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Restorative justice and large organizations as victims

Jun 14, 2011

from the entry on Mediation Services -- Thinking Out Loud:

One of the ongoing challenges we face here at Mediation Services is how to meaningfully involve corporations and large businesses in the restorative justice process.

The process is relatively clear when there is an offender and a victim – or even when there are multiple victims and/or offenders. Individuals have needs and interests and a mediator works to bring people together for meaningful and fruitful exchange. Of course, every situation is unique and demands an “out of the box” thinking in order to make any process effective for the participants.

But when the “victim” is a large corporation, there are at least two unique challenges for a mediator to address:

a) how do we put a “face” on the victim? Oftentimes large corporations do not want to be involved in any meeting. Restorative Justice processes work best when we meet each other. It is much harder for a person to take responsibility for their actions when they can’t see who was impacted by them. In one case, a company designated a representative to be the face of the company. This representative was able to articulate the harm that was done to the company, both the hard impacts (money that was lost) and the softer impacts (level of trust between employees and employer, to name one). It helped the offender understand more clearly the implication of his actions.

b) the large/small mentality. I frequently hear people articulate a position that minimizes the impact of their actions on a large business. There is a disbelief that the “small” harm caused is even felt by a large organization. The comparison I think of is what happens when a mouse pokes an elephant. That doesn’t mean that society should allow large organizations to be misused by individuals. It does mean that we need to work hard to find ways to articulate the harm caused in terms that people can understand.

Read the whole entry and reply with your ideas.

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