Europe leads the way in restorative cities

Get to know the EFRJ “Restorative Cities” Working Group

What… actually … does the concept of “Restorative Cities” mean? To get some clarity on this, I visited the Website of the European Forum For Restorative Justice (EFRJ), where I stumbled across the following explanation:

“Restorative Cities aim at disseminating restorative values (inclusion, participation, respect, responsibility, solidarity, truth seeking, etc.) in different settings where conflict may occur, such as families, schools, neighbourhoods, sport organisations, work places, intercultural communities, etc. The final goal is to strengthen relationships, encourage active citizenship and look at conflict as an opportunity for change, rather than a threat.”

Alright, basically a broad scale, (or better city-wide) implementation of restorative values that encompasses all social institutions and cultures. Make sense? If not quite yet, this year’s RJ WORLD 2020 has tons of eloquent speakers, researchers and change-leaders from all over the world to flesh out the idea of Restorative Cities for us!

One of them is Chris Straker from the UK. He is a national and international conference speaker who worked with cities on strategic, city-wide, implementation of restorative values. He is also part of the international Working Group on Restorative Cities hosted by the EFRJ. The agenda of this working group is to “bring together different local experiences which have the intention of creating a cultural change with citizens who are empowered in their conflict resolution skills and decision making.”

In his workshop, Chris will inquire further into the meaning of living together restoratively. Part of his talk focusses on debunking myths behind the concept of restorative cities. To do so, he uses the UK as a backdrop for participants to explore their own ideas on what a restorative city means. Further, he will also introduce some models for restorative cities but he is particularly interested in using the opportunity of the conference to create dialogue.

Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Especially, since Restorative Practice only unfolds its full potential in conversation. The belief in the transformative potential of dialogue is perhaps the connecting element between all our speakers of this year’s RJ WORLD 2020 conference.

Three other presenters who are eager to structure their joint presentation according to this motto are Prof. Grazia Mannozzi & Gian Luigi Lepri & Chiara Perini from Italy. Grazia was the first chair of the EFRJ Working Group on Restorative Cities and Gian Luigi is the current chair of the same group. Their presentation will open a dialogic space in which both former and current chair have a conversation.

In this talk, they will firstly discuss the “conceptual transition from restorative justice theory to the elaboration of the idea of restorative cities” to give insight into potential gap between theory and practice. Secondly, challenges around restorative cities will be explored whilst shedding light on the reasons why this has become a pivotal theme in the action of the EFRJ. Lastly, the speakers will analyse the idea behind restorative cities with regards to their popularity concretely in Europe. But that’s still not all this workshop holds for us: After that, the speakers will apply a “SWOT Analysis” to current restorative cities- projects. This will serve to evaluate the project’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Wow, what a holistic talk this will be…

Author: Katharina Kurz

Katharina Kurz is a postgraduate Anthropology and Philosophy student from Austria. She recently obtained her degree at Maynooth University, Ireland. Her main area of research is the field of Restorative Practice/Restorative Justice. She has been organising and contributing to conferences such as the EU-wide conference series “RJ: Strategies for Change". Most recently, she became part of the nation-wide program “Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities” (EDTL) in the role of Maynooth University Associate.