of Aotearoa New Zealand
In the last month I was privileged enough to join and Haley and Sarah in Denver, Colorado for the 7th NACRJ conference (The National Association of Community and Restorative Justice). Being surrounding by hundreds of others inspired by, dedicated to and engaged in work of restorative justice was an incredible experience.
I can’t thank my RJ mentors enough for offering the opportunity to not only attend, but present at the conference about the restorative work we undertake at Victoria University. Haley, Lindsey and Sarah - thank you so much.
Of the many wonderful, thought-provoking and exciting workshops I attended over the three-day conference I’ve found myself reflecting upon one in particular. The workshop was led by an incredible woman named Elaine Shpungin. Her workshop was centred around the key question, “How restorative are you under high pressure and low capacity?”.
To address this issue, we must first look at a keystone framework of restorative justice literature, Watchel’s social discipline window. In Watchel’s window, each quadrant represents a different combination of levels of control and support which individuals employ to attempt to influence the behaviour of others.
To act ‘restoratively’ is to employ both high levels of support and control. Through this approach, individuals can confront behavioural issues, or wrongdoing while simultaneously appreciating the intrinsic worth of the accountable party.
Elaine’s presentation explored how individuals can be prone to ‘slipping’ from the restorative quadrant in stressful and confusing situations as a result of our own biases and prior conditioning. When the pressure turns up our own unique set of biases and experiences will lead each of us down a slippery path to one of the ‘to’, ‘for’, or ‘not’ quadrants, where our behaviours towards others may become neglectful, permissive or punitive.
Staying in the restorative quadrant is demanding work, and operating restoratively requires high levels of self-awareness, emotional literacy and individual capacity. It’s important to acknowledge that sometimes individuals don’t have the capacity to fully engage in our relationships in a restorative manner. In these moments the easy route is to turn a blind eye, to make excuses for others, or to punish and reprimand, the behaviours we can easily default to when the going gets tough.
But, we can help prevent these slips from happening through six key behaviours:
According to Ted Watchel, the fundamental underlying hypothesis of restorative practices is that “human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behaviour when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them”.
Working ‘with’ people is demanding – it takes emotional engagement, personal investment and a real commitment. But, working ‘with’ others is truly rewarding, fulfilling and absolutely fundamental for any leader wishing to lead restoratively.
If you’re interested in exploring more of Elaine’s work, you can check out her website here: https://conflict180.com/about-us/