Learnings from an Action Learning Set

Published: Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

This is a blog by our Development Officer Leah Robinson.


An Action Learning Set (ALS) is a group of people within a shared area of work who come together to solve workplace problems. It is based on the concept that we learn best when we can focus on changing or resolving a real issue for which we are responsible. 

The central goal of an ALS is for individuals to leave with realistic actions intended to help gain a further understanding of, or work towards solving, the issue presented. This is done through a structured session in which clarifying questions are asked, followed by open questions, to the person presenting their issue or challenge, ending in reflections from all participants.

Through our Improving restorative practice for young people project, Why me? arranged a virtual ALS with Restorative Justice professionals working with young people, and I was one of the participants. Through six monthly sessions, myself and others involved talked through problems they were having and worked together to find ways to resolve them. At the end of each session, participants identified themes from the issues which arose. We identified the following themes: 



The Restorative Justice practitioner within a Youth Offending Team is often the only person working in this area, which can feel isolating. Members of the ALS reported that while other members of staff were sometimes trained in Restorative Justice, they themselves are often seen as a ‘specialist’, meaning that restorative practice is not always embedded throughout the service. 


Systemic disparities

We highlighted the issues which arise from trying to integrate Restorative Justice into a system which was not designed with restorative principles in mind.

We also identified another systemic issue in terms of the difficulties involved with time delays in work. It is no secret that there are long delays with court proceedings in the Youth Justice sector, which were intensified by the pandemic. This can also lead to problems regarding the uptake of Restorative Justice, whereby if a young person is not sentenced until a year after the offence took place, the person who was harmed may not want to revisit the trauma if they have since moved on.


Attitudes and working with others

Many participants felt that there was a lack of understanding of the value of Restorative Justice within Youth Offending Teams. These attitudes could come from case managers and other staff members as well as volunteers at Referral Order panels. 

While there are definite advantages to parent or guardian involvement, we also discussed a specific challenge whereby sometimes the relevant appropriate adult can act as a barrier to accessing the young person. Additionally, the parent or guardian can overrule what the young person wants and, due to consent, the young person’s needs are subsequently not met. 


Trauma-informed practice

The challenges around promoting co-adoption of trauma-informed and restorative practices has arisen several times throughout this project so far. Within the ALS, we highlighted difficulties in promoting restorative approaches within the wider team when there is such a strong focus on being trauma-informed.

As restorative practitioners, members of the ALS adopt and actively promote working with young people according to both trauma-informed practice and restorative practice. 


The themes from this ALS will inform the wider work conducted within our project with the aim of Improving restorative practice for young people.


If you have any questions around this or wish to discuss any of the views expressed, please get in touch with me at leah.robinson@why-me.org.

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