vr picThe 21st Century will redefine our entire concept of higher education and adult learning.

The IIRP Graduate School demonstrates the innovation that is possible when empowering learning strategies meet the best of new technologies.

For instance, our graduate programs teach many forms of participatory group engagement that K-12 teachers can use with students. One such practice is called a “restorative circle.”

In the past, a professor might talk about circles. She might assign some readings on circles. If the class is together in person, the professor might run a role play or two. We do those things.

But what if you could sit in on a “real” restorative circle, in a real school, with real young people? And what if you could sit in on that circle without leaving home, without leaving your office or after you put your own kids to bed?

What if you could sit in on the same circle several times, perhaps seeing and learning something new each time? Then, you could bring that learning and insight to an in-person or online course cohort.

Well, today you can. Here’s a sample of a new virtual reality experience from the IIRP Graduate School.

henry and aliceHenry McClendon, Jr., IIRP Michigan Representative, with Alice Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc.The IIRP World Conference in Detroit was a triumph, our largest ever! Among the sold-out crowd were 75 Detroit residents who attended through scholarships, bringing a true spirit of community.

Their grassroots work as stewards of their neighborhoods is supported by commitment from the top. “Restorative practices will make our city safe,” Mayor Mike Duggan declared in the opening session. “Neighborhood police officers are working seamlessly with community block clubs and Detroit Public Schools,” added Todd Bettison, Deputy Chief of Police, who’s been trained in restorative practices himself. “It’s making a huge difference. Formerly challenging kids are now leaders.” 

Two school superintendents confirmed the district’s adherence to the practices. Tonya Allen, President and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, stated, “Skillman is supporting training for teachers, police, courts and neighborhood organizations.” High school sophomore and Restorative Practices Ambassador, Faith Howard, vowed, “Change starts with me!” Her schoolmate and fellow Ambassador, Jordan Cook, agreed: “I’m the one who tells kids: You can do it!”

ladder

My recent article, Grow in Public: Leading Conflict Principle 6, made the argument that a deliberately developmental culture is only made by cultivating deliberately developmental people.

A deliberately developmental organizational culture persistently pushes team members to the edges of their current competencies. By definition, that is not a place where most people feel comfortable. Fear, insecurity and conflict live in that place. It’s a reach into the unknown.

How do you get your team to go there? The first step is to convince them that no one will be asked to journey alone. You’ll go together.

pdf start the year circles cover 2Download our free 4-page guide of circle ideas to get your year started in a PROACTIVE way!

Topics include:

  • Setting norms
  • Circles to foster respect
  • Fun and games

To receive this free download, sign up for the IIRP News, through which you will receive periodic, hopeful emails, including news and announcements about the growing field of restorative practices. (If you are already subscribed, that's okay! You will not be resubscribed.) Your download will be available after you click Submit.
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A one-time gang member in Los Angeles is taking his understanding of his community, his idealism and his knowledge of restorative practices back into neighborhoods to help gang members learn to change and be more positive community members.Carlos and boysCarlos Alvarez, center, with two boys

“Lots of kids embedded in gangs, their emotional intelligence is very minimal,” he says. “We have to build capacity around affect regulation.”

Carlos Alvarez, an IIRP licensed trainer, says restorative practices builds emotional connections and allows children to develop healthy social skills. This involves allowing students to process their emotion and trauma, which they often experience as physical symptoms, such as a tingling sensation in their hands when they get angry. “Ours is a bottom up approach to behavior,” he says.

In his role as Director of Student Discipline at Bright Star Secondary Charter School, a public charter school in south Los Angeles, Alvarez says he conducts five to six restorative conferences per week around issues like fights and class disruption that might previously been handled with suspensions.

He recalls one student he developed a long-term relationship with. His father was addicted to heroin and had abandoned his family. Like many children who have experienced trauma, this boy felt a lot of shame and believed there was no hope for the future. He lacked trust and his whole nervous system was highly reactive.

courageImage by oliver-cole @ unsplash

Sometimes doing something “close” to right isn’t good enough.

As a father of four I find myself increasingly making use of dad sayings that I learned from my own father when discussing life’s most important matters with my children and others.

Mind you, when these pearls of wisdom were dispensed to me as a young man, I rolled my eyes, scoffed or otherwise convinced myself that my father’s sage advice somehow didn’t apply to me. We all think our own ethical dilemmas are special, especially when we are teenagers.

Current events have put one saying at the forefront of my mind over the last year.

If my dad asked me how I did with some critical task, especially those involving doing the right thing where other people are concerned, I frequently hedged by saying that I did the task mostly right or “close” to expectations.

The response to this was invariably, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

My father was teaching me that there are some tasks and responsibilities that we have a responsibility to do completely, and to the best of our ability, correctly and with precision.

Robert Thornton"The conference is an opportunity to bump shoulders with the restorative elite, who live and practice restorative practices on a day-to-day basis." - Robert Thornton, Senior Program Officer, Skillman FoundationThis is last in a series of interviews of sponsors of Strengthening the Spirit of Community, the IIRP World Conference in Detroit, MI, October 24-26, 2018. Sponsors are providing scholarships for Detroit community members, bringing a new level of connection and engagement to the conference. Robert Thornton, Senior Program Officer of the Skillman Foundation, explains why Skillman is a Supporter. He speaks about Skillman's work and why you should join them at the conference!

What prompted you to sponsor community scholarships to the IIRP World Conference in Detroit?

The Skillman Foundation has been supporting the restorative framework in Detroit for several years. I believe in its transformative powers. I have seen what can happen when people commit to building restorative communities with fidelity. So it makes sense to expose as many residents as possible to restorative practices. 

Why should people come to this conference?  

1. We're going to have a gathering of some of the best minds in the world who’ve been working in this platform for a very long time, all in one place. 2. You're going to come to a city that is in the midst of a renaissance as a major place in this world. And most important, it's an opportunity to bump shoulders with the restorative elite, who live and practice restorative practices on a day-to-day basis. 

This article is second in a series featuring sponsors of Strengthening the Spirit of Community, the IIRP World Conference in Detroit, MI, October 24-26, 2018. University of Michigan-Dearborn is a Champion Sponsor, providing scholarships for Detroit community members and bringing a new level of connection and engagement to the conference.

In this interview, Tracy S. Hall, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Office of Metropolitan Impact, and Amy Finley, Ph.D., Dean of Students, explain the importance of restorative practices to their campus and why they would like you to join them at the conference in Detroit!

Tracy Hall"We are deeply committed to being a restorative campus." - Tracy Hall, Ph.D.

Tracy S. Hall, Ph.D.

What prompted you to sponsor community scholarships to the IIRP World Conference in Detroit?

Restorative practices is crucial to global and community healing. U-M Dearborn is an anchor to our community. We want to support our community doing this important work, so they can do it better. If the community can't get to the conference, how do they learn and buy in?

Why should people come to this conference? 

To be inspired, to be informed and enriched, to find other people who see the world as a positive place to be. To strengthen their mental muscles in their practices, to be reinforced. To feel refreshed and refueled and renewed. It's easy to focus on the negative. Restorative practices provides a chance to see human frailties and see beauty come out of the cracked and broken. 

Alice Thompson"Relationships and strengthening the fabric of communities have always been key to our work." - Alice G. Thompson, CEO Black Family Development, Inc. (BFDI)Detroit community groups are gearing up to share the extraordinary work they are doing to help make Detroit a restorative city at Strengthening the Spirit of Community, the IIRP World Conference in Detroit, MI, October 24-26, 2018. Sponsors are providing scholarships for Detroit community members, bringing a new level of connection and engagement to the conference.

In this series of interviews, our sponsors tell about their work and why they think you should join them at the conference!

First, Alice G. Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc. (BFDI), explains why BFDI is a Champion Sponsor and is hosting the IIRP World Conference.

What prompted you to sponsor community scholarships to the IIRP World Conference in Detroit?

It's BFDI’s goal to establish in Detroit a restorative practices city, one community at a time. We believe in the spirit of community, and we want to work with communities to strengthen that spirit. That really is our heartbeat. Our neighborhood community circle keepers, our residents, our schools, our police, our organizations, are training in restorative practices. They are coming together to improve relationships, reduce tensions, repair harm and take control of their neighborhoods. We want to expose them to a broader vision of restorative practices, give them new ideas and spark innovations: things they can do in own neighborhood and their city. 

Why should people come to Detroit?

To learn, share, pick up new ideas and receive innovations. Folks are doing unique things here that people can borrow. Our community-engagement circles are truly empowering residents. This work is really worth looking at. Our young people are leaders on how to use restorative processes to improve social connection and repair harm. I have not seen anyone as steeped in community-based work with restorative practices as we are here in Detroit.

transparencyImage by nathan-dumlao @ unsplashIt was 2008. The Great Recession was in full swing. An organization that was growing steadily until that point had nearly ground to a halt.

It was very eerie in the office. The rush and crush of a once busy international professional development and coaching business was gone.

The phones were not ringing. The last of our multi-year contracts were coming to an end. Event registrations were low.

We had recently launched a new and innovative graduate program after investing nearly a decade of sweat equity and what little surplus we could pool from our consortium of organizations. After a promising initial growth period following program launch, new student inquiries were way down.

In another corner of our consortium, referrals were plummeting for the private schools and counseling programs we administer for at-risk youth. The rapid and unexpected loss of steady revenue from these programs was, in a word, crippling.

I was nearly ready to grab my sandwich board and become a street corner preacher. Repent! The end is near!

For the first time in our thirty-year history, we were headed toward layoffs. We held a meeting with several hundred staff to discuss the state of the organization and our plans to right the ship.

circle central americaIIRP Latin America is providing processes to help people cope with stress and fear during times of great turmoil in Central America.

Violence boiled over in Nicaragua in April 2018. Citizens protested government social reforms and police responded with extreme brutality. The newspaper La Prensa reports 351 dead, 2,100 injured, 329 imprisoned and 68 tortured.

The country has since become polarized. There have been waves of anarchy: looting, arson and violent conflict, even among families.

AMOS, an NGO that delivers health interventions in Nicaragua (http://www.amoshealth.org), is helping its staff and clients deal with this nightmare.

IIRP Latin America first provided circles training for AMOS in 2009. They took to the process immediately, and it has become part of their organizational culture. They use circles to address conflict in the communities where they work, to make decisions and address staff tensions. During the current upheaval, circles have become a beacon of hope for AMOS's staff and the communities they serve.