Bodies and Roles: sea change?

Bodies and Roles: sea change?

Leicester Conference 2020 Most of our lives take place in groups. The idea of a group is a construct that is rooted in the understanding of the human in relation to the systems...

Leicester Conference 2020

Most of our lives take place in groups. The idea of a group is a construct that is rooted in the understanding of the human in relation to the systems as context. The Covid-19 pandemic has opened up a wave of realisation that we have to think a-new about belonging in terms of group, work and organisational life.

Many people are “safe in place”, on stay-at-home orders or even quarantined. The media is frequently talking about “lockdown” – a term primarily used prior to Covid-19 to describe the securing of prisons at risk of riot or similar social disorder.

Consequently, many are adjusting to a new world of work that intersects our home and family lives and the daily working lives. In some ways, it could be argued that we are all living in a “total institution”. This totality resonates for me with the early development of the Group Relations working conference methodology. The new working patterns means that we are both further in and further out – together whilst apart – in this time of physical distancing (being termed social distancing).

This has brought to my mind the work of Eric Miller, a predecessor Director of the Group Relations Programme at the Tavistock Institute and Director of several Leicester Conferences. In his book, A Life Apart, there is a section where he describes the need to re-examine Task and Organisation in which he says:

A correspondingly greater onus falls on institutional management to undertake frequent appraisals of what it is trying to achieve, whether it’s organization and staffing are appropriate to its task, and how far it is actually attaining its objectives.”

The learning modality in residential group relations conferences has been one of face to face, overnight and intense long days in one physical location. In the last 4 years, the Leicester Conference has begun to explicitly question the nature of the embodied aspects of role taking and inviting us to think together about what this means for leaders and followers alike.

In a post Covid-19 world, questions of embodied practice and presence become more heightened. How we will study the nature of the study of authority should physical distancing continue beyond June, is a welcome development of this trend that began at Leicester over a decade ago.

Dr Leslie Brissett,
Director, Leicester Conference 2020
Director, Group Relations Programme, TIHR

If you have any questions about the Leicester Conference or would like a conversation with the director, please contact Emily Kyte.

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