Courage to Cross the Bridges We Cannot See 
April 18 – 21, 2024 
Loyola University’s Water Tower Campus 
Chicago, Illinois 

The 2024 Dialogues theme is about courage, compassion, and building bridges toward a world where everyone can flourish. The AKRI Dialogues VI strives to offer presentations and invite conversations that expand group relations theory to examine differences, changes, losses, and gains around social challenges. Those challenges include conflict around issues such as age, gender, race, wealth, religion, politics, climate, technological advances, generative artificial intelligence (AI), equity, social justice, social media, globalization, and more. 

How do we engage in psychological repair? Do we have the courage to internalize new ways? Are we able to take off our masks? How can we make sure that everyone feels heard and seen? How can we bridge generational divides? How do we hold on to valuable parts of our history and allow for innovation at the same time? How do we explore creative expression that reflects the expanding definitions of group relations work that might include mind, body, and spirit? Can we be sure that learning takes place at our conferences? Are attendees able to apply what they have learned at conferences to the environments where they return? Are we able to stay relevant? What can we do collectively? Are we able to be courageous and have an impact on a macro level? Can we bring calm to a world of chaos? 

The group relations methodology appears to have all the tools needed to engage in courageous compassion and to build the bridges needed to allow everyone to flourish. Yet, as a community, we fall prey to polarizations, harmful projections, and hurtful disagreements. We envision an AKRI Dialogues that provides a “good enough” space to examine the group relations field and add new ideas. We look forward to an enhanced esprit de corps in an inclusive – and playful – environment of diverse colleagues. 

Below are recordings of the majority of sessions from the Dialogues.
Some were intentionally not recorded in order to encourage more open and frank conversations.


Dr. Leslie Brissett


Memorial Video Honoring Earl Braxton, Rose Miller & Kimberley Turner

To See Full Screen Version Click Here

We wish also to acknowledge the recent loss of two other colleagues
John Knight & Ellen Short


Bridging Experience, Application, and Engagement:
Developing a Model for Post-Conference Role Analysis / Review and Application Groups 

This Midwest Group Relations Center ("MWGRC") panel presentation will describe the development of a sustainable seminar series of Post-GRC Review and Application / Role Analysis Groups ("PRAGs"). 

As we have learned through personal and collective experience, many GRC participants have left a GRC feeling “loaded up,” despite participating in "RAGs" during the course of their conference. This discomfiture often has delayed or prevented one's willingness to attend another GRC after that first experience, translating into the unlikelihood of joining AKRI or one of its affiliate centers. 

 A work group of the MWGRC designed, recruited for, and implemented trials of five-session PRAGs. 

 Program descriptions were sent to the AKRI Board; Center Presidents; Conference Directors, offering this service to upcoming GRCs. 

 Each PRAG seminar series had a different pair of consultants. 

 This Dialogues presentation explores our work group's history; its processes for developing the structure of the PRAG; and how it mobilized and worked through a range of resistances, revisions, successes, and failures accompanying the project. 

 Pre-conference administrative boundaries between the MWC/PRAG and the AKRI Board, GRC Directors, and Center Presidents provides an important part of this story, involving intergroup dynamics of its own. 

 We will ask our audience to engage with us in a discussion of ideas for the future development of this service, and how it might benefit AKRI, GRI, and other entities within the Group Relations nexus. 



The Courage to Cross Bridges We Cannot See: The Role of Music Self Care In Group Relations Conferences 

Presenters: Xumei Wang, Guo Liu, Lin Su, and Lisa Summer  

Music Therapy is an evidence-based treatment that reaches deeply into the lives, minds and hearts of those who often cannot be reached in any other way. Research has shown that music is used across cultures to elicit memories and emotions, as well as for meaningful communication connection among populations. Music enhances wellbeing and aids in conflict resolution in groups and communities. This workshop will explore music as a form of self-care. For example, when utilized by individuals as a daily activity, music listening is a natural, simple and direct way to enhance our quality of life. Through an experiential exercise, participants will reflect upon their own relationship with music and learn a strategy of music selection for self-care. In addition, we will share how music self-care was utilized successfully during Covid-19 by the presenters, and address its potential to contribute to personal well-being at the interpersonal, group, and organizational levels in a group relations conference. 


 Psychoanalytic Understandings of Play and Group Relations 

Presenters: Joshua DeSilva and Hannah Goldstein 

Play is key in human development, in psychoanalysis, and in group relations. Winnicott reminds us that “playing is a creative experience, which makes possible a sense of continuity in space and time for the baby and the discovery of the self” (Ramires, 2016). We consider the use of play in group relations conferences as a creative experience that fosters development of the self across the lifespan. In particular, we are interested in the relationship between play, social identities, and authority. Who gets to play and what is play useful for? What kinds of problems can be solved through play? We propose that the creative play space is a mechanism of developing and discovering the self in a group context. The relationship between child and caregiver with respect to play is mirrored by the relationship between group relations conference members and staff. The Institutional Event (IE) is utilized as a model for how play fosters catharsis (Klein) and is motivated in large part by unconscious “processes, desires, problems, and anxieties” (Bettelheim, 1987). Suggestions for how to instill play in group relations conference design and in staff analysis of conference material will also be taken up with a focus on inclusion of marginalized identities in play spaces. Enhancing play space in conferences broadens our sense of what looks like “productive” and “on-task” group work above and beyond traditional notions of “work”, allowing us to reimagine role, task, and authority. 



Comparing the experience of ongoing online groups: The Long-term Large Study Group (LLSG),
the Alternative Large Group (ALG), and the Zoom Median Group (ZMG) 

Presenters: Tingli Zhou, Robert Hsiung, and Joe Wise 

Our main objective is to compare ongoing online groups, which apply the Group Relations thinking. • A secondary objective includes understanding how online groups can build international bridges to see how diverse people connect across national and world boundaries. • Another secondary objective is to understanding how these groups can bridge to other theories (such as Group Analysis) and taking up leadership roles (such as “leaderless”/distribute leadership). • As background, the three groups reflect the exploration, innovation, and application in Group Relations. We compare their backgrounds, settings, structures, goals, and methods of conduct. We share our learnings from and other benefits of our experiences as staff and members. 

As further background and context, all three of the groups started as a result of the COVID pandemic to compassionately connect during those difficult times. In part this took the courage to self-authorize and to come together to mutually authorize these groups without resources from more established GR organizations. 



AKRI International Cohort: the courage to explore AKRI’s relationship to its international members and the international Group Relations community 

(our apologies for poor audio quality)

Click Here to download their Powerpoint pdf

Presenters: Xumei Wang, Mette Charis Buchman, Victor Gan, and Veena Pinto 

The AKRI International Cohort Agenda Committee invites you to think together and to explore AKRI’s relationship to its international members and the international communities in the past, during the Dialogues as well as desires and fears of the future. Since October 2020, the AKRI International Cohort has offered a monthly online space for AKRI and non-AKRI members from all over the globe to explore and discuss Group Relations and how these concepts might be applied internationally. In the session the Agenda Committee will provide a brief history of the birth and life of the International Cohort. We will share stories from the early days and highlight themes from the last three and a half years of thinking together with attendees from all over the world in the monthly online meetings. After the opening, we invite participants to share experiences, thoughts, and feelings, associate to what we hear and dialogue, building on each other’s thoughts and ideas as new insights might emerge. We will do so in small groups as well as in plenary. The objectives of this session are to deepen the understanding of the international relationships at AKRI as well as to strengthen the relationship in a time where courage to cross the bridges that we cannot see is needed for people to connect that think they are far removed from each other to do so. 


 Using Marketing to Support Group Relations: A Call to Action 

Presenters: Rebecca Abell and Joshua DeSilva 

Click Here to Download their powerpoint pdf

Over the years and with the introduction of technology into the method, we have seen an increase in the number of group relations conferences (GRC). However, it continues to be difficult to fill conferences and increase center membership. Many centers’ members have been involved in GR work and members of the centers for years. Many of the participants in GRCs are repeat attendees. We believe many people would benefit from attending a GRC but are not being reached by current marketing efforts. 

Additionally, much of the work recruiting for group relations conferences falls on the directors and staff, which is a considerable burden. To increase center membership and better recruit for events, CSGSS has been working with a professional to develop a marketing strategy for our center. In this presentation, we will describe the steps we took in developing our marketing strategy and what we have learned so far in implementing the strategy. We will also facilitate a broader discussion about making conference work more sustainable and generate ideas about how the centers can collaborate to bring more people into GR work. 


 Sustainability & Growth of Group Relations and AKRI 

Presenter: William Cline 

We know in our bones that group relations with AKRI, affiliates, and similar groups internationally, have tools developed in the past 7 decades with explanatory power of group behavior from the family to nations. The GR conference is our bedrock, where axiomatic tools (e.g. BART, responsibility, work/basic assumption leadership, etc.) can be best experienced in safe, temporary institutions. Yet, there is a feeling that GR and AKRI in the USA may be falling short of full potential. 

GR was simpler in past decades, using an austere conference model that was primarily educational, with application almost an afterthought. Both today’s complex world and AKRI GR youth demand more. What does AKRI need to do to inspire its new generation to take up leadership and get a GR message out far and wide? 

More difficult, what is needed to sustain and grow infrastructures that will allow successful applications needed by so many exploding social and justice challenges as listed in the promotional materials for the 2024 Dialogues? We need to acquire or develop corporate operations, fund raising, public media, social visibility, and other skills of all successful enterprises. 

A short presentation will review some history. Most important will be to evoke brainstorming and curiosity for consideration of real-world questions of Sustainability and Growth without diluting our profound educational insights and messages. 

AKRI and GR need to reach and influence the public square. And, we should be able to do it without succumbing to basic assumption oneness! 



T & C 2.0 An Evolution of a Developmental Process 

Committee Members: Tom Butler, Seth Harkins, Charla Hayden, John Frazee, Rodric Smith, and Xumei Wang 

Examining and Development of what Training and Development/T & C/ has been in AKRI and our charge from the AKRI Board to what it will become as 2.0. We will initially speak to our experience as a committee in engaging in the past T & C process as mentors, mentees or stakeholders of the program. Then an examination of the data provided by past participants and some of the conclusions we reached in taking next steps in leadership development and role preparation. Our intention is to build on what had been the work of dedicated mentors, but to add the part of an ongoing learning cohort as a crucial element for a next step. It is also important to recognize in the existing system had done harm to participants in several ways.  



Three years of online social dreaming matrices as an open system. A case study 

Presenters: Tingli Zhou, Susan Convery, Martin Walker, Joanne Bowman, Elco Schwartz, Fiona Martin, and Mette Charis Buchman 

In this session, the Social Dreaming hosting team of the New York Center for the Study of Groups, Organizations and Social Systems will share dreams, themes, and dream links from three years of monthly matrices. We will give a brief history of Social Dreaming and invite you to engage in a conversation about the value of Social Dreaming as an open system. The monthly online social dreaming matrices have welcomed everybody who has been interested in learning about social dreaming as a method of expanding their awareness of collective experiences. The purpose has been to provide a space for new perspectives to emerge from the infinite unconscious and to foster social dreaming across physical, cultural, and language boundaries. Through the sharing of dreams and associations, making links between the content and exploring the themes that arose, we have examined the systems, smaller or larger, which we are all a part of - making connections across bridges we cannot see. Over time, the matrices’ hosting team has explored different ways of designing and hosting the matrices. The objectives of the session are: 1) to encourage others to share dreams, participate in matrices, pursue social dreaming according to one’s own interests, 2) to explore social dreaming as a way of bridging boundaries and connecting with others through dreams and 3) to deepen our understanding of the value of social dreaming as an open system. 



Mapping Our Group Relations World System: Locating Ourselves Matters 
(Self-guided participation on each day of the Dialogues
followed by a live whole group facilitated discussion on the last day for reflection and system processing) 

Presenters: Laura Dorsey-Elson and Ty Smith

The executive leadership of the Washington-Baltimore Center for the Study of Group Relations will facilitate a whole system activity for all AKRI Dialogues participants that features two elements. For the first two days of the Dialogues, participants will be invited to contribute to a creative wall space to log any group relations events they participated in and/or were aware happened around the world within a relevant timeframe for learning. This two-day experience will be self-guided and result in a collective world system timeline of Group Relations work for understanding and interpretation. On the final day of the Dialogues, participants will be invited to process in real-time what the world system timeline says about our work and who we are. The aim of this collective/system activity is to more fully come to know “who we are and what we do” as Group Relations practitioners. And in doing so together, bridges seen and unseen in Group Relations work will emerge for greater understanding and action. 



Using Q Methodology to Study Belief, and Attitudes Learning from Group Relations Conference in China 

Presenters: Xumei Wang, Seth Harkins, Guo Liu, Wenjie Wang, Lan Wang, Jingchen Chao, Zheqi Xin, Ying Fu, and Weida Wang 

Group relations conferences was introduced and continued by Jeffery Roth, MD, Seth Harkins, EdD and other Western group relations professionals beginning with 2014 Beijing Group Relations Conference. Over the past nine years ten group relations conferences associated with the China-America Society for the Study of Group 

Relations and the International Group Relations China in China have been held. More and more Chinese people are interested in GRCs and committed learning from them and applying their learning to family, community, and professional organizations. More recently, group relations conferences have been a bridge between China and Western cultures in the China and the World Conferences 2022 and 2023. Q Methodology studies have been conducted since 2016 and more recently in Changsha (2019), online (2020), and China and the China and the World GRCs of 2022 and 2023. This presentation will provide an overview of Q Methodology and share Q research conducted by Professor Wang and her students.