The Innovation Adoption Lifecycle outlines the different ways that people might respond to and/or adopt a change when invited to consider taking a Restorative Justice approach. Rogers (2003) has divided the rate of change amongst people into five defined categories. The characteristics of each group are presented below along with suggestions on how to work with people from these groups. In a chapter on understanding the change process, Thorsborne & Blood (2013) encourage readers to consider the importance of providing opportunities for experimentation before undertaking policy change. “Policy change too early will evoke resistance as there is a sense of being told what to do. You cannot force people on board with a policy change that is not yet backed up with practice that makes sense” (pg. 82).

(Sources: Thorsborne, H & Blood, P. (2013). Implementing Restorative Practices in Schools. London: Jessica Kingsley Press and Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of Innovation. New York: Free Press)


  • Risk-takers, visionaries, whose importance lies in their huge capacity to network, but whose constant willingness to embrace new ideas may contribute to a loss of credibility.

  • Meet them by acknowledging their role & talking to them about importance of letting things settle before introducing other initiatives. To prevent them getting in the way of development of good practice, help them identify change agents beneath them and encourage them to hand over aspects of implementation to others.

Early Adopters

  • Prepared to take risks, but are results-orientated, will not take a risk unless it makes sense. Change agents who, with support and networking opportunities, will promote innovation & be the role models for their colleagues.

  • Meet them by creating opportunities for experimentation & permit them to practice in relative safety. Start small & provide networking & support opportunities.

Early Majority

  • Pragmatists with goodwill who need solid evidence that an idea works before putting it in place themselves. Influenced by observing actions of colleagues they respect and through ongoing internal professional dialogue & articles on practice that has worked in other schools.

  • Meet them by providing ongoing internal professional dialogue, opportunities to be involved, & articles & stories about practice.

Late Majority

  • Conservative, cautious, skeptical people who change in response to pressure from the school or department leadership. Influenced by policy and need the removal of uncertainty or failure before taking on the risk.

  • Meet them by providing trustworthy information (i.e. networking forums, visits to other schools). They also need opportunities to discuss what is not working for them & policy in place to put a degree of pressure on them.


  • Either situational or persistent in their resistance to an idea because a) They did not have concerns addressed in the past or b) They have seen ideas come and go. Resistors can be your greatest leaders and advocates if you tap into the frustration they feel about what has happened in the past and hold them to account.

  • Meet situational resistors by engaging in dialogue, taking concerns seriously, & involving them in change process. Provide opportunities for two-way communication. Meet persistent resistors by increasing circle of influence of those who are on-board until their destructive power is reduced. May need to be confronted about behavior.

Nurturing a relational culture requires sensitivity towards the “Adoption Lifecycle.” While we may all be engaged at various levels, there are many possible ways to encourage relational ways of being. Consider the following:

  • Use some or all of the RFNL Circle Framework Questions to guide interactions

  • Participate in regular check-ins with the people in your community

  • Set meetings up in Circle. When possible remove tables to encourage more dialogic interaction

  • Organize monthly socials in your community that include a circle and/or a mixer or energizer

  • Stop asking each other “why” and instead ask “what happened?”

  • Within a responsive, relational framework, consider all you do and discover many, many ways of shifting your practice