Hope and Courage

This year has brought a global pandemic, social unrest, economic hardship, political violence and a global clash of worldviews. Any one of these factors alone can destabilize a community or a country. Now, we must contend with each of them simultaneously and at a level of intensity that few of us have experienced in our lifetime.

Like in any uncertain and traumatic time, it’s tempting to become reactive — seeing the world only through the narrow tunnel of each day’s uncertainties and fears. In many ways, fear is like a virus. It spreads quickly, is easily transmitted and can overtake a country, community, organization, or even a family – seemingly overnight.

However, there is cause for great hope. This isn’t the kind of hope that provides immediate relief or promises a superficial resolution to our social conflicts. Instead, it’s the durable kind of hope that comes from the knowledge that another way is possible. Hard conversations need not be hateful. Change can be achieved without violence. Understanding does not require agreement.

Courage, like fear, is contagious.

There are courageous people willing to do the difficult and often messy work to show that another way is possible and inspire others to join them. The IIRP Graduate School’s alumni, graduate students and extended community of local change agents are precisely those people.

Here are a few examples of what this hope and courage look like in action:

  • The IIRP Graduate School, through support of our donors, awarded our Impact Scholarship to Ivan Villaseñor Madriz, a young man based in the San Francisco Bay area working to provide restorative-based social services and legal aid to unaccompanied minor immigrants.
  • Our faculty, led by Lecturer Elizabeth Smull, M.R.P.Y.C., provided listening circles on racism and launched an online professional development event to teach the public how to facilitate these circles to help communities heal.
  • Associate Professor Gina Baral Abrams, Dr.P.H., has successfully launched the Restorative Practices in Higher Education Learning Collaborative, which utilizes IIRP faculty, staff and alumni to support professionals at 30 other colleges and universities to build relationships and community at their institutions.
  • The award-winning Detroit Rising film series, produced by IIRP Founder Ted Wachtel and Founding Dean of Students Susan Wachtel, showcases the groundbreaking work in Motor City led by our partner, Black Family Development, Inc., and IIRP Director of Community Engagement Henry McClendon.

For the courageous people on the front lines of hope, the IIRP Graduate School has also launched a wide array of new and entirely online supports as you take your work forward.

I am deeply thankful to those of you who continue to support the crucial work of developing the science of relationships and community at a time when the world needs it most.

John W. Bailie, Ph.D.

Restorative Works