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We work in an increasingly diverse world, with ever greater potential for success, but also for misunderstanding, miscommunication, and conflict. Especially now, we are immersed in an atmosphere of deep skepticism about organizational integrity, given the many ongoing and widely reported abuses and missteps of those in positions of authority and responsibility.  Discourse on a global or national level appears more polarized, not less.  


This conference offers an opportunity to explore your role in the discourse, as well as alternatives you might be interested in trying out. For example, do you listen to someone when they are expressing a point or are you too busy preparing your rebuttal? What might happen if you heard out the speaker, considered the point and then crafted a response that didn’t begin with “Yes, but…”?  If you typically stay on the outside of group discussions, responding internally but keeping your comments to yourself, how might you feel expressing those comments out loud?  Or, conversely, if you are accustomed to being in the middle of arguments or discussions, might you see and experience things differently if you let someone else lead the conversation from time to time?


You will be able to consider why you take on particular role(s): what allows you to speak up and say what you believe?  Or, conversely, what prevents you from saying what you are feeling or what is on your mind? You might feel authorized because of your work title (Chairman of the Board, for example) or because you have always been encouraged to speak up and told that your opinion is important.  If the latter, you might want to think about what aspects of who you are have been at play to result in such encouragement. Or not.  For example, if you were raised with the message that ‘People like us should stay quiet and not question the status quo’, you might think twice before saying something.


Greater awareness and understanding of the emotions, motives and dynamics that drive events, whether global, local or personal can only improve our ability to interact and communicate with people who are different from us.  Relevant questions about responsible authority, leadership and followership in groups and organizations ranging from international corporations to communities and families include:  

  • How can we become more aware of what we are experiencing in the moment?

  • How can we parse out and make sense of the factors that affect or impact our actions?

  • How can we use that information to understand underlying dynamics, both overt and covert?

  • What language do we use to communicate so that others can work with us toward broader and deeper comprehension of a shared organizational experience?

  • How can we turn newly developed understanding into opportunities for change and improvement?


The conference provides an opportunity to explore, via one’s own experience, the dynamics of groups, and of the whole system, which emerge in this temporary organization. While reading about group dynamics or participating in discussions with a mentor or in a classroom provides opportunities for the critical examination of ideas and diverse perspectives, the focus of the conference is more immediate.  It entails attending to what is occurring at the moment: the “here and now” of conference life.


As the conference unfolds through a series of events, members and staff will work together at the task of learning about and understanding the organization that emerges. We will be examining, among other things: 

  • the processes and dynamics of group formation; 

  • the norms and roles that develop;

  • the function of boundaries; and

  • the meaning of interactions that occur around authority and leadership. 


In all instances, the dynamics that unfold will be explored as the result of our mutualparticipation, collectively constructed from our varying roles and social identities, during the life of the conference organization.


While the conference is highly structured in design, it also offers each individual maximum freedom to learn about his/her own behavior in groups and about group processes.  Since the task is to study the behavior of groups in which one is also a participant, each member can focus on that which particularly interests or feels relevant to her/him.  For example, questions such as these might be of interest:


  • What do I expect from those in positions of authority?

  • How do I feel when those in authority act, or fail to act, as I expect they should?

  • What factors, both conscious and unconscious, shape my and others’ participation in groups?

  • What role(s) do I take up in groups and why?

  • How do I feel about myself and/or others taking the lead?

  • How do I feel about following, collaborating or competing with someone else’s leadership?

  • What meanings do various aspects of identity have in group life?

  • How do boundaries facilitate and/or inhibit group and organizational work?

  • How do groups change and develop over time?

Participants have come from:

"Providing compassionate pastoral care to patients in a large healthcare institution is enormously challenging. Crucial is understating the complex social system that surrounds each patient -- not the family alone but also the entire care team. ....From the experience of the temporary conference institution I returned to work with a fresh understanding and skills that directly impact the clinical students I train and our patients."


 D. R. Director of Spiritual Care

"I see and think about groups, organizations,

and the participation in them in a different way

now than I did prior to the conference. In my

field of arts management, we say we create

meaningful interactions within groups—artists, audiences, curators, and communities. I believe

we often overlook the reality of such interactions

and the possibilities for transformation that they

contain. (How is it that we are so intentional and

yet so dishonest to out goals?) With the

conference’s help, I see how easy it is to depart

from real work and to indulge in fantasy and the

other elements that would be easier for a group

than the hard work of facing the participants in a

room and the task at hand. I now have a great

desire to have an office with a circle of identical

chairs and, when people sit in them, to say out

loud what patterns I see and to remind myself of

the easy patterns we create to find comfort in a

strange world full of shadows."

S.O. Arts Management



Howard University

Princeton University

Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

INSEAD, Fontainebleau France

ESAN, Lima Peru

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

City University, London

Harvard School of Education

Tisch School of the Arts, NYU

Columbia University

Women Studies Center, Brandeis University

FXB Center for Health and Human Rights -
               Harvard School of Public Health

City Neighbors Charter School

Freire School, Philadelphia

College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy

University of San Diego

University of Louisville


Private Sector


Longwood Gardens

Chase Manhattan Bank

CBS News

C & F Financials LLC

McKinsey Center for Asian Leadership

Price Waterhouse Coopers

New Technology Solutions, Inc.

PivotPoint Business Solutions


Capital One

Frito Lay

Nexus Consulting



Human Services


RISE San Diego

Goodwill Industries International

Harlem Children's Zone

Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre, Toronto

Community Resource Exchange, NY

Nebraska Families Collaborative

New York Urban League

United Way of Greater Los Angeles

Brandon School and Residential Treatment Center, Natick MA

Aids Housing

Generation On

Gay Men's Health Crisis, NY

American Jewish World Service

Hopeworks 'N Camden



Mt. Sinai

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

University Hospitals, Cleveland

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston MA

Austen Riggs Center

Balfour Senior Care

Harvard Medical School

Hartford Hospital


Kaiser Permanente

Baton Rouge General Medical Center



City of Neward, Office of the Mayor

Kentucky Dept. of Juvenile Justice

Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Dept.

San Francisco Dept. of Children and Youth

Poudre County Fire Dept., Colorado

City of Laramie, Wyoming

NYC Department of Environmental Protection

United States Postal Service

Veterans Administration Hospital, Los Angeles



Open Society Foundation

F.B. Heron Foundation

Anne E. Casey Foundation

Ford Foundation



St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church

Towson United Methodist Church

The Hillels of Illinois

Congregation Dorshei Tzedek