- May 18 - 20
- Friday, May 18 @ 6pm through
Sunday, May 20 @ 5pm
Leonard Levis, Ph.D.
Grex & AKRI Sponsored
Profound social suffering, broken institutions, broken trust, failed leadership, disappearing integrity, chaotic and insensitive abuses of authority and power, systemic fragmentation, rampant consumerism, rising injustices, ideological extremism, stubborn intolerance, closed mindedness, disregarded truth, glaring institutional oppression, gender, ethnic, and racial bias. On and on. These are all descriptions of the national and global climate in which we find ourselves today. There is a palpable sense of resignation and despair, a loss of faith and hope, a growing collective melancholy where our fates have begun to look the same as our destiny. This is the shadow nature of our time.
There are whole segments of our society that know this reality well, populations that have lived deeply in these dark shadow aspects of our social institutions for generations. It took the election of a white supremacist president to fully unearth this truth for those who have lived more privileged existences, who have grown up in a culture where it is the norm to ignore or diminish the disparities that have been evident to many. We have all been acculturated in the same system and have now all been brought to the table in ways we perhaps never imagined.
Yet, there is a growing movement of awakening to an expanded and deeper consciousness. We continue to bear witness to evidence that, in times of crisis, organizing and working with others towards a common goal serves as a healing process. Connecting to the authority of one’s personal power, interacting with the members of one’s social network, work group, or community around issues of importance establishes a broader possibility of change. Management interacting with transparency, working within and across boundaries, bridging the differences that divide us, and finding one’s place in the group are all aspects of our organizational life. This suggests that in our search for meaning and purpose, the narratives which define organizational life can be re-written.
How do these broad concerns filter into, intersect with, and influence our daily work and social lives?
How do these issues arise within the organizations we affiliate with and look to for a sane sense of belonging?
Conference Primary Task and Method
This conference is designed to provide members, together with administrative staff and consultants, an opportunity to create a temporary institution with opportunities to experience, examine, and understand systemic processes – overt and covert, conscious and unconscious – which are encountered in the exercise of leadership, authority, and power. The conference design and staff consultations will focus particular attention on the exercise of authority and leadership from a group-as-a-whole perspective. The learning method is experiential and members learn primarily through action and reflection on their experience of the conference, which distinguishes it from other conferences where the faculty provides didactic information for the learners to take in.
One purpose of this conference is to study the shadow aspects of institutional life. In this context, shadow is described as the unwanted aspects of self as they are represented and projected into the groups we identify with and work in, essentially becoming group level phenomena. Likewise, group and organizations have their own shadow elements that become introjected by its members. Towards this end, we will consider how formal and informal authority emerges and is used, how leadership is managed, how roles are assigned, taken up, and auditioned for, how boundaries are negotiated, and how the felt experience of one’s attempts to participate in and understand organizational life are manifest.
The primary task of the conference is to provide opportunities to experience, examine, and understand the exercise of authority and leadership from the group perspective. The primary task of administrative staff is to create and hold the conference structure. The primary task of the consulting staff is to provide members with opportunities to examine the nature of group dynamics and authorization experientially, as they unfold. The primary task of conference members is to learn what they choose to learn in any way they choose to learn it.
Conference participants will have opportunities to:
- Learn about both covert and overt group processes through participating in groups that vary in size, structure, and task.
- Discover aspects of group life that create vitality and goal fulfillment and those, which lead to resistance, complacency, inertia, and decline.
- Identify underlying patterns of group interaction by forming groups, establishing leadership structures, and relating with other groups and the institution as a whole.
- Observe the patterns of group formation, internal workings, and relationships with other groups as these emerge in the context of the conference.
- Recognize personal and collective reactions to well-defined authority and clearly delineated boundaries.
- Experiment with familiar and unfamiliar roles and with various social behaviors including isolation, autonomy, affiliation, collaboration, and coalition building.
- Examine the difference in influence among those with formally authorized work roles and those of informal leaders.
- Learn how varied aspects and perceptions of individual identity such as race, class, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and education level are used by groups with and without the conscious awareness of the individuals involved.
- Explore how social suffering contributes to the formation of narratives that can define organizational life.
- Understand the difference between the stated task of a group and the task it actually appears to be pursuing.
- Deepen participant’s awareness of their own capacity and responsibility to lead or advocate in their home organizations and social contexts no matter what their formal authority roles.
- Apply what has been learned and experienced to choices in back-home work and social contexts.
Tavistock Systems Learning Model
The Group Relations Conference provides a unique experiential learning opportunity to study one's own behavior as it happens. By holding the contextual factors of task, role, place, and time boundary constant and observing the emergence of dynamics in the “here and now” participants become “participant observers” who can make meaning of the temporary organization they are co-creating with the staff. This model of experiential learning examines unconscious as well as conscious aims that impact the emotional and working lives of groups. It provides opportunities to explore how we authorize ourselves and others to feel, speak, act, lead, and follow; how social identity and role intersect; and how we create and challenge the boundaries of task, time, territory and self. In this unique format aspects of one's motivations, behaviors, projections and ways of taking up roles that might be out of awareness are brought to light. The tendencies of the group to enlist members to fulfill roles on its own behalf s as well as the projections of the group onto individuals are also available for exploration. Once available for conscious examination, participants are assisted in learning what supports or detracts from one's effectiveness, particularly how leadership and authority are manifest. Organizational narratives that form at the level of the whole system also become available for study. Staff will make an assumption that what emerges in the conference mirrors the external environment, thus offering everyone an opportunity to see broader social and organizational dynamics more clearly.
This model for learning about authority, leadership, and group dynamics evolved from the work of Wilfred Bion and A. Kenneth Rice, and several others associated with the Tavistock Institute for the Study of Human Relations in London. Their ideas have led to a considerable body of theory about group and leadership behavior that has received a positive reception in many parts of the world. In the Tavistock tradition, authority is defined as the right to work on behalf of a group, in relation to a task, to support a collective purpose. While these phrases may seem clear, the actual process of moving an agenda forward is often complicated by covert, out-of-awareness and difficult-to-track, shadow dynamics. This weekend conference is designed to bring the process of authorization to light as it develops in the conference itself. Studying how members give themselves and others the right to participate and influence, to lead, to cast a vote of support, provides powerful and lasting learning. Closely observed, the temporary institution of the conference tells a story and reveals the unique underlying meanings and beliefs that drive the group’s dynamic in the here and now.
As participant observers, conference members learn experientially, not through traditional didactic instruction, and deepen their awareness of how they together create the world in which they live.
Experiential, Here and Now Events
The Small Study Group is usually composed of 8-10 members and 1-2 consultants. The task of the Small Study Group is to study the exercise of authority and leadership in a group context as they unfold in a setting that allows face-to-face interchange.
The Large Study Group is composed of all conference members and typically has 2-3 consultants. The task of the Large Study Group is to study the exercise of authority and leadership in a group context as they unfold in a setting that makes face-to-face interaction difficult or impossible.
In the Institutional Event the focus shifts to the conference institution itself. Its primary task is to experience, examine and understand the impact of subgroups, how they develop relationships with each other, and what they reveal about the overall institution.
Reflective, There and Then Events
The conference will open with a meeting of all staff and members for a presentation of the structure, design, and concepts underlying the conference. Announcements by administrative staff will address practical and logistical issues.
Usually composed of 4-8 members and 1-2 consultants. During the conference Role Analysis Groups afford members to examine roles they have taken up, been assigned, or found themselves playing and experimented with as they conference progresses.
This is a meeting to provide an opportunity for discussion among all members and staff. Its task is to share information and consider how the groups formed to co-create a unique social system and its relationship to the underlying dynamics of authority and leadership.
Usually composed of 4-8 members and 1-2 consultants. At the close of the conference, Application Groups provide members with the opportunity to review and discuss the meaning of the events of the conference and how they apply to outside roles and organizations. These groups offer a bridge between the here and now conference experiences and the group and organizational dynamics of life outside of the conference.
At the close of the conference, a plenary meeting with all members and staff will provide the opportunity to discuss and make sense of the conference as a whole.