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McRae, Jill (2005). The Razor's Edge: Fostering Adaptive Change in Restorative Justice Paper presented at "Building a Global Alliance for Restorative Practices and Family Empowerment, Part 3", co-hosted by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) and Real Justice Australia, March 3-5, in Penrith, New South Wales, Australia. Downloaded 14 April 2005.

This paper draws on my involvement in a form of restorative justice that entails conferences for juvenile offenders. Thanks to an appointment as a convenor, it is my job to organise and to run conferences where young offenders make a full and frank apology. They do this in the presence of the victim, the victim's family, and their own. In this paper, I look in detail at the responsibilities of leadership before and during the conference. In particular, the paper explores the character of authority, both formal and informal, notably at how these provide discrete frameworks of support, each with its own rules and purpose. I note that it is under the rubric of informal authority, for example, that stakeholders undertake the difficult work of changing their mindset. They bring to the conference certain expectations, some ill placed because they are predicated on a inappropriate dependency. I look at how convenors might identify the real nature of the adaptive challenges faced by stakeholders -be they victims, offenders or respective families -by taking particular note of avoidance and what it signifies. I look at dependencies that are appropriate, and those that are not. All stakeholders bring expectations, some that are doomed to remain unmet, some met in other ways. I look at how the matrix linking convenor and informal authority makes it possible to choose which expectations might appropriately be met, and how, as well as those we are better advised to disappoint, or re-direct. The paper notices how important it is for those with the role of leader and facilitator to allocate time and opportunity within due process, for it is when new learning takes place that we change for the better. Furthermore, the paper looks at how stakeholders adapt to the demands of the conference in a way that encourages them to be intact and more capable. Listening to others tell their story is a chance to re-evaluate, most notably feelings and attitudes. (excerpt)


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