class of 2019The 12th Commencement of the IIRP Graduate School took place Sunday, July 21, 2019, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Fourteen recipients of the Master of Science in Restorative Practices — out of a class of 20 — travelled to attend the ceremony from as far away as Costa Rica, St. Lucia and the Yukon! The new graduates are involved in the fields of education, justice and the social services. Including the class of 2019, the IIRP has conferred 208 master's degrees.

Bill Ballantine, Chair of the IIRP Board of Trustees; John W. Bailie, Ph.D., IIRP President; and Craig W. Adamson, Ph.D., IIRP Provost, each offered welcome remarks to the friends and family attending and watching live on Facebook from all over the world.

Graduate Keisha Allen, Executive Director of the Training Institute for IIRP partner, Black Family Development, Inc., in Detroit, delivered an inspiring Commencement address. In a reflection on the power of "engagement," Keisha shared how that power has impacted her life and work.

keisha allenFirst, her great-aunt engaged her by taking her in when her mother was on drugs and her father incarcerated. Then her ninth-grade English teacher engaged her when she was "smoking weed, skipping school and contemplating whether or not life was worth living."

Keisha stressed the urgency of engaging our young people, who "deserve a school-to-career pathway and not a school-to-prison pipeline." Engagement, she explained, requires three things: authenticity, creating an environment of resiliency and a willingness to teach what we know. She quoted an African Proverb that states, "When the children are not embraced by the village, they will burn it down to feel its warmth."

Ultimately, she declared, transformation in a young person's life doesn't happen because they encounter a restorative practitioner. It happens because we choose to engage.

You can hear Keisha's entire speech and watch the complete Commencement ceremony here.

badge4change3IIRP partner Lutheran Community Care Services (LCCS), of Singapore, is determined to spread restorative practices across the entire island republic. “Our goal is the universal application of restorative practices everywhere,” declares Justin Mui, Director.

They're making great progress, introducing the practices to more than 45 organizations, including the Housing & Development Board (HDB), the State Courts, the prison system and religious organizations.

The HDB provides public housing to 80 percent of Singapore's population, with a mixture of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Filipino residents. Restorative practices helps bridge cross-cultural differences and tensions and resolves neighborhood disputes that would have gone to the State Courts.

Kecia McMillianThe 2019 Shawn Suzch Scholarship has been awarded to Kecia McMillian. Kecia has spent many years working with young people, including those who are homeless, underrepresented, and who have mental health and/or intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The scholarship is awarded annual in memory of Shawn Suzch, a young man who overcame adversity with courage and determination.

Currently an in-home tutor for youth who are struggling with learning, Kecia believes in meeting students where they are to help them reach their goals.

Buxmont Bethlehem Grads 2019High school graduation is always a special, emotional event, but the graduation ceremony at Buxmont Academy Bethlehem was uniquely powerful. I didn't know any of the students personally. I had only briefly interacted with the three graduates after a tour of the school a few weeks before. But by the end of the ceremony, I felt my eyes well up.

I expected a speech from the school coordinator Karen Engle, but I didn’t expect the students to share such compelling stories of transformation and community.

There was a palpable sense of comradery throughout the day. “The ceremony is to celebrate the graduates, of course, but we are also celebrating all the other students as they return to their public schools or continue here,” Karen explained.

Almost every student received at least one award: most improved, most curious, most enthusiastic, most supportive... Every student also shared their proudest change. The student changes made a strong impression on me: opening up to people, controlling anger, making better decisions and successfully staying at one school for a whole year.

The three graduates are testaments to the importance of community and commitment to personal growth at Buxmont Academy.

melissa profile pictureMelissa Sorenson is Assistant Director for Special Projects at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, in Monterey, California. She wrote this piece after attending a restorative practices training conducted by Stacey Miller, IIRP Trustee, Assistant Provost for Inclusion at Valparaiso University and Managing Partner of The Consortium for Inclusion & Equity.

Sorenson is part of a small team that is responsible for organizational development at her college. Her work includes facilitating training and development opportunities, supporting leadership groups and collaborating on institution-wide projects.


In November 2018 I was invited to participate in a three-day training on restorative practices held at Middlebury College. I had never heard of restorative practices before the training, and, to be honest, I was a little skeptical about how relevant the training would feel in a professional context.

Restorative practices is defined by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) as “an emerging social science that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities.”

To be clear, those topics are right up my alley, but I was surprised I was being invited to dedicate three days to learning about social connections for my job. I don’t think anyone would deny the importance of community, but is there actually supposed to be room in everyone’s job descriptions for this work? Should relationship building be viewed as a critical component of our jobs?

The restorative practices training convinced me that the answer to those questions should be “yes.” In fact, for a community to successfully navigate change, overcome challenges, and demonstrate a value for diversity and inclusion, those answers need to be yes. By day three I had gone from skepticism to an overwhelming sense of certainty that I had found a critical missing piece at the foundation of my work.

KristinVerellenI felt Johan’s absence in the empty spaces between Kristin Verellen’s words.

Verellen was a keynote speaker during the opening session of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) Europe Conference. The audience of leaders, practitioners, changemakers, scholars, and community advocates gathered at Buda Island in Kortrijk, Belgium to learn more about using restorative practices to enhance community well-being and resilience

A Belgian certified psychotherapist and coach, Verellen spoke in a lilting Dutch accent as she talked about the events of March 22, 2016.

Verellen remembered lingering in bed awhile longer savoring birthday wishes while her life partner, Johan Van Steen, went to work. An hour later, two explosions occurred at Brussels Airport in Zaventem. Shaken by the news, Verellen called Johan to discuss it. Then, the phone line went dead.

Thanks to the School District of University City, St. Louis, Missouri, and writer Nancy Cambria, Director of Communications, for allowing us to republish this story on how basketball coach Kelvin Lee is applying restorative practices. Lee and others at University City High School have learned from the IIRP.


restorative teamKelvin Lee didn’t have the easiest first year as head basketball coach at University City High School in 2017.

The team had a lot of raw athletic talent – perhaps even more so than in his days of coaching future N.B.A. stars at Chaminade College Prep in Creve Coeur.

But his new U. City players were not set in winning habits. They argued with him. They cussed each other out. They hot-dogged into turnovers and fouls. Off the court, it was cool to rattle the rules.

The final 2017 record showed it: 6-19.

This wasn’t easy for a man who has held assistant coaching jobs at Texas A&M, Baylor and Saint Louis University. It wasn’t easy for a coach who had mentored Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal and David Lee into the N.B.A.

But Lee knew two things really well: how to coach basketball, and how to coach kids through trauma and hardship into manhood.

Despite a rocky first season, he knew it was just a matter of time. It all came down to getting to know his youth and “circling-up” to build not just a team, but trusting relationships.

This short documentary film was made during the height of the protests in Oakland surrounding potential budget cuts, including cuts to restorative pratices in schools. Students took the bull by the horns, and insisted on being heard by school board reps. To do this, they invited the reps to come down from their elevated seats and join them in a restorative circle. A talking piece was used and students expressed to all present how valuable restorative practices was to them and how it helped them deal with their problems.


 

 
This film was made by Cassidy Friedman, director of the internationally acclaimed documentary Circles. View this film on youtube.

ripple1Some of the most marginalized people in the city of Allentown, Pennsylvania, are finding a voice, and a sense of dignity, belonging and empowerment, at Ripple Community Inc. (RCI).

They may be experiencing homelessness, mental illness, trauma or drug and alcohol abuse issues. Anyone who shows up at Ripple is welcome to sign in, hang out, eat and make art. Ripple offers a safe, comfortable place for people who live on the fringes of urban society to spend the day in the company of others, serving about 50 people a day.  

But what really creates the sense of humanity and community at Ripple is engaging people through restorative practices like circles. Every day, everyone shares their feelings and their story, builds relationships and sorts out issues and conflicts by means of a structured circle process.

"These are people not used to being listened to, not having a seat at the table,” comments Sherri Brokopp Binder, Ripple Executive Director. "To have this chance to speak is like a breath of fresh air.” Binder holds a Ph.D. in community psychology.

“We work with people, not for them, explains Missy Wise. "We walk their journey with them, allowing them to be self-directed.” Wise works part-time at Ripple and is a student service specialist at the IIRP, where is she is earning her Graduate Certificate in Restorative Practices. She points out that at Ripple , they never use the term "homeless person." They say "street neighbor" instead.

IIRP President John W. Bailie, Ph.D., maintains a blog called Leading Conflict: How to Fight at Work. In this installment, he discusses how to provide an employee a graceful exit when things just don't work out.


grow or goSometimes a colleague needs to decide: it’s time to grow, or time to go.

In the previous article, Seek Problems, Not Solutions: Leading Conflict Principle 8, I discussed why most leaders avoid disruption and seek stasis in relationships.

Instead, the article recommended that leaders seek the broken places and underdeveloped areas of organizational relationships and culture.

Huge performance dividends are paid to leaders that engage the sharp edges of workplace culture proactively, boldly and strategically. That, in essence, is leading conflict.

Here’s an example.

Many years ago, I was helping to develop a new unit in my organization. The business was growing rapidly and we hired several new staff to meet the growing demand for our services.

One new staff member had a perfect resume. He was technically proficient, worked hard and was exceptionally conscientious. He was willing to work extra hours when needed and readily communicated needs, updates and suggestions for improvements to leadership.

Sounds like a perfect hire, right? Not necessarily.

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