Dominic Barter designed the Restorative Circles process after working in the inner city of Rio de Janeiro.
Restorative Circles recognize that people have conflicts. We live in a culture that tends toward conflict avoidance: It’s not that we don’t have conflicts. We just don’t have them in direct and productive ways. We hold grudges, we pretend things don’t bother us, we let things fester. Sometimes the outcome erodes our sense of community as we gossip about or distance ourselves from other people. In other cases, a conflict simmers beneath the surface until it erupts in destructive and often violent ways–whether that violence is physical or emotional or spiritual. Local practitioner Ann McKnight introduced a different approach in this presentation at TEDxMacatawa.
Communities of people—schools, justice systems, churches—can set up a restorative system, a sustainable strategy that uses Restorative Circles. Such communities proactively transform conflict and even prevent future conflict. They address the immediate as well as long-term underlying causes of division and pain.
Restorative practices in general focus not on punishment but on the possibility of repairing the harm done to people and relationships. A Restorative Circle provides a structure for people involved in an event to speak with each other, and for conflicts surrounding that event to unfold. Participants can speak and be heard, better see each other as fellow human beings, understand the meanings behind actions and reactions. Finally, they can collaborate about what they would like to see happen next.
The definitive source for more information about Restorative Circles is the website www.restorativecircles.org. There you’ll find discussions, videos, and scheduled training events with Dominic Barter.