Dominic Barter

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In the mid 1990s I recognized myself as both implicated in the long monologue of structural violence in society and longing for transformation dialogue. With no map I began conversations with favela residents in Rio de Janeiro’s hillside communities which led to the emergence of a new iteration of an ancient practice – community self-care through engagement with the dynamics underlying conflict. Belatedly supported by the pioneering research of Marshall Rosenberg, and recognized as a restorative practice belonging to the Restorative Justice social movement, the work took its own form. Restorative Circles, as they have come to be called, are a Community-built, Community-maintained, Community-owned process for supporting those in conflict. The picture above is from a three-day teaching-learning event at Earthaven Ecovillage in the early summer of 2015.

The practice spread by word of mouth and developed on a community level until attracting the attention of schools, government, and in 2004, the federal Justice Department and the United Nations Development Program. Starting in 2005, together with a cross-disciplinary team lead by local judges, I adapted the RC process for school, court, prison, and social services settings as part of the first Brazilian pilot projects in Restorative Justice. These projects have won national awards for innovation in justice and in education, as well as national media attention.

Since then – with the support of communities, as well as UNESCO, the Special Secretariat for Human Rights, and State Secretaries for Education – Restorative Circles have spread in several states and been credited as an active contribution to the declining rates of urban violence in Brazil.

In 2008 I was a keynote speaker at the 11th World Conference of the International Institute for Restorative Practices. In 2010 the UK’s foremost social innovation think-tank, NESTA, featured RC in their Radical Efficiency report. Together with a passionate learning community, I have brought the work to over 20 countries on five continents (Africa, Europe, North and South America, Asia) in the last 4 years. The picture above is from a three-day teaching-learning event at Earthaven Ecovillage in the early summer of 2015. 

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