Restoring Hope

Post date: 08-Oct-2011 20:56:11

Three events in the last week have inspired some new thinking for me...

Two of them were training days in Restorative Practices with the Young Community Leaders Programme of the Northside Partnership; one with a group of professional adults from all walks of life (education, legal, community, software) and one with a group of younger people (aged 16 - 25) many of them still students, some at work and some still finding their path in life.

Restorative Practices feels conceptually unfamiliar at first, the title itself being language we don’t use every day which doesn't trip eailsy off the tongue. However, as we explored it further, it became clear that the underlyging philosophy and the clear and simple methodology are both familiar, comfortable and welcome.

Later in the week, during a yoga class of all places, as my mind wandered when it should have been still and focussed, I had an epiphany. I now understand what it is that it that Restorative Practices restores.

With its focus on Fair Process, it restores respect, dignity and trust. With its focus on all sides being heard, it restores true open communication, honesty and empathy. With its focus on the social discipline window and our ambition to be both high control and high support, it restores clarity, good boundaries and a value in human kindness.

With all this mulling in my mind, the third event that touched me this week was a launch by Common Purpose of their Frontrunner and Pitstop programmes that promise to bring the Common Purpose leadership learning experience to young people at third level in Ireland for the first time. The attendance at this event included a wide array of people who’ve been involved with Common Purpose and their work in schools (at Transition Year level) in recent years, including a good number of students who have been participants on the Your Turn programme. Sitting with a small group from this mix in an ideas market place, I was truly inspired by the ideas, enthusiasm and general get up and go (rather than sit there and take it) attitude that abounded.

This, coupled with President McAleese’s own contribution on the value of leadership, what it is, how we know it when we see it, how we can be among those who reach for the farther shore - delivered with her own inestimable eloquence and insight - made for a truly energising and inspiring event.

Overall, the week has restored hope for me that the future of our great and challenged little nation lies with a generation who genuinely hunger for honesty, integrity and good leadership in their community, their society and their government. I have even more hope knowing that this generation (or at least small pockets of it) are getting the tools, methodologies and language to equip them to transmit these values in their practice and that they have big ambitions to spread them like a positive contagion everywhere they go.

Really, we do ourselves a favour in those weeks when we spend more time with those a decade or more younger than us, and less time listening to the “old hands” who populate what passes for public discourse on this Island.