Solving problems involves up to three levels of response:
Contain - Resolve (& Repair) - Reduce
1. Contain the situation - so that it doesn't get worse and no more harm is done.
Many restorative practices may contribute to de-escalating a tense the situation:
- Calm, affective statements can express care, concern and non-judgemental support for all involved
- Calm restorative questions may enable the parties to have their experiences acknowledged, assuring them that they have been or will be heard. This in turn may reduce their fear, anger, frustration...
- Even a quick spontaneous circle may really help defuse a situation. With more formal follow-up later, if appropriate
- Having a restorative culture with a proven track record means that the parties involved
- can be confident that "We can handle this" and,
- the process will be fair
2. Resolve what happened & Repair the harm done
For minor problems, containing the situation using the above strategies may well be sufficient. But do some incidental follow-up, just to make sure!!
For major problems more formal Restorative Practices may require restorative Circles, Meetings or Conferences that...
3. Reduce the likelihood of the problem recurring
- Are entered into voluntarily by all parties
- Are well facilitated: suitable venue, layout, skilled, respectful, well timed, sequenced (scripted)
- Ensure proper accountability
- Lead to repairing the harm done if possible
- And have effective follow up as required to ensure that the problem has been resolved, commitments met, relationships restored...
In the busy life of schools, businesses and other organisations time, energy and attention are valuable resources not to be wasted on non-core activities. It can be very satisfying and a relief to "fix" a problem. This is one reason we can be tempted to cut corners, simply tick off a problem as "solved" and move on.
But what if the problem recurs? It just means more time, energy and attention has to be given to fixing it next time!! Which also means less time for core activities. Rework is waste. So how to reduce the likelihood of problems recurring?
There are lots of ways to do this including...
BUILD COMMUNITY!! - shared purposed, inclusion, belonging, identity...
- Train staff and others in restorative practices
- Deploy and integrate restorative practices across the organisation
- Identify as a restorative organisation*
- Develop a restorative culture
- Make people aware of your restorative culture*
- Share your restorative experiences
- Use restorative practices (statements, questions, circles...) in non-problem situations
- Gather data about your use and the effectiveness of your Restorative Practices
*NOTE: Courage may be required
Identifying as a restorative organisation, and letting others know about may require a modicum of courage. We have to be brave enough to say "We are not perfect, we have problems too, things go wrong here,...".
But remember there are two questions in the minds of your clients, students, families, staff, ...
"Does this organisation care about me, us, my child...?"
"Does this organisation know what it is doing?"
Being a restorative organisation is a step towards being able to answer both questions with a clear and demonstrable "Yes!"