‘Why do people decide to talk to each other?’


Eva Győrfi

Eva Győrfi is, amongst other things, a lawyer and a mediator. She is also part of the research team Foresee in Hungary, responsible for the action research in a small Hungarian village, “Kisvaros” for the ALTERNATIVE project. Foresee is an interdisciplinary team, with people from different backgrounds, ranging from sociologists and psychologists, to criminologists, lawyers and mediators.

The organization, with its training, consultancy, research and networking profile aims at contributing to the prevention and reduction of social inequalities and promoting the principles and practices of alternative dispute resolution in school-, prison- or community setting.

Why did you join ALTERNATIVE? What is so important or groundbreaking about it?

For me, especially the aim and the research methods were important to my professional questions as well as to the dialogue models in general. The colleagues in this project are also very close to me. It has been relevant to be in Kisvaros, Hungary for years now. It is very interesting to keep focusing on why people decide to talk to each other about common issues and why they would refuse to do so. What are the contributing factors or circumstances behind this refusal? Can a restorative approach add something positive to the present practices? Can it tackle difficulties and solve conflicts, and if so, how?

As a researcher at Foresee, do you feel close to the conflict? Do you feel personally involved?

I am of course at times involved in conflicts, as I am usually characterized as having a sometimes provocative opinion and I am not afraid to get involved. It gives me the chance to debate, to feel, to respond and to change or to learn. When I feel safe, I open myself up to speaking and to learning. And this has been possible for me at Foresee. We can talk very openly and we are being heard, with our limits, weaknesses, dilemmas, mistakes or strong professional identity and beliefs. This is a unique team.

You have a very practical background, with a lot of field work experience. Do you feel the difference from the more academic partners?

This is a very personal question, seeing as how my family contains a lot of academic members. We have clever professors with a lot of titles and leadership positions, so I am used to this kind of high standard thinking about how things work and why, about how to be responsible for our own messages and how to make them credible. I can accept and appreciate it, and I believe it is a very worthy and necessary dimension of understanding the world.

I have also always been clever and resourceful, with energy and a high sensitivity to people in need. Or at least, that is what I have been told since my childhood. It is possible I stayed in this ‘doer mood’, with a ‘do-something-right-now-for-this-concrete-case-and-the-science-would-be-secondary’ kind of attitude. I always do my own thing, and my family, especially my parents tolerate this. Today, my family respects my work, they are proud of it and I am very lucky. I also think this is what the action research is about, essentially. Practice, on-site, people-based empirical research and theoretical consequences.

What would you like to see achieved at the end of this project?

After the Charlie Hebdo-case, it has become more important to show the plethora of alternatives on feeling safe and secure, along with a better understanding of the place and the limits of restorative justice.

What has been the most lasting impression from the action research at the village of Kisvaros?

There is a range of emotions that are vivid and still living during the whole project. The fear of participants to speak out or to stand up for justice. The grace of the basic sentences with very clear messages from the people who talk with us. The moments of joy of being together in a situation in a good atmosphere, in a special setting and last but not least the sensation when people start to trust us or start to trust the process.

What are the most difficult tasks in doing this kind of action research?

One of the most difficult things is to make people active and get them involved, and when they are engaged, to make them move a little, to see them change or use a different perspective.

What have been the highlights of this project for you personally?

The work and the working culture in the whole consortium in general and with our team in particular, first of all. Also the first diagnosis workshop on our research site, where we were able to share our first analysis. The meetings with all of the partner organisations, where I always experience a special energy, a spirit and an engagement for this work.

At the Belfast conference and the Budapest regional workshop in 2014, I met up with important people of my early adulthood, like my master on restorative justice and my best friend, it had been many years since we had seen each other!

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