Building Effective Responses to Conflict to Strengthen our Communities
Restorative Circles (RC) is a systemic response of community self-care that directly addresses a community’s sense of relatedness, belonging, cohesion and connection. It invites us into a whole new way of understanding and experiencing being in community, engaging in justice, and living interdependently. RC establishes a simple, concrete structure which empowers communities to consciously choose how they would like to respond to misunderstandings and conflict before it occurs – a form of proactive conflict transformation. It enables a community to choose a nonviolent response to conflict that involves the whole community in discovering their own sustainable strategies by addressing immediate as well as underlying long-term causes.
Restorative Circles offers ways for individuals, families, schools, organizations, and communities to create concrete spaces for conflict that are safe and constructive. RC does this by creating a structure and forum through which diverse peoples can dialogue with respect and understanding in order to reach agreements that sustain effective and nurturing relationships, both personally and within our larger society. Restorative Circles has rediscovered and adapted ways for communities to promote responsibility and healing, and recover power on profound levels. It enables us to rethink justice, and to engage with the challenge of consciously building whole system responses to community well-being. This has opened up revolutionary possibilities for furthering a culture of peace.
Restorative Circles, pioneered by Dominic Barter and incorporating many of the skills and principles found in Nonviolent Communication, are being used with long-term success in schools, justice systems, faith groups, organizations and communities around the world. Independent research has found that over 90 percent of conflicts addressed through Restorative Circles have been resolved to the satisfaction of those involved. Restorative Circles were featured by the National Education, Science, Technology and Arts organization (NESTA) of the U.K. as an example of “radical efficiency” because of their effectiveness in delivering better public outcomes for lower cost.