A Restorative Response to Conflict or When Harm has Occurred

What is a facilitated conversation?

A facilitated conversation is a structured response to conflict or when harm has occurred that

    • allows participants to talk about what happened, and how they and others have been affected
    • holds people accountable for their behaviour and its impact on others
    • provides a supportive opportunity to find ways to move forward, satisfactory to everyone involved
    • provides the opportunity for harm to be repaired
    • builds community

Who is invited to participate?

    • those directly involved in the conflict
        • if the conflict involves many people, a number of conversations may be necessary
    • other people directly affected by the conflict
    • personal support for those directly involved in the conflict. Support people participate fully in the process
    • community witness person(s). The community witness person
        • is part of the community 
        • is respected by all participants
        • participates fully in the process
        • wants a good outcome for everyone
        • is not perceived as taking sides


    • participants determine the outcome as a result of the conversation
    • general outcome expectations include:
        • a shared understanding of what happened and ways people have been affected
        • an agreed upon way forward to address any harm that has happened
        • the development of stronger relationships


The conversation is led by trained restorative practitioners who provide participants with the opportunity for a difficult conversation. The facilitator’s role is to ensure participants:

    • understand the focus of the conversation and the process that will be used 
    • want relationships to get better rather than want to vent, blame or seek revenge
    • are participating willingly
    • when appropriate, take responsibility for their role, however small or large, in the breakdown of the relationship


Stages of a Facilitated Conversation 

1. Initial mssessment

The facilitators work with a reference team to assess if a facilitated conversation is feasible. Once the focus for the conversation is determined a letter of invitation is sent to all the participants.

2. Initial meetings

The facilitators meet individually with all participants to:

    • ensure they understand the process
    • ensure they are taking part willingly
    • go through the questions that will be asked during the facilitated conversation

The meetings help to confirm it is safe to go ahead with the facilitated conversation. If at any point the facilitators decide harm could result from having a facilitated conversation, they will bring the process to an end. 

Reasons not to go ahead with a facilitated conversation:

    • those directly involved are unwilling to admit their role in the conflict or are unwilling to accept they might have a role in the breakdown of the relationship
    • people don’t want to make things better. They want to merely vent, assign blame or revenge
    • people feel coerced into participating
    • people feel unsafe participating
    • unexpected issues arise that might derail the proposed conversation

3. The facilitated conversation

A facilitated conversation usually takes 2-4 hours depending on the number of participants. Participants answer the questions asked during the one-on-one meeting with the facilitator.

As part of the facilitated conversation participants develop an agreement. The agreement includes responsibilities, timelines and who will follow-up with the participants to ensure the agreement is carried out. 

At the end of the facilitated conversation participants are invited to share refreshments as the facilitators prepare the written agreement that all participants will sign.

4. Follow-up

Facilitators follow-up with the reference team to assess the process and determine if more work is required, e.g., other facilitated conversations, trainings, or workshops.


Reference team: when there is conflict or when harm has occurred


The purpose of the reference team is to:

    • accompany the FaithCARE facilitators to design and implement a restorative response to conflict or harm in the congregation
    • assist the facilitators to assess the level of conflict
    • develop appropriate recommendations as a response to the conflict or harm that has occurred
    • communicate with the governing body of the congregation with regard to budget and timelines for the restorative response
    • communicate, as appropriate, with the governing body of the congregation and the rest of congregation as the restorative response develops
    • recommend, as appropriate, to the congregation’s governing body and to the congregation as a whole any further restorative processes that could be helpful for the congregation


Reference teams are usually comprised of 3 to 6 members chosen to represent the diversity of the congregation. More members may be appropriate.

In creating the team attention should be paid to gender, age and ethnic diversity as well as to diverse (but not extreme) perspectives on the conflict.

Reference team members may have their own personal position on the conflict, but they want to see the situation get better for everyone.