One year on…

A year ago today I joined the RJC. It’s a cliché to say that time has flown by but it’s true nonetheless. It’s been a whirlwind year with scarcely a moment to catch breath.

Looking back, there are lots of things I’m proud of, like our great new film Moving on, interesting events that we’ve hosted, and the steady growth in the number of organisations applying for the RSQM. I’ve also been fortunate enough to find out more about the great work that our members do and to hear first hand the compelling stories of people who have benefited from restorative justice. Whenever I’m buried in budgets or stuck in a windowless boardroom, it’s those stories that remind me why I do what I do.

I’ve also been challenged. I thought I knew quite a bit about restorative justice when I joined the RJC, and I quickly learned a lot more. But it was harder to get my head round than I expected. My background is in criminal justice and in this arena, where there are victims and offenders, it’s easiest to pin down. I’ve also seen restorative interventions used in schools and care homes – again it’s relatively easy to see how the principles apply. 

But this only scratches the surface. People working within the field are constantly innovating and thinking of new ways to apply restorative principles in different settings. Practitioners are pushing at the boundaries of what is traditionally thought of as restorative practice. For example preventative work, based on building relationships rather than responding to harm, is developing its own identity within the restorative practice field. To many outside the field this can be baffling – it’s hard enough to explain what ‘conventional’ restorative justice involves – but it’s also where some of the most exciting developments are taking place.

This presents two significant challenges for the RJC. The first is to our work to maintain national standards that can be applied universally and across sectors. Standards can, and should, underpin rather than prevent innovation. But getting them right, so that they work for everyone, isn’t easy. Can standards be both sufficiently flexible and sufficiently robust?

The second challenge surrounds the RJC growing its membership. We want to bring together all those working in the restorative practice field. But where do we set the limits? What counts as restorative and what doesn’t? We want to be inclusive, but is there a risk that ‘restorative’ will come to mean all things to all people and in the process lose its identity?

These are tough questions and they won’t be addressed overnight. Moreover it’s not up to me. The RJC is a membership organisation and we should therefore be led by our members, both literally (the members elect the majority of our trustees) and in terms of seeking out the views of all of members and taking into account what they tell us. So if you are a member tell us what you think about these and other issues. And if you’re not then join the RJC and play your part in shaping the future of the restorative practice field.