by Ted Wachtel
I am attending a conference in Kortrijk, Belgium, hosted by the organization that I founded in 2000—the International Institute for Restorative Practices, a master’s degree-granting graduate school and training organization.
I am especially excited about this event because it was organized in collaboration with our longtime friends at Oranjehuis and Ligand, an innovative agency and its training arm, who have been serving youth with a variety of treatment and educational services in the Flanders region of Belgium since 1974. That was about the same time that my wife, Susan, and I started a similar youth-serving agency in Pennsylvania.
At a morning session, Brett Hennig, director of the Sortition Foundation—whose blogposts about the potential of “citizen’s assemblies” and “sortition” have appeared on this website—spoke about the commonalities between restorative practices and the growing deliberative democracy movement.
Opportunities To Build A New Reality
There is a plethora of ideas among those of us who are interested in building a new reality, using strategies with different names and in different settings, but all with a common thread—an emphasis on opportunities for people to talk to each other.
People of conflicting and emotional views—victims and offenders, families in crisis, and citizens with dissimilar and often angry political beliefs—all can benefit from a new reality.
Many are skeptical about restorative practices and citizen assemblies, because they doubt that ordinary people can keep their cool, manage their emotions, learn new knowledge and make thoughtful, effective decisions.
Yet, as we have learned by experience: Given the right context, ordinary people are capable of remarkable outcomes.
Both restorative practices and deliberative democracy represent a dramatic improvement in the way human beings interact.
Perhaps we should call it a “revolution by conversation.”
Keep reading this blog, as each week we will continue to report on the ways that we can build a new reality in human relationships. And we’d love to hear your comments and ideas, so please join the conversation right here!