Academic journal article Organisational and Social Dynamics

Global Development and Innovation in Group Relations

Academic journal article Organisational and Social Dynamics

Global Development and Innovation in Group Relations

Article excerpt


Our interest in global development and innovation in group relations work began in 2009 after Belgirate III, the tri-annual conference for group relations staff and directors. The theme that year was on "Tradition, Creativity and Succession in the Global Group Relations Network". Members reflected on whether the work has been influenced by the upheaval of world events and the globalisation of group relations. As we all agreed, the recent years have proved to be a time of an unprecedented number of group relations conferences being held successfully. Some of these are newer developments: for example, in the Faroe Islands; in Eastern Europe, including Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania; in Turkey; in the Far East-China-and in South America, including Chile, Argentina, Peru, and the Amazon jungle.

After having participated in discussion groups with our global colleagues, where nation-issues and nation-differences in taking up the "tradition" of group relations were being discussed, we began to question not whether, but how the development of group relations conference design in different countries might be linked with societal changes.

This initiative began well before the advent of the apocalyptic global, political, and climatic events of the past four years, now known as the Arab Spring.

In pursuing this idea, we decided to interview a significant sub-set of conference directors, either face-to-face, by phone, Skype, or e-mail conversation. Our original intention was to focus on new directors, as we were working on the hypothesis that they would have the traditions embedded in them from their past experiences with seasoned directors, either as staff or as members. Where they might have made changes in their own designs, these would be derivative from traditional conference work. We assumed that there would be useful data about the group as a whole given what might be learned from the developments arising from the work of the newer generation of directors.

Our struggle around inclusion/exclusion

As we began to assemble names of the directors we wanted to approach, a curious phenomenon occurred for us: we began feeling guilty and bereft as the list of conference directors that we were not including began to grow. The guilt was developing out of our awareness of the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion that are alive in our network. We know this is being felt by elders and newcomers alike. We did not want to be agents of discomfort within the network. Our feelings of being bereft were coming from an awareness that "old timers" in the conference director role would have a wealth of data from which we could learn. While we did not include every country, we settled on an inclusion strategy that was partially global and multigenerational in representation. We agreed on an interview schedule and devised a means for distributing these interviews between us. Discussions were held from 2010-2013 with forty-nine conference director colleagues from:











New Zealand


South Africa





System effects of the interviews

So far there have been two unanticipated consequences of initiating this work. One is the warm, collaborative response we received from almost everyone we contacted. This is in contrast to the competitiveness and rivalry we could have expected, which undoubtedly exists between the different groups and countries. Many respondents were curious about and very much in favour of this piece of work. This support made us feel we were doing something unknowingly on behalf of the group relations community that may have wider meaning.

I've been looking forward to this conversation since you sent the invitation; it was lovely; fun. I had a chance to say to someone who could understand some things that have been on my mind, yet unspoken for a very long time. …

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