Education, News, NVC Practice

Breakthroughs in transforming conflict

Embracing uncertainty

It all started at the NVC gathering in 2016. I went anticipating a relaxing few days meeting old friends, making new connections and finding out about the New Futures Project. I returned as a committed member of the Transforming Conflict Weave, with work to do.

And then….?

We started as a group of six, but when other commitments and priorities claimed people’s time and energies, three of us were left to take things forward: Sarah Ludford, Ceri Buckmaster and me. What was our role? What could we offer? Who would we serve? What resources could we muster? That was something we had to work out for ourselves. Embracing the uncertainty, we set about defining our own contribution to the ‘New Futures Project’. Throughout 2017, the three of us met virtually to formulate a plan.

Our starting point was to explore how conflict manifested in the NVC community. We created an online questionnaire and invited people to tell us about conflicts they had experienced. We tapped into the experiences on family camps and the processes incorporated into IITs. And we shared our own experiences of mediation, reconciliation and restorative circles.

We allowed ourselves to dream!

Our dream was – and still is – ambitious. We want everyone in the NVC UK community to have access to a restorative approach to responding to conflict when needed. And maybe … just maybe … somewhere down the line … we can allow ourselves an even bigger dream … offering access to communities beyond our own beloved NVC folk.

But that is for the future. For now, we’ve taken our first small steps, in the form of a six-session online programme Building Restorative Systems.

Fourteen people signed up and a format soon emerged:

  • A short opening round, to enable us to hear everyone’s voice speaking in answer to an introductory question (for example: when you think about mediation, what challenges come to mind?)
  • Short pieces of input leading to two or three small group discussions in breakout rooms
  • Feedback to the whole group from each small group
  • A closing round to capture people’s learning, surprises, insights and other ‘take-aways’.

We invited people to explore:

their thinking about, and attitudes towards, conflict;

what it would take to integrate a system into their group, community or camp;

what forms of conflict transformation processes might be available to people;

what distinguishes one process from another: for example, how is mediation different from a restorative circle;

what might be available when a conflict exceeds a group’s internal resources.

As far as we possibly could, within the limits of time and technology, we asked people to practise micro-skills. In our final session, two volunteers took on the role of facilitator/host of a restorative circle, while others role-played characters described by the ‘issue holder’. What played out was a simulation of a real conflict, with rich learning for everyone involved.

The group’s feedback about the programme was enormously heartening

I appreciated the systemic approach.”

“I’m amazed at the amount of learning in just 6 weeks.”

“I celebrate stepping forward and trying to host a circle. I didn’t feel confident but I recognise the value of stretching. That is really significant for me.”

“I’ve enjoyed feeling like part of something bigger, a wider community.”

We closed the final session with a sense that we had tapped into a seam of enthusiasm and real desire to acquire the skills to walk towards conflict.

We’re planning to do the programme all over again in the autumn. Will we see you there?

Jo McHale (with Sarah Ludford and Ceri Buckmaster)

6 thoughts on “Breakthroughs in transforming conflict”

  1. What amazing work you have done! And I super love seeing all my favourite topics pulled in together: restorative circles, mediation, nvc, questionnaires, role plays, breakout groups! I work in a private primary English school in Cyprus and our Head is ON BOARD with bringing ALL of those into our school. Dream come true, an on board Head! Please please ideas on how we can w irk together? You come here to train us????

    1. Hello Cathie
      It’s 4th September and I’m seeing your message for the first time. I love hearing your enthusiasm for restorative processes. And it sounds hugely encouraging that the head teacher in the school you work in is on board with the approach too. A dream come true, indeed.

      I’m regretting that I hadn’t picked up your response sooner.

      You ask for ideas about how we might work together. That sounds exciting!!! There are possibilities to work virtually – and of course offering training in Cyprus is always an option.

      Let’s build the connbection by skype, initially. My Skype ID is jo.mchale ( for Josephine McHale). Would you be willing to send me a connection request? What is your second name?

      Ceri, Sarah and I are repeating the programme, starting on Monday 17th September. Might you be interested in joining in, if you’re free?at13.00 – 15.00 UK time.

    1. Thank you for your support, Louise. I’ve only just seen your message, and am regretting not being aware of it sooner.

      If you’d like to hear more about what the group (Ceri, Sarah and me) is planning, please email me on

      You may like to know that we are repeating the programme this month, starting on Monday 17th September, 13.00 – 15.00, and continuing weekly over six weeks.

      If you’d like to know more and to sign up, here’s a link to the information:

      We love to hear from you.

  2. I too am interested to know more about the building restorative systems group. I celebrate the work, passion and commitment you have already put into this work and feel so comforted as well as inspired by your actions.

    1. Hello Maggie
      I’m enjoying your appreciation and celebration – and as with the two previous responses to the article, I’m regretting that I didn’t think to check whether or not anyone had responded. It’s gratifying to know that people have read what I wrote.

      We would be very willing to tell you more about what the Transforming Conflict group is dreaming up for the future. Our immediate activity is a repeat of the Restorative Approaches to Conflict programme starting on 17th September 13.00- 15.00. Details are here:

      If you’d like to hear more about what else the group (Ceri, Sarah and me) is planning, please email me on

      We’d love to hear from you.


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