Monday, 24 August 2015

What is it that Restorative Practices actually restore?

In order to monitor the success or otherwise of our Restorative Practices we need a framework against which to monitor the outcomes. 

Fewer problems, less harm, better behaviour... are all important outcomes. However these are actually low order indicators. They may not reveal the ways in which restorative practices have really improved the well-being of those involved.

Obviously there are lots of possible answers to the above question. For example, a school that was using Martin Seligman's approach to Well-Being might use restorative practices to restore the 5 main elements (PERMA) that contribute to success and well-being, namely,

1. Positive Emotions 
  • Experiencing joy and pleasure
    While the outcomes of bad experiences are the opposites of joy or pleasure, it is important for people to ultimately feel more positive after dealing with the bad things that they have done, or have been done to them. 
      Unfortunately, punitive approaches leave wrong-doers in the state of feeling bad (shamed) about what they have done as 'logical consequence'. However this is likely to result in on-going disengagement, resentment, loss of confidence... that make it more difficult for a wrong-doer to become a full contriubting member of his/her organisation or community
        Similarly, traditional approaches often fail to address the emotional needs of the person who has been harmed so that they continue to feel bad about what has been done to them and are similarly limited.

        2. Engagement 
        • Being consciously involved in our activities
        Disengagement (isolation, suspension, gaol...) is also often seen as a 'logical consequence' of doing the wrong thing but this reduces the likelihood of productive engagement

        3. Relationships 
        • Having enjoyable and supportive interactions with others
        Damaged relationships are very often a result of wrong doing. Failing to restore damaged relationships is likely to result in a long term state of reduced success and wellbeing

        4. Meaning 
        • Creating a purposeful narrative about our lives
        • Being engaged with or serving something larger than ourselves
        Having been harmed, or having caused harm to others, changes our personal narratives for the worse. Experiencing restoration of positive emotions, engagement, relationships... helps to restore constructive meaning in our lives.

        5. Accomplishments 
        • Completing our goals and following our core values
        Those who have been harmed, or caused harm, are likely to experience a sense of failure. If unresolved this is likely to reduce a person's subsequent capacity to achieve and act in ways that better match their own core values.

        Clearly restorative practices provide rich ways of restoring each of the five elements of Well-Being.

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