdoing.

Images play a powerful role in communicating complex ideas. As the well-known idiom in the title suggests, the best images are capable of conveying meaning more effectively than a lengthy description.

So how can we use the power of images to help communicate the concept of restorative justice?

A recent article by Brunilda Pali highlights the lack of images of restorative justice available to help communicate its meaning. The most common image used is of a group of people seated in a circle, which does not communicate significant conceptual depth to someone new to restorative justice. She notes that “art can mediate, enhance, and make tangible new and alternative understandings of the notion and practice of justice” and laments the fact that restorative justice scholars have been latecomers to grasping this power of images.[1]

When we consider the complex concept of justice, the most common image encountered is that of Lady Justice. Lady Justice is generally depicted wearing a blindfold and carrying scales and a sword. The blindfold is meant to represent impartiality, the scales signify fairness and the weighing of evidence, and the sword symbolizes the authority to punish.Lady justice standard image

Restorative justice challenges the concept of justice communicated by the Lady Justice image in almost all of its elements. As Pali notes, “from a restorative justice perspective, the sword, the scales, and the blindfold mainly represent the limitations of formal justice, where justice is seen as harsh, rigid, and unable to see the injuries imposed in her name.”[2]

Pali’s article inspired me to think about how I would visually portray the restorative concept of justice. Because of the strong association of the word “justice” with the image of Lady Justice, I felt that an effective restorative justice image would need to be in conversation with the Lady Justice image. How could the Lady Justice image be modified to communicate the ways in which the restorative concept of justice differs from the punitive justice she personifies?

I began to wonder about a Lady of Restorative Justice, who has taken off her blindfold in order to see the complex humanity and individual needs of each person involved in the process. She would have hung up her sword and scales, and taken her place as an equal member of the circle, leaning in, intently and compassionately listening to the stories of the people present and what each person needed to repair the harms and make things right.

I reached out to a local Wellington artist, Phil Dickson, who agreed to illustrate the idea. This is the image he created.

Lady Justice circle image

What concept of justice do you think this image communicates? How would you illustrate restorative justice?

 

[1] Brunilda Pali, “Images of Alternative Justice: The Alternative of Restorative Justice,” Crime, Media, and Popular Culture  (2017): 11.

[2] Ibid., 5.

How Can Circles Benefit Spiritual Communities?

About a month ago, a local church approached our team about how they could implement restorative practices in their community. They are a very diverse church with many English language learners who have recently moved to New Zealand from other countries. Especially because of these language and cultural barriers, it can be difficult for all 50+ members of the church to feel connected. Like any community, there is also sometimes conflict, and they were looking for tools to help them work through the issues that occasionally come up.

As a church committed to following the lived example of Jesus, they were also interested in the work of reconciliation and peacemaking, and wanted to be involved in that sacred work within their community.

They decided to do a four-week series on the theme of becoming a restorative church, and I was asked to come on week three to facilitate a circle experience. The idea was that we would give the community an experience of relationship-building circles, to strengthen their connections to each other and each member’s sense of belonging. Then, when issues come up in the future, there would already be familiarity and comfort with the circle process as a structure for holding those more difficult conversations.

I arrived an hour early to sit down with a group of five volunteer facilitators from the community who had been asked to take on the role because they were perceived as good listeners and natural, gentle leaders. I started by facilitating a circle with them, so that they could know what if feels like, and then we debriefed the experience and talked through the essential elements of facilitating and any questions they had. They had all been asked ahead of time to bring treasured objects to use as their talking pieces.

We also had four volunteer translators from the community, who were given the circle questions and an overview of the circle process ahead of time.

After the standard service, I gave a quick introduction to circles and then helped to divide the congregation into five circle groups, with a translator in each group that needed one. The facilitators then led their circles through the three rounds of questions (which you can see in the circle guide below).

I kept an eye on all five circles and then brought everyone back together at the end to talk about the experience. The community shared beautiful reflections about how it felt like a sacred space was created in the circle, like God was truly present. One newer member of the church said this was the first time he had really felt something in his heart since coming. The groups reflected on laughing and crying together and the beauty of being able to hear each other’s languages and connect with each other with the help of the translators.

Taking the time to connect with each other in a meaningful way is so life giving in a community. For me, circles are a place where the divine feels so tangible. If you are part of a spiritual community, offer to facilitate a circle process. You will be amazed by the outcome!

 

Circle Guide

  • Welcome
  • Purpose of the Connection Circle (to build connection and community, to get to know each other on a deeper level, to practice the circle structure)
  • Establish Group Rules
    • Please listen and speak with respect
    • Respect everyone’s privacy by not sharing what is said in the circle
    • Speak only when you have the talking piece and share time fairly
    • You may pass and we will come back to you
    • Practice patience
  • Introduce Talking Piece
    • Significance of object used
    • How it relates to the question
  • Question Round(s) (you may have time for 1, 2, or 3 rounds of questions)
    • Round 1: Please share your name and a story connected to your name (this could be what your name means, how your name was chosen, what you think of your name, or any other story related to your name).
    • Round 2: What do you feel grateful for this week?
    • Round 3: What experience in your life have you learned the most from? What did you learn?
  • Close the Circle
    • Thank everyone for participating
    • Reflection and tie it all together ending

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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

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).