Restorative Practices in a Changing World: Rick Kelly’s Vision for a Just Society

Rick Kelly’s recent presentation illuminated the trajectory of restorative practices and their transformative potential in today’s society. With his decades of experience, beginning in the mid-70s as a Child and Youth practitioner, Kelly’s insights, based on a foundation of mental health and clinical practice, have evolved over time to encompass a holistic approach towards community integration and well-being.

Kelly’s initial foray into this realm highlighted innovative methods of family engagement within homes. His work soon evolved into recognizing the crucial role of the community, advocating for the “whole village” approach, with the “school as a hub” model emerging as a testament to his commitment. This model, part of a significant 25-year policy research initiative, has stood as a beacon of hope, emphasizing early investments in child well-being and the importance of ceding and sharing power with communities.

The heart of Kelly’s presentation revolved around the concept of ‘second order change.’ He argued that while adjusting our perceptions of harm and its subsequent reparative processes has been monumental, true transformation requires a deeper introspection. This introspection should address and rectify prevailing constructs such as “WITH”, relational engagements, shame, power, space-making, and voice, all of which guide restorative practices.

Kelly emphasized that for restorative practices to be truly effective, they must be approached with a lens that recognizes historical and present oppressive systems, particularly against marginalized groups. The stakes, as he rightly pointed out, couldn’t be higher, with genuine life and death implications.

With a palpable passion, Kelly discussed the practical application of restorative practices in several transformative projects:

  • The establishment of a Social Innovation Hub tailored for post-secondary students.
  • Creation of a community center, envisioned as a salve to the wounds inflicted by violence and trauma.
  • Formulating mentored pathways to shepherd Black youth into the trades.
  • Amplifying the voices of BIPOC high school students within a substantial school board.

Each of these initiatives, spanning several years, epitomizes Kelly’s dedication to fostering community development, justice, and inclusivity.

Over the past two decades, Kelly’s commitment to knowledge mobilization and systemic change has been unwavering. Embarking on this journey as a professor in a Child and Youth Worker program, Kelly’s expertise has since blossomed. As a youth justice restorative conference facilitator since 2004, and with a Masters from IIRP under his belt, Kelly has endeavored to adapt and mold his techniques. His goal? To decolonize and diversify restorative practices, ensuring they resonate with the diverse tapestry of youth workers and catalyze systemic evolution. This commitment is further evident in his scholarly contributions, which encompass youth work, pedagogical approaches, and strategies for post-COVID recovery, all under the umbrella of restorative practices.

Kelly’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. His recent recognition with the OACYC Dennis McDermott Career Achievement Award stands testament to his significant contributions to the field. Currently, he leads the charge at his social enterprise, Just Us: A Centre for Restorative Practices, further solidifying his dedication to creating a more equitable world.

In sum, Rick Kelly’s presentation wasn’t just a chronicle of his illustrious career but served as a clarion call for embracing restorative practices, championing systemic change, and striving for a just society.