Adhisthana Kula

Why Restorative approach?

On Thu, 15 June, 2017 - 17:34
ratnadharini's picture

Why Restorative approach?

In March this year, the Preceptors’ College committed to a number of steps that they would be taking in the coming months. They included:

  • encouraging and assisting the establishment of the facts about our past, including about Bhante, openly acknowledging what has happened and putting it on record;
  • actively seeking to resolve any harm that has been done, using the principles of the Dharma, with outside experienced guidance where appropriate.

We’d like to give a bit more information about a way in which we are being helped by ‘outside experienced guidance’: the Restorative approach, and explain why we decided to go for the Restorative approach (also known as Restorative process or practice) in addressing these issues.

Traditional approaches to handling wrongdoing tend to revolve around three questions:

  1. What rules were broken?
  2. Who did it?
  3. What do they deserve?

Restorative work asks, instead:

  1. Who has been hurt?
  2. What are their needs?
  3. Whose responsibility is it to put it right?

To give a little more detail, here is a definition of Restorative work, from Howard Zehr:

“Restorative Justice is a process to involve, to the extent possible, those who have a stake in a specific offence and to collectively identify and address harms, needs, and obligations, in order to heal and put things as right as possible.”

He describes the goals of Restorative work in this way:

  • To understand the harm done and develop empathy for both the harmed and the harmer
  • To listen and respond to the needs of the harmed and the person who harmed
  • To reintegrate the harmer and harmed into the community.
  • To create caring climates to support healthy communities
  • To change the system when it contributes to the harm.

The Restorative approach has been found to be very effective, not just in the field of Justice – working with with people who have broken the law and those they have harmed – but in many other fields such as playground conflicts between children, disputes between neighbours and difficulties within organisations.

We have asked Janine Carroll, director, to work directly  with those who remain unhappy about their sexual relationships with Sangharakshita in the 1970s and ‘80s, and she is also advising and training us on how we can effectively extend the process to the resolution of other outstanding disputes and harms (for example by training some of the presidents of our public centres in Restorative process*). By its nature the more personal work is confidential, and it has already begun.

Aiming to repair the harm done and build a Triratna for the future, we consider this the best way to proceed. There are many reasons for this, but two main ones are

1. We think its principles fit with the principles of the Dharma, and with Triratna’s key beliefs in the importance of friendship and sangha. How we deal with disputes and harm has a lot to say about how we live in community with one another.

2. It is a proven, inclusive and collaborative process, involving all parties in the resolution of difficulties - and this means it is more likely to contribute to restoration and solutions that last.

Jnanasiddhi is an Order member working professionally in the field of Restorative practice. She writes: “For me Restorative practice reflects the areas Triratna needs to look at as a community: listening to the accounts of those hurt but also looking at their current needs and how we can meet them, taking responsibility where needed; then looking at how we live in community together in the future, building and repairing relationships that have been fractured and damaged in a variety of ways; and lastly ensuring our systems and cultures are ‘fit for purpose’ now - that lessons are learnt and healthy structures are in place.”

* experience of Restorative process during Presidents’ meeting

During a recent Presidents’ meeting we had a one-day workshop with Janine Carroll, director of RestorativeNow ( Janine is an excellent teacher, and the workshop was informative. 10 Presidents will be doing a further two days of training with Janine in July. We hope the quotes below from some of the presidents who attended will give you a sense of the value and flavour of the training:

‘I was really inspired by what I learned of the restorative process and by Janine herself… I particularly valued the emphasis on creating opportunities for apology and forgiveness which I haven’t noticed so strongly emphasised in other approaches.’ Subhadramati

‘One thing I hadn’t expected was to see a different aspect of a tendency of mine around ‘helping’ during a 1-1 session following a particular series of questions. I realised both that it can disempower, or take the initiative away from another, and it can be motivated by a certain anxiety rather than a more straightforward empathy.’ Maitreyi

‘One of the aha moments for me, I think for all of us, was when we were roleplaying different kinds of intervention, and saw for ourselves how much more effective it was to take an approach of ‘doing with’ rather than ‘doing to’. Dhammarati

‘Janine told a very striking story. She also does restorative training with children. At one school she trained monitors (I can’t remember the word she used) who would intervene and help resolve playground disputes. They embarked on the task enthusiastically, complete with high visibility jackets and badges, but when she returned a few months later they were a bit bored and fed up. There did not seem to be anything for them to do! She was able to point out that this was a  sign of how well they had done their work. The other children now knew what to do to resolve their own disputes, without the monitors’ help. This seems to be the beauty of the whole restorative approach. It is not just about resolving a specific dispute, but helping develop the skills and awareness that will enable folks to deal with difficulties themselves more effectively in the future.’ Saddhaloka