In this pandemic year, so many of us have struggled with the social chaos and irrationality emerging around race and identity. Is America a country with one political story, or is our increasing diversity developing multiple narratives around shared values? Who will tell the stories, who will listen, what will be the nature of emerging leadership and authority? This conference is a space to explore these questions.
The post-pandemic period will be filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. While we appear to be entering a “new now,” the contours are not yet known. Yet, its shape will inevitably be filled with political challenges, racial strife, economic disparity, and global tensions. ALIVE offers a space to explore this emerging context beyond the chatter of sound bites, social media posts, and echo chambers.
Group Relations Tradition
The Authority, Leadership, Identity, and Virtuality Experience (ALIVE) is the A.K. Rice Institute Annual Conference and is jointly sponsored by Group Relations International.
This Zoom-based learning opportunity will seek to approximate some of the rich elements of the group relations tradition in a primarily virtual context. As such, our focus will be on the exercise of authority, the emergence of leadership, and the unconscious dynamics inherent in the study of groups and social systems. Direct attention will also be given to how social identity accompanies and influences the study of authority and leadership as well as the impact of the virtual context on learning.
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
Let us become ALIVE to this new now
and learn... together.
While there is an ambition for there to be hybrid elements of this experience where the potential for face-to-face interaction may be explored, the event-as-a-whole
is planned for full virtual access and participation.
Vaccine administration numbers, local
infection rates, public health and safety
protocols, personal discretion, and
space access for gatherings
are but a few of the considerations
that determine what, if any,
elements of ALIVE will
be live and
The primary task of this experiential event is to study conscious and unconscious dynamics arising in the exercise of authority and emergence of leadership as related to the diverse expressions of identity in a shared virtual space. We will study the unconscious dynamics as they emerge in the “here-and-now” through the roles we find, make and take up in a temporary institution of a social ecosystem.
The purpose of this experiential event is to create opportunities for all participants, members and staff, to gain a better understanding of factors that influence our choices and behaviors in groups — especially related to the hybrid reality and uncertainty of a post-pandemic “new now.” While our focal purpose is on creating opportunities for learning, the potential for experiences that increase our readiness and capacity for personal, organizational, and societal transformation may also be the subject of study.
ALIVE is designed to be experienced as a whole, in its entirety. What follows are brief descriptions of the component events that make up this whole:
Each participant is to be in a Small Study Group consisting of about 8-10 participants and 1-2 consultants. The task of the Small Study Group is to explore the emergence of leadership and exercise authority as it unfolds in the here-and-now as related to expressions of identity. The Small Study Group is a setting that allows face-to-face (virtual) interchange.
The Large Study Group is composed of all conference participants and 2-4 staff consultants. The task of the Large Study Group is the same as that of the Small Study Group in a setting that makes (virtual) face-to-face interaction difficult due to the challenges often to see all participants on a single screens and through varying views. As such, it highlights dynamics that may occur in communities and large organizations or gatherings, where personal interactions are limited and virtuality is increasingly commonplace.
Participants are assigned to a group of 5-6 people and a consultant. The RAG provides members with the opportunity to review their experiences and the roles they have taken in the event as a whole. Particular attention is given to what and how individual members are learning.
Participants will also have an opportunity to explore the application of learning from their experiences, first to other parts of the overall event. Later in the experience, attention shifts to examine parallels between roles taken up in ALIVE and those played out in groups, communities, and organizations in everyday life.
Review and Application
Nexus of Ongoing Work
Conference Reflection Discussion
In this reflection event, participants and staff have an opportunity to collaborate in reviewing and analyzing their learning in the ALIVE experience as a whole. Members and staff may have taken up several roles and encountered various ways of relating to one another in the course of the experience.
The Reflection Discussion centers the opportunity to recognize and discuss feelings, attitudes, and behaviors that have emerged and to perhaps discover patterns of meaning and potential action. An invitation. to consider collectively the deeper levels of significance with implications and application to our outside communities and organizations may be explored.
This event has the task of studying and giving meaning to the experience as an emerging institution. These sessions will be primarily virtual but will be one portion of the overall experience where face-to-face options can be explored; synchronously and asynchronously within a broad time boundary.
In the VIBE, participants form their own groups. The focus of this event is for groups to study issues of (virtual) formation, membership, and representation. Particular attention will be given to the “in-between” of boundary interactions, of virtual and face-to-face efforts at connection, and of exchanges with other groups and the staff group.
The groups of the participant members and staff as the management group of the event will be charged with examining the emerging institution as a system and work to give meaning to the conscious and unconscious “vibe” of unfolding shared learning.
Relatedness of what emerges in the VIBE to the overall ALIVE experiences and in-between larger societal contextual trends of the given moment may be explored. The staff management group works in public and provides consultation to the participant member groups upon request.
Virtual “In-Between” Event (Institutional Event)
This online encounter over one hour explores our perceptions and projections. These sessions invite reflection on how we see ourselves, how we see each other, and how we see the group as a whole. Beginning with silent self-reflection then moving to pairs, then larger clusters that are “randomly” generated by Zoom, participant members gain an opportunity in HERE to hear how they are showing up and what they may represent in ALIVE.
The event continues through use of an online tool such as Jamboard, participant members will have a digital platform that serves as a repository for ongoing themes, images, insights. There will be dedicated moments when NOW contributions will be invited but the portal to the platform will remain open asynchronously until the closing time boundary each day, except the final day when the HERE will end with the beginning of the Conference Reflection Discussion. What appears in HERE may be explored at any point in ALIVE to enhance learning.
Hybrid Emerging Reflection Event
Opportunities for Learning
In this experience, the members and staff will have opportunities to:
Study the dynamics of authority, leadership and organizational life in relationship to diverse expressions of identity in a virtual context.
Learn about both covert and overt group processes through participating in groups that vary in size, structure, and task.
Identify underlying patterns of group interaction by forming groups, establishing leadership structures, and relating with other groups and the institution as a whole.
Explore how we collectively and individually take up roles, negotiate authority, accomplish tasks, manage boundaries, and reflect on learning in “real time”.
Examine the fluidity of roles, identities, tasks, and boundaries in response to an emergent context.
Understand the difference between the stated task of a group and the varied unconscious ways of becoming off task.
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.
Discover aspects of group life that create vitality and goal fulfillment and those which lead to resistance, complacency, inertia, and decline.
Work with competition, collaboration, conflict, coalition-building, envy, delegation, and love.
Understand the relatedness of self and system, and the relatedness of part and whole.
Experiment with familiar and unfamiliar roles and with various social behaviors including isolation, autonomy, affiliation, collaboration, and coalition building.
Deepen awareness of one’s own capacity and responsibility to lead or advocate in home organizations and social contexts.
Apply what has been learned and experienced to choices in community, organizational and social contexts