South Africa in crisis

South Africa in crisis

Taking up responsibility: Leading our Transformation: a Group Relations conference this December.


2 October 2016

Taking up responsibility: Leading our Transformation: a Group Relations conference this December.

5 – 9 December 2016
Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

I am writing this with a deep sense of urgency: South Africa, and the institutional systems composing it, is in crisis. We cannot afford to ignore or downplay the reality and systemic nature of this crisis. But, it would be foolish to allow ourselves to be paralysed by it. Every crisis invites us to do something different, even transformative. The question is: Who shall do it? How? When? I am reminded of the words of Nelson Mandela:

‘Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement! 
God bless Africa!’ 
Mandela, Inaugural Presidential address, 1994.

Let freedom reign‘ are strong words, reminding me of Sigmund Freud who said:

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.
Freud, Civilization and its discontents, 1930.

Will we take up the responsibilities required to make our freedom real? The title of our first annual working conference, Leading our Transformation, emphasises the responsibility we share in forming and trans-forming the world we live in. Shall we merely limit ‘transformation’ to mean ‘quotas’? Or are we willing to do the hard work of confronting the legacy of our shared history together? Are we even aware of how our unresolved past is affecting ourselves, our families, our businesses and our government institutions today? Do we dare contribute to or even lead the innovation and transformation of our interlocking social systems (families, teams, companies, departments, political parties, nation states, etc.) in which we participate every day? And, should we take that risk, what could the outcome be? Could it make a difference?

This conference will allow us to explore these and other related questions.

The primary task of the conference is to provide opportunities to learn, from personal experience, about what it means to take up authority and lead the transformation of the roles we choose or are assigned in the here-and-now life of the conference as a temporary educational institution.

This method of learning is powerful and perhaps unaccustomed. It is fully experiential and challenges us to reflect in profound ways. Pioneered by the Tavistock Institute (UK) since 1957, and adopted and adapted by various international societies and institutions, this working conference (also called a group relations conference) methodology is widely recognised as the most powerful and effective approach to learning about the underlying, often unconscious and irrational, forces in social or human institutional systems.

South Africa is not the only society in the world confronted with the urgent need to take an introspective look in order to transform the institutions, practices, conscious and unconscious beliefs and language that are still shaping the way we live and think. We are all in this together. Just as we need the international community on our journey, the international community can learn from us and the resistances that we continuously struggle to comprehend and transform in order to overcome.

Of course this conference cannot guarantee transformation, and of course transformation is a long, zig-zag journey, but the conference will provide space to learn, experience, explore, experiment, play, try something new or even remain with the familiar. You will not be left unaffected and the process starts the moment you decide to take up your authority to enter the conference.

Together, staff and members may create a space where leaders, managers and members from various sectors and demographical backgrounds in South African society, accompanied by our African and international peers, can explore and experience the dynamics of authority, leadership and role in institutional transformation. The continuous healing, renewal and trans-formation of our society are directly related to our willingness and ability to transform the roles we take in the institutions (families, schools, businesses, newspapers, government departments) that we participate in on a daily basis.

If you share this desire, I urge you to come to South Africa and join the conference.

Jean Cooper
Director of Leading our Transformation 2016

Dr Eliat Aram, CEO of the Tavistock Institute, is the Associate Director at the Leading our Transformation Group Relations conference.

The conference is from 5 – 9 December 2016 at the Gordon Institute of Business Science at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. More information and the registration form can be found here and if you have any questions, email the Assistant Director for Administration, Mrs Thembi Kgengwenyane: thembi@tiltinternational.com

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