I just returned from the 52nd Annual AK Rice Residential Group Relations Conference, Improvising with-in the Shadows, Exploring Authority And Leadership in Our Organizations and Communities, held July 15-20, in New Orleans, Louisiana. According to Conference Administrator, Jack Lampl, the group of almost forty participants was one of the most diverse groups to ever attend a group relations conference.
The timing of this conference could not have been more appropriate. The intense heat and humidity of New Orleans in July, matched the torridity and oppressiveness of recent world-events. At the start of the Republican National Convention, shortly after shootings in Dallas and Orlando, terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Medina and Bagdad, and the on-going violence against African-Americans that is being protested by the activist group, Black Lives Matter, this conference brought together people from a spectrum of backgrounds, ages, races, socioeconomics, sexual identities, faith groups, and so on -- to create moments of inspiration and learning, as well as to explore the uncertainty and turbulence we are experiencing in the world today.
Stating that the conference was also hard work is an understatement.
Over the course of six days, we explored what it was like to work in a large group, and in smaller sub-groups that we were assigned to, such as our Review and Application Group, or chose to belong to, such as our Community Group. We were given opportunities to speak our minds, express our individuality and uniquenesses, while trying to identify the purpose and work of the group, and while flexing our own authority and influence. Our days started at 8:30 a.m., and ended around 9:30 p.m., with fifteen to thirty minute breaks, and ninety minutes for meals. The schedule was rigid - time boundaries were honored, but other boundaries were up for question or navigation.
At times, the work was exhausting and there were moments when I had to openly wonder how I would ever use what I was learning in real time. The connections I made with several of my fellow-conference-attendees was rewarding. During the conference, I felt more aware of my own words and actions, and the impact they had on our temporary organization, more than ever before, and how others perceived me.
To go on to try to describe this experience, would be to place it in a box and confine it. I am certain that the impact of this conference will be realized more over time; however, I see the impact that this has had on me already, as I return to my work with CPSP, with fresh skills and insights, including a better understanding of how an organization works. To understand this better, you'll need to experience it for yourself.
If you haven't had the opportunity to attend a residential group relations conference, I highly recommend it. I can absolutely promise it will not be easy and I can also promise that it will be rewarding - even if those rewards continue to manifest themselves over time, long after the conclusion of the conference.
CPSP Administrative Coordinator