Restorative practice is a tool for building community, strengthening relationships, and addressing difficult situations. It actively engages individuals in the process of building community and provides opportunities to address challenging issues and restore trust.
Restorative practices are rooted in ancient and indigenous from various cultures around the world, including Native American, First Nation Canadian, African, Celtic, and Hebrew. Restorative practices originated in the 1970s, with mediation between victims and offenders, and eventually expanded to include proactive elements.
Watch this video to learn more about Restorative Practices
How are restorative practices implemented?
Restorative Practices can be implemented proactively or responsively. Proactively, Restorative Practices are primarily used to build strong communities. However, Restorative Practices can also be used responsively to address impactful or challenging issues. Participation is completely voluntary. Common restorative practices include, but are not limited to, community building circles, responsive circles, and restorative conferences. Here are some examples of restorative approaches:
A community building circle is a versatile restorative practice that can be used proactively, to develop relationships and build community or reactively, to respond to wrongdoing, conflicts and problems. Circles give people an opportunity to speak and listen to one another in an atmosphere of safety, decorum, and equality. Typically, circles use a sequential format where a “talking piece” is passed around the circle allowing for each person, who holds that talking piece, to speak and be heard.
A restorative conference is a structured meeting between the students who have caused harm and those impacted by the harm. During the conference, they discuss and decide how best to repair the harm. The restorative conference usually takes place after an incident and the person who have been harmed and those who caused the harm are identified. Prior to the facilitation of the restorative conference, the facilitator(s) will meet with all parties involved to discuss the incident and to assess their readiness for the process. Unlike a community building circle, the restorative conference facilitator sticks strictly to a script and each participant is asked restorative questions. At the end of every conference, a restorative agreement, that includes all participants’ input, is drafted and outlines how the harm will be repaired.
What are the benefits of restorative practices?
Proactively, Restorative Practices allow individuals and communities to come together and engage in a manner that is inclusive, predictable, and genuine. Elevating the importance of relationship building allows people to feel seen and heard, encourages connection, and facilitates trust and cooperation.
When strong communities are built, Restorative Practices can be used in response to difficult situations allowing students to share how an incident has impacted them, hear about all the ways other individuals have been impacted and have a voice in identifying how to improve the situation moving forward. This is a carefully facilitated process that can occur at the individual level, in small groups, or large groups, and requires the willing participation of everyone involved. A restorative process can also occur in conjunction or as an alternative to traditional punitive processes.
What are some examples of conversations with a restorative lens?
Anyone can use restorative-based questions to help others process an incident of wrongdoing or harm. When discussing someone’s behavior that caused harm, you can ask:
- What happened?
- What were you thinking at the time?
- What have you thought about since?
- Who has been affected by what you have done?
- In what ways have they been affected?
- What do you think you need to do to make things right?
When offering support to those impacted by harm, you can ask:
- What happened?
- What did you think when you realized what happened?
- What impact has this incident had on you and others?
- What has been the hardest thing for you?
- What do you think needs to happen to make things right?