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 –
Boundaries, Expansion, Role, Task & Authority (BERTA)
A Three-Day In Person Group Relations Conference
April 21-23, 2023
Meeting Times TBD (typically all day 9am to 9pm)
An Invitation from the Conference Director
A Group Relations Conference (GRC) is a temporary institution designed to study leadership and authority dynamics as they unfold in the present moment. Instead of focusing on individual leader development or formal instruction, GRCs focus on learning and creating an institution that can contain the emerging lessons and learning experiences of all members of the Conference, including the staff and membership, and at a macro level, society. Unlike many other leadership development programs which acknowledge collective group experience and explore system-level dynamics, individual leadership is ever present during a group relations conference. Yet, individual leadership behaviors are examined as a piece of the complex data that the conference system engenders. The individual is one unit of a complex system that mobilizes hidden and seen parts of individuals, groups, spaces, and time cosmically and spiritually. Individual members are mobilized within the conference system, sometimes in roles outside their conscious awareness but very much in service of the group completion or avoidance of the primary task.
GRCs bring into focus the group-as-a-whole (Wells, 1995) as a unit for exploration. This focus offers opportunities for learning about the hidden and sometimes covert dynamics that inform and influence - intentionally and unintentionally - individual and collective experiences of the various groups present during the conference. Similarly, since human experiences, memories, and heritage, known and unknown, influence behaviors, Conference dynamics can surface insights about societal dynamics. Related to that, this Conference aims to grapple with the changing demographics of the workplace in the US and how demographic changes may translate to representational diversity within the ranks of leadership in organizations. Finally, the Conference aims to work with the implications of changing demographics in how individuals take up familiar and unfamiliar roles, engage with physical and imagined boundaries, and take up personal and institutional authority during transitional times in the evolution and transformation of social and dynamic systems.
Leaders of transition usher change and bring about a hoped-for and hopeful immediate future that enables the necessary courage to surpass the very human threat of difference and what is unknown. A transitional leader can be an opportunity to recreate and co-create novel ways to do the mundane and transform the ordinary. Other concepts that come to mind that serve as transitions and transitory are water, bridges, and migration. These concepts point to another definition of transition as the space between two points. The space can be fluid like water, elevated as bridges, exciting, uncertain, and scary, like the migration experience from what is known to what is unknown. At the same time, transitions are conduits to new positions, vantages, and standards. With these imageries in mind, I invite you to join the exploration of transition in the context of group relations as a microcosm of the transition happening within us and in the world.
Why Join the Expansion?
The Conference will include a series of events to integrate the expansion theme into the learning. The Expression and Expansion events invite exploration of potential antidotes to repression. Repression can refer to the psychological repression of memories, desires, ambition, and other innate drives necessary for human survival. Repression in the social justice context also means historically and state-sanctioned violence, murder, and dehumanization of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities physical and cognitive, and divergence from the “model worker” expected to be male, heterosexual, abled, white, and cisgender. In this Conference, expansion refers to the integration of the experiences of a new and dynamic normal due to the pandemic, the increased awareness about systemic racism, xenophobia, sexism, and the increased blurring of boundaries between someone’s home life and work life. Expansion can help us let go of outdated assumptions that do not serve us and requires a willingness to step into the new - time traveling back and forth to learn and relearn from the past to gather the strength to continue forward.
Wells, L. (1995). The group as a whole: A systemic socioanalytic perspective on interpersonal and group relations. Groups in context: A new perspective on group dynamics, 49-85.