conference 1In this guest blog, IIRP lecturer Nicola Preston reflects on the IIRP Europe Conference, which took place May 9-10, 2017 in Dublin, Ireland. Preston (pictured on left) is IIRP Adjunct Faculty; teacher and special educational needs coordinator; Ph.D. student at the University of Northampton, UK; and trustee and senior restorative practitioner, Thames Valley Partnership.

Below the article, please find a list of all sessions and links to presentation materials.

IIRP president John Bailie, Ph.D., opened the conference with words that resonated with participants from all over the world, not just Europe. He stated that across the generations, we are experiencing a time of societal unrest that, for many reasons, makes us feel as if "an age is passing." He suggested that the world needs a new philosophy to help us better understand the human condition and that restorative practices offers a social science of human dignity and an approach in which the hardwiring of our brains can be shaped to "better the human condition" and help us interact and relate to each other in a positive way. IIRP lecturer Borbala Fellegi, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the Hungarian Forsee Research Group, continued John’s theme, stating that we need to find the humanity beyond every conflict and seek to listen before making decisions about the best way forward. She used the power of storytelling to illustrate how opinions matter and need space to be expressed without fear or shame.

These introductions set the tone for the conference, which refreshingly (in my opinion) contained no keynote speeches but offered greater opportunity for participants to choose from more than 40 diverse 100- and 50-minute teach, engage and inform sessions over two days. The challenge was deciding which ones to attend, especially as I was presenting a session, Restorative Practices, Relationships and Child Development, which ruled out attending others in that time-slot!

conference 2It was refreshing to see the diversity in the ways restorative theory and practice is being developed across contexts, cultures and countries. Theorists and practitioners are helping us understand what it means to be restorative and how theory and practice can be consistently applied to build social capital and healthy human connection. I really enjoyed the restorative nature of each session I attended. It felt safe to challenge and question and, on occasion, open up and express vulnerability. For me, it led to a deeper sense of thinking and learning, and it was good to be personally challenged about my own thinking and perceptions.

I found the following sessions to be particularly impactful:

In False Assumptions? Rethinking Restorative Practices in the Wake of 2016, Tim Chapman, Ulster University lecturer in restorative practices and European Forum for Restorative Justice board member, posed questions that challenged participants in the restorative movement to examine their own motivations. He wants to ensure we do not become "an echo chamber" who only accept feedback we want to hear, or a liberal elite — just another set of professionals who, in the words of Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie, "steal the conflict."

In Responding with Hope Through Compassionate Witnessing, IIRP associate professor Frida Rundell, Ph.D., took each of her session participants on a personal and powerful exploration of their own understanding of relationship and mindfulness of being. Leading group compassionate witnessing sessions that highlighted what restorative means to her, she had a profound impact on all of us.

In Making Peace with the Enemy, Jo Berry, founder of the UK organization Building Bridges for Peace, shared the very personal story of her journey to understand and "rehumanize the other" with the man who planted the bomb that killed her father. Her decision at the time to "do something positive to save herself" helped her understand the conditions and “roots” that create violence. Her organization is sharing her learning widely with young Muslim women in relation to ideas that underpin extremism.

conference 6Sensitive topics such as childhood sexual abuse, racial violence, the needs of refugees and terrorism were all addressed within the context of dialogue and understanding.

In From Bystander to Activist — An Exploration of How RecoRa’s Principles of Self-Help and Activism to Tackle Extremism and Injustice Equate to RP, Yousiff Meah, chief executive of The RecoRa (Recognizing and Responding to Radicalism) Institute, explained how storytelling and self-help strategies that build on people’s own resources are more influential in changing thinking and building relationships than merely confronting ideologies. As Yousiff says, "individuals lead change rather than plans or models."

Several sessions looked at restorative practices at the organizational level.

In Crime, Conflict and Culture in the University: Proactive and Reactive Restorative Approaches, University of Leeds Criminology lecturer and Ph.D. student Ian Marder shared his use of proactive and reactive restorative practices within the university setting. In Reorientating Organizations: New Management Ideas Supported by Restorative Practices, Stijn Deprez, coordinator of the nonprofit youth-serving agency Ligand, in Belgium, gave participants much to think about around to how we could build relational and soulful organizations using restorative practices. Stijn’s engaging presentation style took the vision and work of Frederic Laloux around how we might reinvent organizations and certainly inspired me into thinking differently about restorative organizations. As Laloux states "if we can be in the world in the fullness of our humanity, what are we capable of?"

The conconference 4ference was as memorable for the informal networking opportunities as it was for the sessions. It was a particular treat to be welcomed in the 18th century Palladian-style splendor of Castletown House by Tánaiste and Minister of Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald, who showed great support for restorative practices and the development of the philosophy in her own country of Ireland.

Participants were asked in the closing circle to express what they were grateful for. One participant said that the conference "felt different, in a good way." I would share that view. I also found the following quotes meaningful:

I am grateful for:

  • Challenge
  • Self-reflection
  • Space – both the rooms and my mind
  • The organization
  • Empowerment and support like I have never had
  • Feeling resourced and supported
  • The quality of the experience

In the words of restorative practices pioneer Terry O’Connell, it seems we are beginning to have "the right conversations." I have gone back to my life with renewed energy and gratitude for such a passionate and committed worldwide restorative community!

 Breakout Sessions
  • A Restorative Trail: Opening up Hearts and Minds in School Communities and Beyond! – Michelle Stowe (paper)
  • Are We Victims of Something or Is That Just Life? – Barbara Walshe, Margaret O’Quigley
  • Beyond the Bitterness: Engaging With The Enemy to Find Answers and Inner Peace – Austin Stack
  • Breaking with Tradition: Re-imagining the Traditional Family Group Conference (FGC) – Les Davey, John Boulton (powerpoint, facilitator's guide, workbook cover, 2007 research)
  • Building a Restorative Foundation for a New Citizenship – Vidia Negrea
  • Building the Restorative City – Dr Marian Liebmann OBE (powerpoint)
  • Creating a Culture of Conflict Resolution – Sergeant Martin Moloney (powerpoint)
  • Crime, Conflict and Culture in the University: Proactive and Reactive Restorative Approaches – Ian D. Marder
  • Cultivating Hope for Brighter Futures: Restorative Engagement in a Divided Community – Dublin – Emma Wheatley, Karen Mooney
  • Exploring Principles and Linguistics of ‘Restorative Interactions’ in the Workplace – Andrea Hughes, Hugh Hughes
  • Faith in Our City: Opportunities for Community Policing, Interfaith Dialogue and Applied Restorative Practices – Darren Coventry Howlett, Adrian Cristea
  • False Assumptions?: Rethinking Restorative Practices in the Wake of 2016 – Tim Chapman
  • Family Group Conferences: Widening The Circle As A Response To Serious Issues – Hedda van Lieshout (slides)
  • From Bystander to Activist: An Exploration of How RecoRa’s Principles of Self-Help and Activism to Tackle Extremism and Injustice Equate to Restorative Practice – Yousiff Meah (powerpoint, sample newspaper)
  • Highway to Understanding: A Researcher’s and a Practitioner’s Work Towards Dialogue in a Silenced Society – Dr Borbala Fellegi, Dr Gábor Héra
  • How Empathy Can Enable a Young Person to Process Shame Positively – Leanne Keely
  • Implementing Restorative Practice To Create Environments That Foster Inclusivity In The Urban Setting – Dr Nina M. Sacco, Cindy Harbaugh, Sophia Grassi, Dr Rodney Necciai, Michele Masdea, Sarah Armenti
  • Innovative Restorative Family-based Institutional Projects – Louise Leonardi
  • Looking Inward, Outward and Forward: How Glasgow Psychology Services Deliver Restorative Approaches in Schools – Carole Edgerton, Sharon Fitzpatrick, Lyndsay Broadfoot (powerpoint, implementation tool)
  • Making Peace with the Enemy – Jo Berry
  • Meeting Needs and Facing the Complexities of Sexual Abuse Through Restorative Justice – Deirdre Kenny, Maeve Lewis
  • Now That We Are Being Noticed: Where To From Here? – Importance Of Explicit Restorative Practice – Terry O’Connell (powerpoint)
  • Preventing or Repairing the Rupture: A Restorative Justice Approach to Individual Radicalisation – Ana Pereira (paper, powerpoint)
  • Reflections on Blending Multiple Cultures in a Colorado School: What Worked and What Didn’t Work – Carol Carpenter MA (additional resources, quick start guide)
  • Relationship Detoxification: A Restorative Practice and Interactive Relationship Workshop – J-R Curtin PhD (powerpoint, abstract, Chinese listening symbol)
  • Reorientating Organisations: New Management Ideas Supported by Restorative Practices – Stijn Deprez (powerpoint)
  • Responding with Hope Through Compassionate Witnessing – Frida C. Rundell PhD (handout)
  • Restorative Interventions Without an “Encounter”: Building Social and Emotional Skills with Youth Offenders” – Craig Adamson PhD, Fernanda Fonseca Rosenblatt DPhil
  • Restorative Interventions/Desistance Strategies: An Evolving Synergy to Reduce Offending – Paul Delaney, Ursula Fernee (powerpoint, probation strategy, Wexford partnership)
  • Restorative Justice and Sexual Violence: Healing the Harm – Arti Mohan
  • Restorative Justice Approaches in Intercultural Conflict Settings – Emanuela Biffi (powerpoint)
  • Restorative Justice in the Catholic Church In Ireland: 21 Years of Listening and Learning – Dr Melissa Darmody
  • Restorative Pathways: A Personal Journey to Restorative Leadership – Kevin Jones, MS
  • Restorative Practices, Relationships and Child Development – Nicola Preston MA (powerpoint)
  • Restoring Healing Without Policy: Restorative Practices in Healthcare Requires Commitment to Practice and Policy – Mary Ellen Mannix MRPE
  • School-based Bullying Prevention: NOW More Than Ever We Need To Do It Right! – Bridgid Normand MEd, Ian Rivers PhD (powerpoint, Bully Prevention and RP White Paper, Bullying Prevention and SEL White Paper, EU Report, Second Step and RP Alignment Chart)
  • Society’s Personal Whipping Boy: PTSD and the Costs of Individualizing Grief in the West – Ben Emery MSRP
  • The Aftermath of Racial Violence: Impact on a School, a School District and a City – Kay Kyungsun Yu Esq
  • The Art of the Question: Building More Effective Questions – Cameo Thorne MEd (powerpoint, questions handout, story handout)
  • The Recurring Shortcomings Experienced in the Practical Application of Restorative Justice in the UK – Tim Chapman, Fernanda Fonseca Rosenblatt DPhil, Olivia Barnes
  • The Restorative Approach in Psychotherapy – Mária Myrtill Szabó
  • The Terrorist Within and Restorative Justice – Theo Gavrielides PhD (background paper #1, #2, #3)
  • To ‘Script’ or Not to ‘Script’? That Is the Question – Catherine O’Connell, Tim Coughlan (powerpoint)
  • University as Kindergarten for Restorative Practitioners – Dr. Monika Miklošková PhD
  • Using Restorative Practices to Fix Democracy – Ted Wachtel (powerpoint)
  • Violence and Bullying in a Hungarian Secondary School: Taboos, Trust and Power Dynamics – Gabriella Dóczi-Vámos

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