This three-day group relations conference offers a unique opportunity to study the conscious and unconscious dynamics involved in how groups organize themselves and interact with each other.  This conference is not a passive learning event that relies upon lectures.  Instead, the learning is experiential.  Participants study how leadership, followership, authority, task, boundaries, and roles operate in the different group experiences they enter during the conference.  The conference will weave art and other non-verbal forms of expression into the conference events to illuminate unconscious dynamics operating in the system of group interactions that members and staff will create together.

Leadership and Creative Expression – Healing, Authority, Role and Task

A Three-Day Virtual Group Relations Conference

Exploring Themes of Healing, Boundaries, Authority, Role, Task in
Leadership and Creative Expression


April 8-10, 2022

Meeting Times

(Friday, 4/8): 9 AM - 4:30 PM PST

(Saturday, 4/9): 9 AM - 5:00 PM PST

(Sunday, 4/10): 9 AM - 4:45 PM PST 

Leadership and followership are interdependent and dynamic. In a collectivist system, such interdependence among members feels nurturing and connecting. Yet, like other aspects of the human experience, interdependence can at times feel like a burden, not a blessing. Over the past two years, many US citizens have experienced a new need for coexistence; a survivalist interdependence across individuals, families, communities, and countries aiming to remain healthy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. A global existential threat in the form of a pandemic threatens humankind in an unprecedented and humbling way. There is a threat in the most basic human currency - air - that sees no social identities, no borders, no language, and no political affiliation. Many of our loved ones perished, and still sometimes in disbelief, those of us who remain, continue to make sense of our lives, and persist as we discover a new normal. As we all move closer to learning to live during a pandemic, many of us also recognize that to survive and thrive, we must work together, respect and honor all living systems, and integrate where we come from into who we are, to arrive at where we need to be. In the US, the death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to face deep fears, reconsider our responsibilities and accountabilities, and discover resilience that we didn’t know we had. The United States is a world leader, and many nations are looking to Us for a model of leadership that can help humanity survive this period in our history.

In this conference, taking place during these times of upheaval and collective harm, healing is a generative and ongoing process that requires each and all of us. Healing is intergenerational, interdependent, and it is self-directed. Like the sun and the moon, healing happens in cycles. Most often, healing occurs unpredictably and unexpectedly. Yet healing can mean a reacquaintance with yourself, who you are, who you were, and even who you will be.  Healing points to the sometimes-fragmented nature of our existence within ourselves and between ourselves and the rest of the world.  These boundaries inform the healing we allow ourselves as we navigate our roles and interact in various systems – from family to society. Healing is a gift we give ourselves as we own all our parts and take up authority in service of a task, a higher form of achievement beyond our physical existence.

Authority is the right to work and the right to exist in the context of our organizations. In historically excluded communities, authority can sometimes feel distorted. As Gloria Ladson-Billings (1998) puts it in her discussions about critical race theory (CRT), in a social system, the vantage point from the outside can offer access to seeing more parts of a whole that are not accessible to the dominant group. Similarly, those who hold formal authority might believe that authority and access is a zero-sum game and give in to the temptation to hoard work, resources, and access.

Roles we take up determine our access to authority and can feel like boundaries about what we can and cannot do. The roles we take up can sometimes feel in conflict with who we believe ourselves to be and who we might aspire to be. Like a photograph showing a moment suspended in time and space, roles can feel like a suspension. Social roles, in particular, can feel confusing or imprisoning when interacting with others, especially when these roles are outside of conscious awareness. In the context of this conference, the invitation is to explore roles you take up in this system, how these conscious and unconscious roles liberate you or imprison you, how they support or hinder the task. How do acquired and imposed roles foster or prevent you from healing and integrating parts of yourself or your world(s)?  How do acquired and imposed roles serve or not serve the tasks of larger stages in which you find yourself (family, work, community, world)? Roles can also be up for editing and revising like a movie script. There are opportunities to edit your mental script about the roles you take, the roles others intentionally or unintentionally see and expect in you, and the roles you want to explore further. A script, unlike photography, is more malleable and fluid; the conference invites you to consider roles as editable scripts instead of static photographs.

The primary task of this event is to study the here-and-now, the life of the group-as-a-whole as it unfolds in real-time, and to partner in the task of collective learning about leadership, authority and responsibility across roles, boundaries, and virtual space. Consistent with traditional models of Group Relations theory and practice, there are no prescribed lessons, and the invitation is to remain open to the emergent and the uncertain. Additional opportunities to recharge and reflect through short optional energizing and reflective events that we are calling “bursts of grounding” will also be offered throughout the conference as a way of further exploring and integrating member experience with conference themes. These spaces will have activities like meditation and music, and collage. Members and staff will participate while remaining in our respective organizational roles. Together we will pause and journey back to our integrated selves, our sense of connection within and across communities within and outside the conference system.

Leadership and Creative Expression: Healing, Authority, Role, and Task, means understanding the relatedness and relationship we have with ourselves, one another, and our earth. We develop this understanding to navigate the multiple layers of experience we feel and face every minute and every day. Not too long ago, after years of being in the same space for most of the time, I took the risk of traveling. Traveling reminded me of who I am and who I can become. Like every good adventure, this conference invites you to consider what Leadership and Creative Expression mean to you. What might healing, authority, role, and task do with leadership and creativity? What might leadership and creativity have to do with healing? Authority? Role? Task? Or with healing authority, role, and task?  These are some of the questions we invite you to experientially explore within the here-and-now of the systems we will co-create and learn about together.

                                                                                                Yaro Fong-Olivares, Conference Director

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