Conflict Resolution in Giveth
This is an adaptation of Restorative Justice practices and principles to fit our global community for decentralized charity. Restorative Justice is an approach to conflict resolution that centers the most directly impacted parties in how harm is defined and healing explored. The core of RJ values: The people who are closest to the problem are the ones who hold the keys to the answer. More than any central authority, they should be lifted and empowered at every step of the process. This directly fits with Giveth’s mission of decentralizing all the things! Restorative Justice is practiced today by many communities, cities, and even nations as alternatives to the criminal justice system, diversions away from it, or supplements to it. But these principles are not new and we honor that they come from indigenous communities who practiced these synergistic human technologies before colonization.
* Update! On January 4th, 2018 in community meeting 55 it was decided that while the "Facilitator waits to be called upon" approach is our default, they also try to get to know Givethers and how they are with conflict, and proactively check in with them re: potential conflicts, to make sure people are fully supported (even those who don't speak up right away to initiate a process when something needs to be addressed). *
Someone initiates a “circle.” A facilitator is selected, who has “pre-circles” with each person involved, then they set a date for the full circle meeting. In this circle, the facilitator supports participants to talk to each other, not through the facilitator (not mediation!). They then help the circle identify an Action Plan to heal the harm done and restore well being in the community. The Action Plan is checked up on at certain dates after the circle, to ensure folks are being accountable to their commitments.
Aaand for full transparency, read on to see process in detail...
- A conflict occurs
- Those experiencing the conflict try communicating with each other if they feel safe to. (As with all Giveth spaces, here we employ the "Safe enough to try" approach)
- If not, they can seek facilitation from someone not directly involved. In Restorative Justice, this action is “calling a circle”
- The facilitator has “pre-circle” meetings with each of the involved parties. During this, they identify:
- What happened, writing out a concise description of an incident that demonstrates the conflict.
- Who needs to be present in order for this conflict to find resolution and restoration of well being in the community. (And has precircles, even if very brief, with each of these people.)
- The facilitator explains the circle process, and asks if this person would like to continue ahead to the next step. (Will facilitation work for this context? A Restorative Justice Facilitator is not a mediator. If the participants are at a level that they can’t talk to each other and need to talk through another party, this process is shifted towards mediation. But this is a last resort. Mediation is centralization and therefore doesn’t fit Giveth as well as a more person to person model does.)
- A time is determined when all can come to at least a virtual meeting.
- All the folks are welcomed into the meeting space and we begin with a brief check in.
- Facilitator reads the written description of the incident that demonstrates the conflict.
- Talk may bubble up from this point. It is always the goal of the facilitator to see the participants talking to each other not through the facilitator.
- Facilitator guides with a couple simple questions:
- Staying focused on the present, and what actually needs to be expressed in order to move forward productively: “Beyonce, what is it that you would like known about how you are now in relation to the conflict?”
- “And Bey, by whom do you need that known?” This is to invite reflective listening, an integral part of the RJ approach, so that mutual understanding is achieved. If that person doesn’t pick up the opportunity, “Jay-Z, Can you reflect that back to Beyonce?”
- Jay reflects and then for mutual understanding: “Beyonce, was that right? Did Jay express what you were trying to say?”
- This goes back and forth until everybody has mutual understanding of what was broken and what needs to be fixed in order to restore a sense of well being and health in the community.
- We now have an understanding of what was broken and what needs to be fixed. From here, we develop an Action Plan for how the well being of the community will be restored (often times to even better than it was before the conflict stirred things up!). This is the restorative equivalent of a punitive system’s “sentencing” period. It is explicit and has time markers. The facilitator helps make sure everyone is clear on their piece in the Action Plan, and then together we decide on a date for a post circle.
- All participants gather once again to check in on the status of the Action Plan being upheld, and how the community feels in general in relation to the conflict now.
- If Action Plan steps are not being followed through on by any participant, the circle checks in about why, and can decide from here to take alternative action, like removing roles or access points if someone doesn’t respect them.
When does RJ facilitation not fit?
Sometimes, decentralized facilitation is not the tool that a conflict needs. For example, in RJ communities around the globe many consider conflicts of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence nature to be incompatible with restorative justice. Others have developed practices dedicated entirely to this type of conflict. In any case, conflicts as light as little tiffs and as heavy as murder have been approached successfully with restorative justice. It’s up to the conflict community(those impacted) to decide what is right for them. At Giveth, we believe strongly in walking our talk of decentralization at every level, and this means in the way we interact with each other as well. While we strive for communication to be approached in the most decentralized way, we also support people to use other approaches if they need! Some conflicts at Giveth have been mediated because direct contact was not the right fit.