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.  

Appointing occupants for the officer roles is something the Board does regularly every fall, but the Board also dealt with several less regular transitions.  It was Patricia Kummel’s first time speaking to the Board in her role as the new Director of AKRI’s Annual Residential Conference, and her first in six years not speaking from her previous role, Chair of the Training and Certification Committee.  We’re equally excited about Patricia’s plans for the Annual Residential and grateful for her years of dedicated service leading the T & C Committee.  

Soon after the Board’s Zoom call with Patricia, we logged back on Zoom to speak with Jim Krantz, the incoming Chair of the T & C Committee.  We’re grateful to Jim for taking up such an important and demanding role.  Jim brings wisdom and experience from training generations of Group Relations consultants and decades of fostering Group Relations learning.

Nor was Jim the only AKRI Fellow to be taking up a new role.  Former AKRI president Sarah Rosenbaum was appointed chair of a re-born Conference Committee.  The Board spoke with her about her vision for the committee, which includes supporting directors and administrators in launching new conferences, considering applications for various forms of AKRI support, and generally being AKRI’s braintrust for things Conference related.  Sarah will be joined by several other seasoned directors on the committee, and the Board looks forward to the day soon when this committee can support the the growing number of diverse GR events in AKRI’s ecosystem.  

After the call with Sarah, the Zoom account wasn’t dormant for long.  The Board heard about last year’s Annual Residential in NOLA from Jack Lampl and Eliat Aram.  Jack presented encouraging news about the final budget, and Eliat delivered insights and reflections on her three years of directing for AKRI.  Hers was a moving conclusion to an eventful three years, during which the conference set down roots in New Orleans, negotiated sea changes in US and global politics, and hosted diverse, international memberships and staffs.  

On a related note, Sarah Rosenbaum also reported on some pre- and post-conference consulting work she and a team of Philadelphia-based consultants delivered to a cohort of NOLA attendees from Longwood Gardens' leadership program.  Longwood, a vast public garden outside of Philadelphia, sent its current class of leadership fellows (as well as the director of their program) to their first GRC in NOLA, and the pre- and post- conference consultations were intended to help them connect their group relations conference learning with their work roles and professional development.  

This program—along with cohorts of psychiatric residents from University of Louisville (thanks, Gordon Strauss), from RISE (thanks, Zachary Green), and from Howard University—helped balance the budget of the annual residential, and Patricia and the Board hope that these cohorts and others continue to be regular attendees at its Residential Conference.  

Jack Lampl also joined in his role as Chair of the Dialogues Committee.  This upcoming Dialogues (September 12-16, 2019--save the date!) will mark the 50th Anniversary of AKRI’s founding, and the event will be themed around celebrating our past and exploring our possible futures.  Look for emails from Jack and his committee soon and please contribute your thoughts, insights, and work to what’s sure to be an important, meaningful, and fun event.  

Finally, Kimberly Turner closed out a long Saturday for the Board (and its Zoom account).  The Board has hired Kimberly to Direct a new conference, focused on offering consulting experiences for consultants-in-training and inspired by themes of access and equity.  You might remember a year ago, when AKRI ran its most successful fundraising drive in recent memory to fund this event (a big “thank you” to everyone who donated!).  Now, it’s going to happen, this April 12-14, at Morgan State University, an HBCU near Baltimore.  Kimberly and Laura Dorsey-Elson (her Board liaison and guiding spirit of this conference) gave an update on their progress, and worked with the Board to figure out how to manage the heavy lift of launching a brand new GRC.  On a personal note, it was meaningful to me to connect with Kimberly, as she directed my first GRC at Howard.  Without her, I doubt I’d be writing (or you, reading) this today.  

Our long Saturday came to close with Board members regretting that they had elected an endurance athlete and experience ultra-marathoner as president (I responded that sitting in a Board meeting for 11 hours is a lot easier than running or doing an Ironman triathlon for 11 hours, but they found little comfort in this).  Regardless, we were rejuvenated by dinner at a famous Baltimore crab cake restaurant, where we had a chance to get to know each other, (re-)connect, and decompress.  

In general, several aspects of the retreat made it unlike any before.  First, of course, was re-affiliation.  The sense of connectedness that Seth and Ed brought was palpable, as was the constant inquiry into what re-affiliation made possible—from sharing resources, insights and know-how, to reaching out for volunteers and collaborating on shared work.  The sense of opening to the outside world was made literal with the six Zoom calls, as well as in a newfound attention to future work of recruiting (hello, Whole Systems Consulting Workshop, coming up soon!) and fundraising (what better occasion than a 50th Anniversary to build a bigger, more impactful AKRI).  

For those whose outward-facing attention extends all the way to Italy, Board members Neil Neidhardt, Ellen Short, and I will be joining you at Belgirate in a few short weeks.  Other board members will be keeping busying other ways: Keith Lequay is currently serving on the staff role at a new GRC in the Caribbean sponsored but the Tavistock Institute; Sheri-Ann Cowie will be on the staff at a GRC in a few weeks at Teachers College; and I’l be giving a Lunchtime Talk at the Tavistock Institute on Halloween.  

For those who want to get involved, there are many opportunities to help out with everything I’ve mentioned (and more).  Ask us and we’ll explore the options with you.  We want a more connected AKRI and Affiliate ecosystem, but it doesn’t happen by itself. And for those of you who are curious about AKRI’s goings-on, come back here and check this blog frequently for updates.  Upcoming events include AKRI’s own Whole Systems Consulting workshop and an AKRI-endorsed training put on by the CSGSS, Leading from Experience at Austin Riggs.  So take advantage of all the goings-on in the AKRI ecosystem.  I hope you’ll get involved.

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