Power, Privilege, and Collaboration: Reflections from the EFRJ Conference
Last month, Why me? Director Lucy Jaffé and Development Officer Sula Blankenberg attended the 11th annual European Forum for Restorative Justice conference. Whilst there, they presented on Project Articulate, our project aiming to widen access to Restorative Justice (RJ) for people who speak English as an Additional Language (EAL). Here, they share their learnings and reflections on the conference.
How did the conference go?
The pre-conference training with Dominic Barter set the stage for the EFRJ conference perfectly. My key takeaway was that “message sent doesn’t mean message received”, meaning that we must check for understanding, giving the person an opportunity to add or clarify anything. It was also fascinating to discuss how RJ is perceived and embedded in policy around the world.
It was a prime opportunity to learn from each other, collaborate globally and motivate each other to campaign for change. While RJ models varied across countries, one thing remained consistent – the passion.
What did you bring to the conference?
Lucy and I presented a workshop on Project Articulate, supported by Ingrid Marit who shared a case study involving a translator. The workshop aimed to deepen our understanding of the language and cultural barriers people who speak different languages face when accessing RJ.
We learnt so much from the insights of international delegates who participated in our workshop, including that our European counterparts also had a low number of cases involving non-native speakers because of issues upstream with referral and communication about the service.
What did the conference do for you?
Having survivors of terrorism speak about their own personal experiences was incredible. Ailbhe Griffith’s testimony and her belief in how RJ should be made available to all victims of crime was also powerful.
In addition to lived experience voices, the conference really emphasised the importance of international collaboration – especially in regards to policy.
Discussions about power, privilege and race were a core element of the pre-conference training, and a topic I found myself discussing a lot with the few Black people who attended the conference.
In the restorative setting, having practitioners that you can identify with can make the biggest difference in having a more meaningful restorative process. As practitioners, we need to continue to check our privilege. What is it about the way we look or speak that may perpetuate negative power dynamics and exacerbate feelings of oppression?
I wouldn’t be able to reflect on the conference without acknowledging the lack of diversity in the conference itself. Although discussions on race were covered in some workshops, it was disappointing that the lack of representation, both in the room and within our field, wasn’t addressed or acknowledged by the EFRJ. It is important to use large platforms like the EFRJ to hold the space for these discussions to take place.
How will the conference influence what we do next?
A lot of the conversations we had will contribute to the outcomes of Project Articulate, which will explore what practitioners, supporters, service users, and interpreters need to better support people with additional language needs. It is clear to me that we need to be working more with the community and asking ourselves “What work is already being done? How can we work together? What do they need?”.
There is an endless need for RJ, and the only way we’re going to spread the message is by collaborating around the world and within our own countries.
I am even more determined that Why me? champions the voices of people affected by crime and conflict. There is also an urgent priority for the RJ sector to ensure that the RJ we are practicing is designed for and by all communities of interest.
We had an amazing time at the conference, and it was great to hear about the innovative work being done around the world.
It is important to acknowledge that there were voices missing. We as a collective need to do better at inviting, highlighting, and collaborating with those people. These should be the next steps for us all to reflect on in our own countries, both personally and professionally.