Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Issue Three: Restorative Circles

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the new moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

The theme for this issue is RESTORATIVE CIRCLES, an innovative application of NVC begun by Dominic Barter in Brazil, and now spreading to many parts of the world, including Maine.



Restoring Community Well-being

by Peggy Smith, CNVC certified NVC trainer

There is interesting NVC work being done in Brazil to restore wellbeing in communities. In the past decade, Dominic Barter, a certified NVC trainer, has created a process to contribute to the wellbeing of his community by working with the juvenile justice system. He uses the NVC principles of connection and empathy to bring a re-humanizing process - Restorative Circles (RC) - to situations in which harm has affected the community.

RC is straightforward, easily explained, and accessible to people with no previous familiarity with NVC. RC has been so effective that the Brazilian government and UNESCO are replicating Dominic’s model in other areas of Brazil. It is now being used in the juvenile justice system, as part of restorative discipline systems in schools, and in local community programs that respond to violence.

The RC process is set up so that after initial training, each organization can develop its own internal facilitators. RC is designed to be a low cost, effective way of shifting our societal relationship to conflict. What NVC dialogue can do between two people, Restorative Circles can do for families, groups, organizations, businesses and communities. When some harm has been done, these circles can help all affected move forward grounded in the full humanity of both themselves and the others involved.

a sculpture of 7 people in a circle with arms around one anothers' shoulders

Each Restorative Circle
has three components

  • Pre-circle:
    The facilitators meet with the person who calls the circle to clarify the harmful act and identify who in the community is important to invite into the circle to create resolution. In the pre-circle, the specific dialogue process is clarified and agreed to by each person invited to the circle.

  • Circle:
    Each person in the circle can be heard about what is alive in them now in relation to the harmful act and its consequences, as well as what motivated them to act as they did. After everyone has been heard, solutions are sought to improve the situation, and every participant in the circle can make a contribution to the group moving forward.

  • Post-circle:
    Agreements made at the end of the Circle are reviewed. The group looks at what worked and what did not work so well, and why. The group celebrates or mourns, as appropriate, and other solutions are sought, if needed.

This particular type of restorative justice is now being brought to North America. In March 2009, several people from Maine went to Montreal to attend RC trainings with Dominic Barter. In the summer of 2009 the Peace & Reconciliation Studies Department of University of Maine offered an RC course. There is now a group of 14 people who are meeting monthly to practice the skills of RC facilitation.

Community Partners, Inc. (CPI), a non-profit based in Biddeford, ME, has incorporated NVC and Dominic’s Restorative Circles into their business model for management, employees, and clients. With more than 400 employees, CPI is institutionalizing RC to help staff and clients reframe conflict from an experience that leads to pain and separation to an experience where each person’s humanity is seen more deeply by others, leading to deeper connection.

Personally, I found participating in even an RC practice circle about an issue that arose 15 years ago created such a shift in me. I now have a more open, connected feeling both toward myself and toward the other people involved in the original incident. I picked a situation where I have long told myself that I was "at fault" for "hurting someone’s feelings" thereby creating a lot of disharmony. For a long time I had stuffed down feelings of shame and embarrassment about what had happened. Sometimes these feelings expressed themselves as aloofness and created even more disconnecting interactions between myself and the others involved.

During a Restorative Circle practice session, I offered to work on the scenario. Part of the time I "played" myself (the author of the event), and part of the time I "played" the other person (the receiver of the event). Others got to experience facilitating the three components of the process (see box at left). As a member of the circle I had the opportunity to receive empathy for my part in the situation, which resulted in feeling greater connection for all the others involved in the original incident. Dominic calls this sharing meaning.

Currently, in Quebec, Gina Cenciose and others are starting a Restorative Circles Family Network. People will come together to learn the process and then be available to facilitate circles for families in the network when conflicts arise.

The joining of NVC with restorative justice work is innovative. To support the growing interest in RC in Maine, we will be offering a 2-day Restorative Circles training April 20 & 21, 2010. FMI

Peggy Smith is co-founder of the Maine NVC Network and founder/principle trainer with Open Communication

Contact Open Communication for an RC presentation for your organization or business.

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There are many forms of restorative practices coming into our communities. They can be part of a restorative discipline program within a school or part of the judicial system.

To learn more

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Joy For No Reason

Danna Faulds

I am filled with quiet
joy for no reason save
the fact that I’m alive.
The message I receive
is clear – there’s no time
to lose from loving, no
place but here to offer
kindness, no day but this
to be my true, unfettered
self and pass the flame
from heart to heart. This
is the only moment that
exists – so simple, so
exquisite, and so real.

from One Soul: More Poems From the Heart of Yoga

a small child singing and with arms outstretched above his head with a still pond in the background reflecing fall colors

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Community Partners Inc.,
NVC and Restorative Circles:
One Non-profit’s Story

Brenda Mitchell, Director of Operations

Community Partners Inc. (CPI) is a private non-profit organization providing support to approximately 200 people with developmental disabilities and employing about 400 people. In May of 2005 we embarked on the journey of integrating Non-Violent Communication into the fabric of the organization. It has been a wonderful connection with our philosophy and has been interwoven within our mission, vision and values – the foundation of our work.

We are slowly moving from a “power over” model, including the elimination of the CEO position and the transformation into a shared leadership model. We have moved away from traditional “disciplinary action” and embraced a model of mutual agreement, employee observations and performance expectations. Restorative support has become a natural component within this framework. We define restorative support as empathy sessions, NVC mediation and restorative circles. We communicate with all employees that the support is available to them and give people a variety of mechanisms to access what is needed. Restorative support facilitates our ability to deepen our connections with the people we support and employ; honors the life experiences that individuals bring to CPI and creates an environment that is focused on healing and interdependence.

We have discovered that our clarity in expressing the needs of the organization and deeply listening to those of the people we support and employ has enriched the services that we provide and the employment atmosphere. I am continuously amazed by the transition that restorative support creates. Traditionally, an employee has been “called in” and told what they have done wrong and that the expectation is that they somehow find a way to perform differently in the future. While some employees will change their behavior out of fear of losing their job, many others will continue to present similar behavior until they are eventually terminated. The organization is left with another position to fill, the people supported with another stranger in their home and the terminated employee with bitterness toward the employer or their situation.

Restorative support allows an opportunity to create greater clarity and deeper connections. The same employee is offered an opportunity to receive empathy for a situation that has created concern within the organization. The employee, the supervisor, the related community and a facilitator join together to discuss the needs of the organization (including those of the people receiving support) and the needs that were being met for the employee when the situation occurred. I have witnessed that greater understanding by all individuals leads to an opportunity to come to a mutual agreement in how to proceed. The difference in approaches can be life changing and, generally, will lead to a greater connection for all individuals involved. A person may still chose to discontinue his or her employment with us as our work does not meet their needs, but the departure created under these circumstances is much more desirable than what occurred in the previous model.

The journey over the past five years has been incredible and it continues to provide opportunities that we could not have foreseen when we began. We have had to abandon or revise some of our attempts and stay very focused on our mission – to strengthen our connections, to support personal growth and to live valued lives. Gina Cenciose and Peggy Smith, Certified NVC trainers have been invaluable as partners in our journey. We are grateful for their encouragement, as well as insight, counsel and guidance.

FMI: Community Partners, Inc., Biddeford, ME
If you are interested in an employment opportunity working with a needs based organization, please contact Steve Caya, our recruitment specialist.

Crossword Puzzle

This is a fully interactive online puzzle; we will have a new one each month which relates to the issue's theme.

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2010 Maine NVC Integration Program
Beginning April 23-25

Seventeen days of direct NVC instruction over nine months. If you yearn to bring NVC into your way of being, this is the experience for you. details (pdf)

April 23-25, Winslow, ME
The Power of Empathy

This is an intermediate level NVC workshop, during which we interactively explore that deep healing space within every person, which in NVC we call Empathy. Empathy is a space within which you connect with your own wholeness, and from which you are able to extend outward open-heartedly toward others - joining, embracing and celebrating life.
Led by Gina Cenciose (certified trainer and CNVC certification assessor)
and Peggy Smith (certified trainer)
details (pdf)

April 30 - May 2
South Tamworth, NH
NVC Level 1

Learn the basics of NVC, empathy and the dialogue process with Peggy Smith.
details (pdf)

June 5-6, Augusta area
Level 2 - Deepening Our Open Communication Resiliency

Explore the use of power in our communication. Practice staying heart connected when receiving a "No." Practice making clear requests which others can hear as choice. Deepen our connection using EMPATHY to create healing, self-connection and connections to others. Taught by Peggy Smith, certified NVC trainer. FMI

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July 7 thru August 4
UM Hutchinson Center
Theory & Practice of Nonviolent Communication

This is a 3 credit course, equivalent to a combined Level 1 & Level 2 workshop with Peggy Smith, CNVC certified trainer
details (pdf)

Other East Coast Opportunities:

March 21 -28, Richmond, VA
Creating Workplaces
Where People Thrive

This NVC event with NVC Training Institute will be the only such East Coast offering in 2010. "The intention within our work is to foster the fullness of needs-based consciousness—the living energy of needs—such that we not only impact the human relationships within the organization but we systemically transform the organizational processes, strategies and structures to be in harmony with this consciousness." details

Looking for workshops throughout New England?

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an old stone wall topped with a stack of four small rocks, the top one round, pink clover in the foreground

Celebration Corner

I am filled with gratitude as I think about my first experience of being in a Restorative Circle. My deep yearning for living and sharing the values of nonviolent consciousness, compassion, cooperation, peaceful resolution of conflict, self-responsibility, and so many more was so fuliflled for me in the way the circle played out. So surprising to me was the discovery that the very needs that drove my eruption and caused the original conflict, leading to the circle, were the needs that ultimately were so deeply shared by us in what ensued.
-A first-time RC participant, Maine

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Learning through Conflict: An Introduction to Restorative Circles
with Gina Cenciose, close colleague and student of Dominic Barter,
founder of Restorative Circles

In this 2 day workshop you will be introduced to Restorative Circles and have an opportunity to experience and practice its unique dialogue process.

Day One: Day Two:

Dates: Tues & Wed, April 20-21
Time: April 20: 9:30am-5:00pm
April 21: 9:30am-4:30pm

details and registration

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