AKRI Blog - A. K. Rice Institute

Updates from the AKRI Board

Dear Members,

I’d like to thank everyone who was part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration and Dialogues IV.  Over four days at the Cenacle in Chicago, we shared our work and ideas, told stories of our history, and debated our future.  It was a profound and meaningful experience for me, and I’m enormously grateful to everyone who contributed to making it happen.

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Embodying AKRI: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary and Dialogues IV

(The following was composed by Jack Marmorstein in a message to the AKRI membership following the 2019 Dialogues IV and Anniversary celebration)

Embodying AKRI: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary and Dialogues IV

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The Conferences of Our Lives: Group Relations in 2019 and AKRI’s Annual Residential

The first six months of 2019 have been rather remarkable for AKRI.  Re-affiliation and AKRI’s Levels of Support framework have facilitated new connections between individuals, events and organizations, resulting in many diverse opportunities to learn at Group Relations Conferences. AKRI has supported nine Group Relations conferences so far this year, and Conference Committee (AKRI’s newest committee and among its hardest working) is in dialogue with many more events for the second half of 2019 and beyond. 

While this is inspiring and there’s much to celebrate, we continue to have to recruit for AKRI’s flagship event, its 55th Annual Residential Conference.  I frequently hear legends about The Annual Residential (née, The National) at its prime.  With a staff composed of representatives from each affiliate and a membership reflecting the AKRI community, it was an event that both reflected the larger organization while at the same time being instrumental in its development and identity.  Much has changed, but it’s my hypothesis that this year’s conference returns to this tradition.  Dr. Patricia Kummel, a therapist and organizational consultant (and former attorney and long time chair of AKRI’s Training and Certification Committee) has designed a conference that reflects the organization she knows so well.  She’s reached out to the affiliates to recommend a diverse staff.  In her theme, I hear resonance of recent (and not so recent) debates within AKRI about various roles, identities, biases, and power shifts.  Patricia and her staff offer an amazing opportunity to  learn about ourselves from our flagship event.

Here’s my challenge to the AKRI community.  Let’s remember the value of our core learning technology—the Group Relations Conference—and let’s drive membership to our flagship event.  If you haven’t been in a while, then go—learn anew from the role of member and help AKRI learn about itself.  If you’ve been to a weekend conference and not a residential, it’s time for you to experience the difference and deepen your learning.  And if you’ve been thinking about others who would benefit from a conference experience, now is the time to redouble your efforts to recruit them.

Here’s the thing: there’s plenty of scholarship funds available.  AKRI wants to make GRC learning available to everyone and will offer generous support to anyone for whom money is an obstacle.  If you know someone who’s been putting off getting to a residential conference, now is the time.  There will never be more support available.  And just a few months before AKRI’s 50th Anniversary Dialogues, there’s no better time to (re-)connect with AKRI and learn together with the AKRI community.  

I hope many of you will join us, and I count on you all to recruit others so that the conference can thrive.  Thank you for all your efforts, and I look forward to seeing all of you at the Dialogues!

AKRI and ISPSO: Developments in a Thriving Network

As I’ve written about many times before, I believe that AKRI thrives when it’s part of a network of thriving organizations.  That’s why we’re striving to create a community of AKRI and its affiliates that’s better together, and that’s why AKRI is supporting events by other Group Relations organizations, like GRI and Il Nodo Group.  

Fortunately, AKRI isn’t the only organization that’s helping build a thriving network.  At its Annual Meeting in Dublin last year, ISPSO ratified a Strategic Plan that prioritizes openness and working across networks.  This has meant a reversal of ISPSO’s previous policies about co-sponsoring Group Relations Conferences.  As recently as six years ago, when AKRI approached ISPSO with a request to co-sponsor its Annual Residential Group Relations Conference (itself directed by a member of ISPSO), the request was turned down.  In the last six months, however, ISPSO has extended offers of co-sponsorship to three very different AKRI Group Relations Conferences, and AKRI has gratefully accepted all three. 

I hope this brings more ISPSO members to AKRI events, and I’m already witnessing an increase in AKRI members attending (and presenting at) ISPSO’s Annual Meeting in New York.  Indeed, I think the Annual Meeting being in New York has inspired some of the American members of both organizations to feel the connections and synergies--both actual and potential--more powerfully.  Together, I hope we’re building a thriving network across our organizations that can support all our work and learning.

So, if you’re in New York next week, please consider attending ISPSO’s Annual Meeting.  Moreover, we’re at the height of our recruiting efforts for AKRI’s flagship Annual Residential Conference in New Orleans (for the first time, co-sponsored by ISPSO).  I’ve been speaking to members across the AKRI community about this conference, and I believe it’s an important event in AKRI’s own growth—our process of reconnecting the national community, of understanding ourselves and our organizational transitions, and our understanding the impact of conference life in the larger world.  

Report from the Fall Board Retreat

AKRI’s Board met last weekend for its fall retreat.  The location was a new one—the Maritime Conference Center, near Baltimore.  Though the name suggests waterfront views and sunsets over the Chesapeake, it was actually located in an office park near BWI airport (the “maritime” referring to the industry it serves as a training facility and meeting space).  The AKRI Board wasn’t the only group there—the dining room and lounge were made lively by members of a bricklayers' union and the Maryland Association of Non-Profits.  

The location wasn’t the only thing new at this retreat.  Ed Shapiro and Seth Harkins joined the Board as Internal Directors representing the Affiliate sector; Sheri-Ann Cowie joined as a new Internal Director; and it was my first retreat as president.  The Board also re-appointed Ian Pritchard vice-president; appointed Keith Lequay as treasurer and Seth Harkins as secretary.  We’d like to thank our out-going president, Neil Neidhardt, our out-going treasurer, Laura Dorsey-Elson, and our out-going secretary, Frank Marrocco, for their service.  

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Transitions & The Upcoming Board Retreat

It’s October, and that means a lot is going on.  In five days, a new AKRI Board will meet in Baltimore—it's a Board that reflects the newly reconstituted ties between AKRI and the regional Affiliates, and a Board that is committed to being more connected with everyone in the AKRI community.  

 I’m writing this blog, in advance of the retreat, on the first day of my presidency, to invite the AKRI community as a whole to reflect on this moment in history and to contribute your input to the Board’s business this coming weekend.  Whether it’s in an email or phone call to any Board member, on any of our social media feeds, or in the comments field below this blog entry, I urge you to let us know what’s on your mind.  Whatever you offer, you can be sure that we’ll talk about it when we’re together.  

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Whole Systems Consulting Workshop Coming Up!

If you’ve been paying attention to your emails from AKRI or looking at the AKRI calendar on the website, you’ve noticed that we’re offering a Whole Systems Consulting weekend workshop this November.  It’s actually our fourth Whole Systems Consulting event, and the second weekend workshop led by René Molenkamp and Mark Kiel.  These events have been remarkably successful and we believe that they reflect a demand in the GR community for additional training events focused on application.  I’d like to briefly describe the backstory and the “why” behind these events, as well as some reasons I think they’re quite special.

There’s always been widespread awareness of the difference between Group Relations Conference (GRC) consulting and professional roles that involve consulting.  The AKRI membership has its share of the latter—whether full-time OD practitioners, or those whose professional roles involve consulting to the realities of their system (e.g., managerial, clinical, administrative, pastoral, or leadership roles).  But while AKRI offered formal training to become a GRC consultant, it offered nothing formal to develop the applied consulting skills in the world. 

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The Next AKRI Dialogues and AKRI’s 50th Anniversary

Who wants to help organize the party?

 The past few months have seen two exciting celebrations of the rich history of GR work in the world.  OFEK celebrated its 30th Anniversary over a long weekend in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the Tavistock Institute held a weeklong Festival in London to recognize its 70th Anniversary.  

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A few notes from the International Group Relations Scene

In an ongoing effort to engage with the broad expanse of Group Relations work in the world, we’d like to mention a few things that are going on internationally.   

First, there’s a conference going on right now in South Africa that came to our attention via Ellen Short, who heard about it from its director, Jean Cooper.  The Board joined Ellen in her vision to offer our support to Group Relations work the world over, and AKRI donated to the scholarship funds for the event.  You can read more about it here and proudly know that AKRI has a part in learning that’s going on right now.

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January Conferences

If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that it’s a busy January for Group Relations Conferences on the East Coast.  As it’s done for the past four decades, the Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems (aka, Boston Center) is putting on their annual residential Conference in Dover, MA.  And the New York Center for the Study of Groups, Organizations, and Social Systems (aka, New York Center) is launching a brand new weekend Conference, to be held at City College of New York.  

As a first order of business, let’s join together in celebrating these rich learning opportunities, and let’s do what we always need to prior to conferences: recruit!  If it’s been a while since your last residential conference, or if you’ve been to a few weekend conferences and want to take it to the next level, sign up for Boston here.  And if you want to support the next big thing, of if you have colleagues or students who want to give a conference a try, sign up for New York here.  Each conference offers a unique experience, and if you think about it, we’d bet you have friends, colleagues, students, etc. who you could recruit for either or both.  Let’s not keep the profound learning and life-changing experience to ourselves!

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AKRI's New Officers

One of the most important outcomes of the weekend was the nomination and election of AKRI’s new officers.  Ian Pritchard, who’s been serving as interim Vice-President since June, enthusiastically accepted our nomination to continue in the role and was unanimously elected.  Laura Dorsey-Elson offered her services in the role of treasurer, and the Board unanimously voted in favor.  And Frank Marrocco offered to serve as Secretary, and was also unanimously elected.  

Our departing treasurer, Robin Engels-Heitzman, offered some important consultations to the Board about how to enhance both the success of the individual in the role, and the whole Board’s work with the financial aspects of its work.  It’s with special gratitude, then, that we elected Laura, and that other Board members—including Jack Marmorstein in his role as President-Elect, and Keith Lequay, who, earlier in his career, worked in the banking sector—offered their services to make the treasurer a less isolated role.  We’re all hopeful that we can turn over a new leaf in this regard, and would welcome whatever expertise resides in the AKRI membership, if you have ideas for ways we can continue to improve.   

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AKRI's New Blog & Report from the Board

 Greetings from the AKRI Board

We, the AKRI Board, just concluded our semi-annual retreat in Milford, PA, and we invite you to join us for the launch of AKRI’s new blog! 

There’s much to cover in the first few entries—a report from the retreat, welcoming AKRI’s new Board members and officers, and some news and plans for the future.

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