The STARS Project, (Striving to Achieve A Restorative Society), is a huge regional programme being rolled out in the eight Communities in Transition areas. To date we have seen work across the North, individuals have engaged in introductory training in restorative practices and now they are exploring how to practically implement this learning into their work and community lives. Feedback has shown “I got it... now how can I become a greater part of this?”
For example, teachers reviewing their behaviour policies, to look at less punitive and more relationship focused options, youth workers exploring how they can support their young people to make informed choices, PSNI searching for restorative alternatives within policing.
This has been a great start to the project, we can begin to see restorative societies taking shape.
This project has further deepened the relationship between the existing practitioners within Community Restorative Justice Ireland and Northern Ireland Alternatives and we have developed a huge respect for each other’s work. For many years both organisations have worked together across a range of restorative programmes such as “The MACS Project, The WAYS Project, The LINCS Project” and developing partnership programmes with the Probation and Police service.
The STARS Project is aimed at a much broader audience, CRJI and NIA are building relationship with community and statutory workers across a wide range of settings across the community. The diverse range of participants ensures that restorative practices can have a greater impact and reach to those invested in their local community.
This can have a powerful restorative influence, as people are provided with the opportunity to step into another’s space, reframe their thinking and adjust to a more restorative model. It allows us as practitioners to see how others view the concept or restorative justice and where and how they feel it can be utilised.
This can be challenging in a variety of ways, especially when there are fixed mindframes or beliefs, but if we are to grow then being stretched is a good thing.
Also developing together is no bad thing, which is why STARS place such an emphasise on collaborative working, as it allows us to identify good practice and share learning that will assist us all going forward, it will help us navigate the barriers that sometimes block change. It will guarantee we do not have to keep navigating the same barriers.
So all in all, the STARS project is paving the way for a more fruitful and deeper relationship between our organisations whilst also acting as a vehicle to increase the footprint of restorative practice. This will we hope create debate about the how, what and where as we keep developing. This will assist us as we tackle some of the big issues that impact on our communities on a daily basis. These range from armed gang violence, young people being isolated and physically abused, economic and social inequality and the scourge of mental health problems that very often have the gravest of outcomes. The discussions we are having around restorative practice enables us to view these issues through a restorative lens thus allowing us not only to identify the problems but also see the people.
We hope via this work we will continue to build and create a more restorative society.