of Aotearoa New Zealand
Margaret Thorsborne, is the Managing Director of Margaret Thorsborne & Associates & Thorsborne and Associates UK.
This blog is written in appreciation for and dedication to the vision and commitment of Theo Gavrielides and Vasso Artinopoulou, and their hardworking team at RJ4all (especially Iro and Alexandra) to make this event happen.
I'm still feeling enriched by my experience and attendance at this event in June. This blog will not be an in-depth analysis of each presentation of those who attended, but rather the narrative of my experience at it, and some conclusions about the process we shared and how it might contribute in some way to the development of robust dialogue around the work we do as advocates, practitioners, researchers and authors of restorative justice, in all its forms.
My first response when an email invitation arrived from Theo Gavrielides and Vasso Artinopoulou (Directors and co-founders of RJ4all) was to check my diary to see whether or not it was a possibility. I had known of these previous symposia held every two years, having been a member of RJ4all for some time. It looked interesting, and people I knew from various parts of the world had attended previous symposia. My diary said “no way” so I went to bed that evening feeling a bit sad, and woke thinking that I really wanted to go. A few emails later having shifted some training dates in NZ around, I said yes. Good decision.
In watching the list of delegates grow over the next few months, I had (as usual) a small crisis of confidence…….wow, look at the folk who will be there. Look at their titles, experience, qualifications etc – what about what I’m proposing to talk about (restorative leadership) – will it cut the mustard? Thankfully, my session was programmed for the first day, so I could relax into everyone else’s. In any event, it seemed to go down well.
The press release about the symposium can be found here and the list of delegates can be found here, along with their abstracts.
The symposium week (June17 – 24):
The delegates and other guests (including our own families) attended the opening, fittingly in the ground of Plato’s Academy in Athens. I was never more aware of my own lack of education around ancient history in general, and the Greek philosophers in particular (especially Plato, Socrates and Aristotle) and their gifts to our knowledge and thinking about democracy so many centuries later. Dinner that evening was atop a restaurant overlooking the Acropolis. I also became more aware as the days wore on, just how many words in English are derived from the Greek language.
This image of Plato (on the left) and Aristotle (on the right) is from the famous painting The School of Athens by Raphael currently housed in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican……. I also found, when I went looking, this article about Socrates and his view of wrongdoing.
We all met the next day to travel by bus and ferry to the island of Skopelos, north east from Athens and part of the Sporades group of islands. This is not the usual destination of international tourists and as it was the week before the summer break for Greek schools, we weren’t overwhelmed by huge crowds. The sight that greeted us was beautiful when we arrived that evening. It boded well!
Sunday found us on a bus together doing the Mama Mia tour around the island. A day of sort-of rest before we began in earnest – and it helped us get our bearings in a geographical sense.
We had made sure we watched the Meryl Streep-Pierce Brosnan movie the weekend before we left :) , and were delighted to visit various locations where scenes from the movie were filmed (although the 220 steps up to the chapel here nearly did me in!). While we suffered a bit in the searing heat, it became clear that we were in for a visual treat over the next week, as Skopelos was breathtakingly beautiful. Skopelos is Greece’s greenest island, covered in conifers and olive trees with enchanting bays and little ports where ferries and private yachts pull in and moor.
We (the 18 of us from 8 countries – what a perfect size group) met each day in a different location around the island (monasteries, cafes, hotels, beaches, private gardens in homes of locals known to Vasso and Theo (thanks for that incredible generosity). We sat in circle and listened to/participated in each presentation (2-3 per morning) and this was followed up by debate and dialogue. A different process for most of us used to presenting in workshops and at conferences – no powerpoints or whiteboards!!
Theo had hoped for “fire” in our debates – we finally got some towards the end of our week, as the “storming” in group development kicked in. What was noticeable for those of us who facilitate in the restorative space was just how much we take for granted the skills around respectful democratic dialogue, taking turns, sharing the airspace, being mindful of our own behaviours and the impact of those on others in our group. We met again late afternoon each day to process the presentations and further our discussions.
One thing I really appreciated was the contribution of delegates who work in very different fields and cultures from mine, and in particular those who were not even aware of how their work was actually deeply restorative. You only need to read their abstracts to know what I mean. And because I speak only an Aussie form of English, I was in awe of those who could deliver (and write about) their session in English when it was not their first language.
It was not all work and no play, thankfully. Dining out was terrific (Greek food in Greece is pretty more-ish); swimming almost daily between sessions in the cold clear waters of the Aegean Sea was sheer heaven in the heat of summer, and the scenery was to die for. Just hanging out with new mates was a treat. I also discovered the Greek version of the frappé to keep me going mid morning.
In summing up the experience:
For future delegates: