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Leadership, Authority and Otherness: the art of working through difference

53rd Annual Residential Group Relations Conference

Friday 21st July 2017 - Wednesday 26th July 2017

Loyola University, New Orleans, USA

A K Rice Institute

Primary Task
Role of Staff
Info & Fees
Web Sites


At a time when much of the world seems to be fracturing into adversarial chaos, a group relations conference offers an opportunity to examine - as a microcosm - the systemic forces that are impacting us as individuals and as members of numerous groups and identities.

Join a diverse membership from the U.S. and abroad as we explore the seen and unseen world together through creativity, awareness and curiosity.

This is an intense leadership development experience where participants have the opportunity to engage in a living laboratory to study how they impact and how they are impacted by the many groups and organizations in their lives.

The staff provides a structured and highly reflective environment where aspects of leadership, followership, membership, personal identity, difference, conflict, collaboration, competition, surprise and understanding can emerge over 6 days.

New Orleans and the historic Loyola University campus (fully airconditioned) provides an environment that is rich with history and a gumbo of language, culture, politics, tragedy and triumph. This background fertillizes the conference as a microcosm of the world.

The Theme

“The Other” has always been a driving force in social and political life, whether openly or secretly. Today we find ourselves in increasingly polarized societies, where conflicts and misunderstandings based on “otherness” abound. The potential richness of diversity and difference has become a world of Us and Them.

Finding the authority to lead is complex in such challenging times. Leadership (and followership) also differ depending on the context. For example, a community organization, a multi-national corporation, a political party, a democratic country, a non-democratic country and a military organization each have unique leadership challenges, as well as ways of addressing—or ignoring-- "the other," and of working across difference.

A Group Relations conference offers the opportunity to bring in the real world for study. This requires courage, openness and ability to look within ourselves, and offers opportunities to learn to see outside ourselves, to comprehend the systemic patterns and forces at play in our shared world. In this conference we will find many differences as well as commonalities, in a deeply felt and challenging experience that offers no easy answers but a safe space to experiment.

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Conference Aims and Primary Task

The primary task is to study the exercise of authority and leadership through the inter-personal, inter group, and communal relations as these unfold in the temporary organization of the conference, within its wider context.

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The Learning Aims:
  • Increased effectiveness by recognizing the impact of the group, the culture, the organization, and the outside world on people's work.
  • Developed new leadership capacities to work in in turbulent environments.
  • Improved strategic thinking through a deeper understanding of how organizations reflect their social, cultural, economic and political environments.
  • Understanding how leadership style affects the group by experimenting with how you respond to the conference's developing organizational culture
  • Learning about "under the surface" forces that impact individuals, groups and organizations.
  • Recognizing the impact of differences (age, race, gender, sexual orientation, class, political orientation) on group collaboration through your work with the diverse membership.
  • Applying these insights to the ways to manage work roles and professional development.

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A Group Relations conference is an educational event which is based on learning through experience – the design has been developed by pioneers from the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations starting in the 1940’s and introduced to the United States in the mid 1960’s by Margaret Rioch and A . K Rice after whom the U.S. Institute is named.

We believe that strategic and structural dynamics of organizations can be studied and understood by working through the conscious and unconscious dynamics of leadership and management. Once acquired these insights can be applied with positive effect. This conference methodology promotes the integration of intellectual capacity and emotional intelligence producing leaders who have creative visionary potential, enabling them to work more effectively at helping their employees / colleagues / clients and themselves to adapt to and take on future roles.

The conference is an accelerated learning experience. It is designed to enable participants to understand, in greater depth, the factors behind the exercise of effective leadership and followership and to develop further their own leadership capacities and the leadership potential of others.

It is a ‘real time’ learning laboratory in the form of a series of reflective spaces where participants can analyze their leadership styles as they emerge in the conference and experiment creatively in expanding their repertoire of leadership skills.

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The Group Relations conference uses experiential (learning through experience) on the
grounds that learning is more substantial and lasts longer if all one’s senses and faculties are involved.

This learning is based on proven Tavistock and other contemporary learning theories. Hence the conference
emphasizes the emotional engagement that comes about through active participation in the events of the

The learning method has several major elements:

a primary task
temporary organization
experiential learning
focus on the group or system

These elements are described below:

The primary task is to study the exercise of authority and leadership through the inter-personal, inter group, and communal relations as these unfold in the temporary organization of the conference, within its wider context.

The conference participants and staff will join together for six days to create a temporary organization that while having a basic structure is primarily improvisational. As the organization emerges, the primary task is to study this process while also being in it.

This experiential learning provides opportunities for self and group exploration and experimentation unavailable by traditional means such as lectures or reading. It also offers an environment to try new roles and behaviors that can be applied back at work.

While we are accustomed to thinking that a group is a collection of autonomous individuals, the conference will provide an opportunity to notice an opposite phenomenon. That is, that the group has a powerful impact on the individual often unacknowledged by us. To assist in cultivating this shifted perception, the staff will focus on group and system dynamics rather than on individuals.

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For anyone who is interested in how they and their groups / teams / organizations can work better:

Participants are business professionals, entrepreneurs, managers, executives, CEOs, researchers,administrators, activists, academics, students, consultants,
facilitators, therapists, trainers, clinicians, service providers, decision-makers, etc.

From the worlds of business, government and local authorities, the arts, law, media, consultancy, armed forces, emergency services, education, finance, politics,
NGOs, co operatives, criminal justice, religious orders, community groups, lobby groups,trade unions, associations and environmental organizations,etc.

Participants come from all sectors, levels, career stages and backgrounds and from all over the world

Participants have come from:

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

Private Sector

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

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

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

It is important to note that, while experiential learning such as that available in this conference can be enriching, it can also be stressful at times. Therefore, individuals who are ill or experiencing a period of significant personal difficulty may wish to forego attendance at this time.

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Role of Staff

Staff members are actively involved in all aspects of the Conference in various roles. Collectively, they function as the conference management, with responsibility for maintaining the conditions that support learning, including managing the task, space and schedule. In addition, they take other specific roles, including Director, Administrator and Consultant. As consultants, staff members will offer observations and impressions about what is happening, based on their own experience and knowledge, with the goal of focusing attention on group processes and their impact on participants. Staff will be drawn from the following.

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The conference will be comprised of two sub-conferences, an Emerging sub-conference, for those attending a group relations conference (GRC) for the first time and a Furthering sub-conference for those who have attended at least one GRC previously and would like to further their experience, understanding and sense making of the GRC model. You will be able to register for one or the other by specifying your previous experience on the registration form. The design of two sub-conferences provides opportunities to study and experience the dynamics between groups in an additional explicit dimension and to work more closely with people of shared GRC experience.

Below are the basic elements of the conference:

The Conference Primary Task:
To study the exercise of authority and leadership through the inter-personal, inter group, and communal relations as these unfold in the temporary organization of the conference, within its wider context.

Conference Plenaries (Opening & Closing)
The Opening Plenary comprises the total conference membership and staff and is about crossing the boundaries from where we come from into this temporary conference institution.

The Plenary at the end of the conference, in addition to the above, provides further opportunities for reflective study of experiences and the process of endings without applying closure to learning.

The Mind Body Spirit Event
This Event is an opportunity to experience how mind / body / spirit are interwoven. This is an experiential ‘here and now’ event where members and staff, together in a collective space, can develop an awareness of internal states and feelings, allowing us to have greater access to embody their creative, intellectual and emotional selves.

Small Study Group
In small groups, each with one consultant, members will have opportunities to study the shifting patterns of relations in the group and their own part in what happens in the here-and-now.

Large Study Group
The LSG comprises the total membership with 2-3 consultants and provides opportunities to study the experience of the development of subgroups and the alliances and anti-alliances that form, through exploring the myths, beliefs, identities and dreams that emerge.

The Social Dreaming Matrix
The SDM comprises all members of the conference working together with two consultants convening it. The primary task of the SDM is to provide opportunities to discover the social meaning of dreams. This is done through members providing dreams to the matrix and free-associating to them. Making links among the dreams and associations will provide the systemic "unthought-known" meaning of the dreams. It is the dream, not the dreamer that is the focus of the work of the Social Dreaming Matrix.

Review and Application Group
In Review mode, members will have opportunities to review and reflect on the meaning of their experiences of the various roles they take or find themselves in within the conference. In Application mode, members will have opportunities to relate these experiences to the roles they will be resuming in their professional, organizational and personal lives outside the temporary conference institution. The members of the RAGs will work with a member of staff.

The Community Event
This event provides opportunities to study and experience the relationships and relatedness between the membership and the staff in this temporary conference institution as a fractal of our larger community. How inter-dependent are our beliefs and ideas about authority and leadership in our groups and organizations? How do we find the other and the other in ourselves?

Staff will manage the event, working in public. Consultancy will be offered. The Community Event will open and close in plenary.

Further information about conference design and rationale can be obtained on the Additional Readings page of this website.


Eliat Aram  
I am the CEO of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London, UK. I have taken on the directorship of the A K Rice Institute’s annual residential conference for 2016-18 and have located it in New Orleans, an inspiring location for the learning possibilities of a GRC. Having worked in many places in the world, across cultural and geographical boundaries, I have been very fortunate to develop a capacity to understand the local context of where I work and to immerse in its vicissitudes. I have directed the Tavistock Institute’s flagship ‘Leicester’ conference for almost a decade and it is currently directed by a wonderful colleague who is leading it through the institute’s 70th anniversary. Issues of leadership and authority in a complex, often unknowable world are of daily concern, challenge and excitement for me.

Associate Director
Jack Lampl  
Organizational Consultant, Past President and Fellow, A. K. Rice Institute, Past President, Threshold Foundation, Visual Artist. My work and my passions have ranged from the arts to technology to community development to social justice. A common thread has been my experience of the power of collective forces that are not readily apparent or ignored as we try to create or do work together in groups. A number of years ago I experienced the impact of a group relations conference on an organization I worked for and was sufficiently impressed to then learn more about theory and practice and eventually re-view all my work through this powerful lens and commit myself to sharing it with others.

Associate Administrator
R.C. Whitehouse  
Robert “RC” Whitehouse, MA, has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Vermont. He is an Associate with the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems, and is serving as the Secretary of the New York Center for the Study of Groups, Organizations, and Social Systems. He is currently the Head of Learning and Development, North America at Media iQ.

Mika Awanohara  
I am a Clinical Psychologist at Columbia University, and I also maintain a private practice in NYC. I first became interested in the unconscious life of groups during my fellowship at the Austen Riggs Center, a private psychiatric residential hospital, where I began to appreciate the role of family and social dynamics on the etiology and maintenance of seemingly individual "mental illness." I have served on the staff of various Group Relations Conferences in the U.S. I am the former President of the Center for the study of Groups and Social Systems (CSGSS), the Boston Affiliate of the A.K. Rice Institute (AKRI), and an Associate of AKRI. I bring my group relations experience to my work with patients who, among a variety of issues, grapple with those surrounding the exercise of authority and leadership in various contexts of their lives.

Earl T Braxton  Consultant
Dr. Earl T. Braxton is the President of Edge Associates, a management training and consulting firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Braxton’s interests include organizations undergoing profound change, high-risk groups, and effective models for managing the work of groups and executive teams. He is a member of both N.T.L. Institute and the A. K. Rice Institute and creator of the video series, “Effective Management of Work Groups under Conditions of Conflicts and Stress”. Dr. Braxton has coached and consulted to numerous executives and management teams in both corporate and public sectors He was on the clinical faculty at Yale University, is a past director of the National Annual Group Relations Conference on Authority and Leadership sponsored the A. K. Rice Institute and served as Special Assistant to the Dean of the School of Education at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has written and lectured extensively on organizational behavior, family systems and group dynamics.

Rebecca Ellison  
Rebecca Weslie Ellison, M.A. is a graduate student studying International Education and Policy at the University of Maryland with a degree focus on the impact of climate change and wildlife conservation on education systems in sub Saharan Africa. She is interested in the integration of ecological stewardship starting with primary school learning. She is also a Contractor for Westat, LLC on education programs in Washington, DC. Previous professional and service experience in program management in ecommerce, web metrics, knowledge management, focus groups, qualitative and quantitative behavioral studies involving women’s healthcare, and service to the Bahá’í community.

Adib Jarrar  DClinPsych, MSc
Organisational Development and Leadership Consultant; Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist; Human and national rights, Social Justice activist, Palestine.

Patrick Jean-pierre  
Patrick Jean-Pierre, Psy. D. Director, Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality at Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation od Schools, New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

Dr. Patrick Jean-Pierre has over 16 years of combined experience in educational settings, which includes public schools, charter schools and universities. Patrick’s range of professional experiences in the field of education includes teaching, counseling and leadership development, as well as, organizational consulting that fosters systemic change and reduce disproportionality in schools. In addition, Patrick has provided leadership development at the Wharton School of Executive Education. Moreover, he has provided therapy to Youth and Families at the Mental Health provider, Supreme Consultants and teaches group courses at Manhattan College. Patrick received his Doctorate of Psychology at Rutgers University in Organizational Psychology with concentrations in Community and Sport Psychology. Patrick's research interests include masculinity, leadership, inter-group relations, and systemic organizational change.

Jennifer Lee,  PhD
is a clinical psychologist who specializes in systemic approaches to treatment, including group and family therapy, and mindfulness-based practices. She currently serves as Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at Soka University, a small liberal arts college in Southern California. She is a certified group consultant with the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems, and a member of its affiliates including GREX and the New York Center.

Michael Lindsay  
Michael Lindsay’s professional mission is to support the development of greater awareness and well-being in individuals, organizations, and society.
Michael draws on 23 years of wide-ranging experience as a psychologist, consulting to organizations on leadership and teamwork, coaching executives to improve their effectiveness in role, facilitating sustainability programs for organizations, and consulting on staff for group relations conferences.

Michael teaches as adjunct faculty for the Department of Leadership Studies at the University of San Diego and is an adjunct coach for the Center for Creative Leadership. He maintains a small psychotherapy practice and was an Instructor for Bikram Yoga for 12 years.

Sarah Rosenbaum  Ph.D
is a clinical psychologist in private practice, immediate Past President and Board Member of the A.K. Rice Institute (AKRI), and member of the New York Center of AKRI.

Over the last twenty years I have provided a wide range of therapy and organizational consulting services, both in nonprofit settings serving disadvantaged populations, and more recently in private practice and as a founding member of the DBT Center of Greater Philadelphia. I have been active in the study and practice of Group Relations since 1989 in a variety of roles, including directing diversity and leadership conferences co-sponsored with Howard University. I have also developed and taught numerous workshops on leadership skills, group dynamics and diversity training in clinical, organizational and community settings. In all this work, my learning about the power of unseen and systemic forces to impact my own experience of the world and that of the groups in which I function has been an invaluable tool. I live in Philadelphia with my husband, two children and two cats.

Christine St. John  
As an independent Organizational Development Consultant, I partner with clients to generate creative, data-driven insights and recommendations to address core strategic issues and help build organizational, team and individual capacity for learning. My work as a doctoral student in the Social-Organizational Psychology program at Teachers College, Columbia University focuses on how deepening awareness and understanding of group dynamics can help increase the impact of positive social change.

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Info and Fees

Full conference website and
registration Information will be available early 2017.

For questions and notifications please contact
Jack Lampl, Associate Director

Where Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana
​Begins: July 21th (Fri.) at 2 p.m. Promptly
Ends: July 26th (Wed.) at 5 p.m. - followed by a community meal

$3,900* ($3,500* if paid by May 15)

Registration & Payment

Online Registration
*$1,000 reduction for current paid AKRI, AKRI Affiliate, Tavistock Institute or other International Group Relations Organization members.
(Tuition, room and board - in air conditioned facilities - includes nights of July 21-26) Accommodation on July 20, if needed can be requested.

To optimize learning Conference is residential only

Accommodations in dormitory residences consisting of private bedrooms with attached common area and shared bathroom.

Application deadline: June 21, 2017
*$1,000 reduction for each member when two members attending from the same organization. ($1,250 reduction each for three or more)
*Registration discounts:
$1,500 reduction for full time students

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Reduced fees may be available in addition to reductions listed above. Contact the Administrator Jack Lampl to apply.

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Web Sites

A K Rice Institute:
The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations:
More information:

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