Democracy at Risk: How Group Relations Illuminates

Democracy at Risk: How Group Relations Illuminates

We believe group relations work is ultimately a means to transformation. In this talk we presented our own experiences of using group relations in service of teaching, learning and facilitating engagement across multiple contexts and diverse populations in organisations and in society.

We are interconnected in ways we’ve never been before, via trade and technology and travel, with our fates inextricably bound together. The great problems of our day—climate change, loose nuclear weapons, the democracy-endangering gap between the world’s wealthiest and poorest peoples—can only be tackled collectively. The U.S. isn’t alone in its isolationist daydreams: Brexit and the rise of viable, hard-right politicians across Europe, coupled with right-wing dictator types in countries such as Turkey and the Philippines, are evidence that people have been seduced by the promise of a return to a (mythological) simpler time in world history. There is no path to progress but forward, however, and the world will either realise this and act collectively to solve our mutual problems or continue to descend into a dangerous, feudal withdrawal. We believe group relations work is a way to illuminate the path forward to a more sustainable, just and informed world.

We welcomed the vigorous participation of diverse groups with varied viewpoints including working professionals across industries and contexts, fellow consultants and educators, students, and anyone in the general public who is concerned with how we can work together in these divisive times. In the session we shared brief inputs followed by a highly interactive discussion in the world café style.


Audio recording of talk: Please use headphones and apologies for poor sound in places.


Sarah Brazaitis is the MA Program Director and a Senior Lecturer in Social-Organisational Psychology in the Department of Organization and Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. She teaches courses on group dynamics and high performing teams to graduate students as well as in TC’s Executive Education programs. Dr. Brazaitis annually runs three experiential group relations conferences in the Tavistock tradition that provide participants with opportunities to learn in real time about covert processes affecting leadership and power in groups and organisations. Dr. Brazaitis is a Fellow of the A.K. Rice Institute and is a past member of AKRI’s Board of Directors. As an expert on group dynamics in social systems, Dr. Brazaitis has written articles and book chapters on creating and sustaining transformational teams as well as about the interplay of race and multicultural issues in group and team dynamics. She maintains a private practice of organisational consulting with a focus on high performance teams, executive coaching, and leadership development.Debra A. Noumair is Founder and Director of the Executive Masters Program in Change Leadership (XMA), Director of Executive Education Programs in Change and Consultation and Associate Professor in Social-Organisational Psychology in the Department of Organisation and Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Noumair is currently engaged in teaching, research, consulting, and coaching; the focus of her work is on applying systems psychodynamics to executive education as well as to organisation change at multiple levels with individuals, teams, and organisations. A group relations scholar and practitioner, Dr. Noumair is a Fellow of the A. K. Rice Institute where she served on the Board of Directors for nine years. Dr. Noumair is co-author of Organisation Development: A Process of Learning & Changing, 3rd Edition, co-editor of the Emerald annual book series, Research on Organisation Change and Development, and coeditor of Group Dynamics, Organisational Irrationality, and Social Complexity: Group Relations Reader 3. She is an Associate Editor for The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science and on the International Advisory Board of The Journal of Social and Organisational Dynamics.Matthew Tye is an independent organisational development consultant and executive coach to both corporate and social sector clients. For over 10 years, Dr. Tye spearheaded the Leadership Development practice at his boutique consulting firm, Ritchie | Tye Consulting, which included the design, delivery and supervision of customised leadership development programs, executive coaching, team development, and board training and support. Dr. Tye possesses a vast array of expertise in models of effective leadership and management practice, group process and facilitation, with a particular emphasis on performance coaching and team effectiveness for executives. As a psychologist and organisational strategist, Dr. Tye is highly skilled in examining the complex and dynamic systems that can interfere with individual, group, and organisational performance. Dr. Tye is an adjunct faculty member in Social-Organisational Psychology in the Department of Organisation and Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. He teaches graduate level courses in Organisational Change and Consultation, Group Dynamics, Small Group Intervention and Executive Coaching.
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