Hopkins (2015) on building restorative organisational cultures
1st October 2020

In the first of our series of research summaries, intern Karl McGrath has kindly reviewed Belinda Hopkins’ recent article, From Restorative Justice to Restorative Culture (2015, Revista de Asistenta Sociala. 14:4, 19-34). This summary, the original article to which it relates, and Belinda’s wider work, should be of interest to anyone seeking to develop the use of restorative principles and practices in their organisation.

Key Message:

A restorative workplace culture is good for staff health and wellbeing, and the 5:5:5 model of restorative practice can provide a helpful guide for implementation. However, change begins from the top: senior leaders must champion and model the changes they want.


In this article, Belinda Hopkins considers how restorative approaches can be implemented in workplaces and the impact it can have on staff and the workplace environment.  

In implementing a restorative culture within a workplace, people often ask what a restorative workplace would look, sound and feel like.  What will staff do or say differently?  How will it influence the way they think and feel?  And what, if anything, do they need to change?  To try clarify these issues, Hopkins and colleagues have developed the 5:5:5 model of restorative practice: 5 core beliefs, 5 areas of language, and 5 steps or stages that are common to many restorative processes and that can be used in many kinds of interactions and interventions.  The benefit of the 5:5:5 model when implementing a restorative culture is that it provides people with a clear, consistent and teachable framework for understanding both restorative practice and how it should be applied.  

Hopkins details the 5 core beliefs and 5 steps or stages in the article, shown in Table 1 below.  The 5 Core Beliefs explain how a restorative culture could be achieved while also using them as the basis for the 5 steps of restorative interaction. The 5 steps will likely be familiar to most restorative practitioners, and can be helpful in face-to-face discussions as well as conflict resolution. More broadly, Hopkins believes the 5:5:5 model can help to transform workplace dynamics by enhancing working relationships and enabling a positive and empowering staff culture.  

In introducing and embedding the 5:5:5 model to create a restorative culture, circles in particular are seen as a key restorative process: “the importance of regular circle meetings is agreed upon almost universally by advocates of whole-institution restorative approaches… it is the basis on which all other restorative practice can flourish”.  Circles help to establish group norms, while also providing a forum for people to have their say, build relations with others, feel valued and included, identify needs and collaboratively problem-solve how best to meet those needs.

Table 1:  5 Core Beliefs and 5 Steps of the 5:5:5 Model

However, as helpful as the 5:5:5 model and restorative circles can be, Hopkins also emphasises the importance of senior management and leadership within an organisation in bringing about a restorative workplace culture.  It is not enough for senior management simply to ‘be on board,’ they must actively participate in restorative practice.  Senior managers must champion and model the changes they want to see: “if [leaders] want to truly embrace a restorative culture in their workplaces then the change needs to start with themselves”.  

Hopkins demonstrates the potential real-world benefits of a restorative workplace culture when she presents a case study of its implementation in a secondary school in Wales.  Hopkins worked as a restorative trainer and consultant for the school and, after 5 years, the results showed massive benefits for students (e.g. less expulsions, improved attendance, improved grades, etc.), but also showed a 60% reduction in stress-related staff absenteeism, saving the school over £60,000:  “Put simply, a restorative environment is good for staff health and well-being”.