Dominic B. - FB/en

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To change one has to stop.

Whatever challenges restorative work presents shrink into insignificance compared to the sister task of letting the punitive lens go. This logic is not merely personal habit but a social pact on the most fundamental levels of community life. Appropriately, there are potentially painful consequences for withdrawing consent.

The same holds for dialogical system work in other areas. As hard as making a school may be, contradicting your inner convictions on how people must learn is harder. New financial agreements can stretch us hugely, but going without reward and exchange is deep disorientation.

One of the ways these established cosmologies sustain themselves is through discrediting alternatives as impractical or unrealistic. Dialogical approaches to political or social systems are dismissed through arguments that justice, or the economy, learning or well being can’t be resolved ‘by dialogue alone’.

However, no one said they could. Dialogue is a means, not an end. The end of each dialogical system we design is action, action that meets the needs the system was designed in response to, and whose name it carries.

Separating this dialogical intelligence from our social systems defuses their democratic potential. As our political processes themselves come under unprecedented inner pressure it’s urgent that these foundational elements of dialogical intelligence be integrated with the new or still fit for purpose mechanisms we intend to adopt.

To change one has to stop to listen.




When any practice - including a restorative practice - is removed from its context of origin one of the elements lost is that of the community or organisational agreements within which that practice took form and from which it receives validation: what I have termed the restorative system.

Since conflict accompanies human relations all ongoing partnerships include a justice system. The question is not if we have one or not, but which one we choose. And being unconscious of its presence means we ‪have, perhaps against our wishes, acquire‬d the dominant one in the cultural context we’re relating in.

For societies dominated by European colonial influence the default justice system is oriented by a punitive ethos which seeks separation between those involved in the conflict, and the imposition of pain for the party deemed to have wronged.

Removing a relational, dialogical practice from its context of origin and bringing it into a punitive system both distorts that practice and aligns its results with the guiding ethos of the system. It may now promote a participatory retribution, but it’s not Restorative Justice.

Thus RJ is never limited to nor defined by the use of a certain practice, but necessarily involves the development of community or organisational agreements - which include and surpass a relational practice - that provide the conditions for dialogue and restorative action.