When we increase the more authentically connected a person is to their community, the less likely they will be to exhibit problematic behaviors. This work is not about just fixing problems, but connectedness to prevent them in the first place.
We are often called in to support schools and organizations when there are challenges around discipline, disconnection and cultural issues. And, while much of this work is rooted in the restoration and healing of individuals and communities, it is critical that we understand that all people, in organizations and outside of them, have a need for deeper connection and relationships. To limit this work to being just responsive at best, or reactive at worst, is an error. If we become trauma-informed, restorative or culturally relevant solely to heal, respond to wrongdoing or address an issue, then we will be perpetually chasing after crises. We must admit that this is precisely what many schools, businesses, community agencies, law enforcement, courts, and others are doing every day. To quote Bill Gates, “treatment without prevention is unsustainable.”
An important value of this work is in its ability to build peace and success through establishing a framework for connection and belonging. We are working to bind and connect people into a community, sometimes after an incident or wrongdoing, but hopefully more in lieu of one.
We focus on the prevention side when we do some of the following:
- conduct proactive circles, where we are teaching curriculum or deepening our understanding of each other without harm having taken place
- establish practices like mindfulness, expressing emotions, and frequent brain breaks that are excellent for those facing trauma and everyone else too
- empower folks to identify their assets and strengths through tools like the 40 Developmental Assets to build success from that foundation
Therefore, this work around building relationships is as valuable in suburban or private schools with a wealth of resources, as it is in rural and urban public schools serving students in poverty. Building social capital through a stronger community is as necessary within a grassroots non-profit as it is in a corporate executive team. We assert that all folks, those we serve as well as ourselves, can benefit from environments where we have voice, connection and are seen primarily through our strengths. This means that this work is not just to fix broken things, but strengthening our bonds and relationships to prevent us from breaking them in the first place.