Restorative Circles

Conflict resolution for communities using reflective listening and restorative justice
Restorative Justice Circle, Restorative Justice

A restorative circle is a systemic approach to resolving conflict that is used to restore trust, dignity and respect within organisations and communities, and to agree actions for moving forwards without assigning blame or punishment.

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What happens in a restorative circle?

Everyone involved gets a chance to be heard for what is important to them, with the process being guided through past, present and future. 

In the present section, participants focus on how they feel impacted by the event that took place. 

In the past section, they reflect on the intentions behind what was said or done. 

The future section is for making agreements and offering next steps to restore harmony.

To convey understanding and build empathy, the circle follows the following format: 

  1. person A speaks to person B
  2. person B then reflects back what they heard person A say - the facilitator(s) may need to remind person B to hold back their own thoughts and reactions, and try to focus only on repeating what they heard, reassuring them that they will get a chance to speak afterwards.
  3. Person A then confirms whether person B’s reflection was accurate and may clarify details and add anything else that they wish to convey at this stage.
  4. When person A indicates they’ve been heard for what they were trying to express, someone else takes a turn to speak, and a new person takes the role of listener.

Each speaker shares one aspect of their experience at a time rather than voicing everything they want to at once. Participants continue to take turns to speak until the facilitator(s) are confident that meaning has been exchanged, and that participants have a new understanding of each others’ perspective. The facilitator(s) guide the process, and may intervene at times if they perceive something important is not being picked up on.

Why resolve conflict with a restorative circle?

Restorative circles are designed to support mutual understanding, and are focused on healing and moving forward, rather than blame and punishment. Restorative circles are community-owned practices based on the principles of restorative justice. They can be equally effective to restore harm following crime (when there is a victim-perpetrator dynamic) and to repair relationships damaged by inter-personal conflict, (when two or more parties feel equally wronged by the other). In schools, restorative circles are often used as an alternative disciplinary strategy.

Restorative Circles were developed by Dominic Barter, arising from his work with local teenagers in the gang-controlled favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the mid 1990s. Dominic Barter’s work has since influenced both federal and state justice policy throughout Brazil.
Systems based on similar principles of restorative justice have been traditionally used by indigenous communities throughout the world.

This is an example of a restorative justice circle where we get together with all parties that were impacted by a conflict. We discuss how it made us feel, and what actions need to happen going forward.

This Video is in english.

Circle processes are a restorative dialogue practice inspired by the traditional ways of Native American, First Nation, and other indigenous peoples. Schools are adapting this practice to strengthen relationships between members of the school community, enhance learning, address conflict, and provide social-emotional support to students.

This Video is in english.

SchoolTalk's RestorativeDC brings you this introductorary video on restorative justice, an approach to community building, responding to harm, and social-emotional skill building. This video highlights the implementation of restorative practices in D.C. public and charter schools, and details how these practices improve student and staff engagement, safety, and create a positive school culture.

This Video is in english.
What is restorative justice?

Restorative Justice is an alternative to the conventional retributive justice systems on which court and prison systems are based. It involves all stakeholders, by providing victims with the opportunity to meet or communicate with the offender to describe and explain exactly how the crime has affected them.

  • Conflict resolution
  • Group communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Reflection
  • Social skills
  • Team Building / Trust Building
  • Understanding complexity
Innovation Phases
    Train the Trainer seminars including Restorative Circles can be found here: