Location, location, location: a group relations conference exploring organisational processes working online and onsite.

Conference overview

Where do you work? It seems like a simple question, but the answer can be complicated. The answer touches on identity (what groups are you connected to, how are these viewed), on role (what do you do, with and for whom?) and, increasingly, on “location” (on hospital ward, at the kitchen table, in the office – or any of these?). This GRC will work online and onsite at the Tavistock Clinic and offers a unique opportunity to explore the processes underlying organisational life today including the experiences of location and dis-location as we adjust to new ways of working together.  

Inside, inside, inside

There are complex processes underlying who we are at work, how we relate to others and how they relate to us, how we relate to power both within the organisation and in the wider social environment, and how we join and collaborate in shared effort. The further complexity of where we are as a group when we work in and across different spaces at different times is a perplexing and challenging experience for all of us at the moment. This GRC will allow for exploration of this and other aspects of organisational experience.

A Group Relations Conference is a chance to take time to look more closely at the conscious and unconscious processes that influence us in groups and organisations – including the impact of wider systemic influences to which all organisations are exposed. 

The conference is open to people who currently work or study at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust on one of the programmes where the GRC is a required part of the programme of study. There will also be a limited number of places for Tavistock staff and those on other programmes either at the Tavistock in London or in a national centre.  A range of backgrounds will be represented including social work, educational psychology, child psychotherapy, systemic family therapy and psychiatry, and organisational consultancy. 

One of the realities of organisational life at the moment is its uncertainties, and the difficulty in planning ahead when we so often know so little about what factors might have influence. With significant demand for this annual conference, running here at the Tavistock and Portman since 1969, we know that we will attract a large membership – too large to anticipate being able to work together face to face, and too large to work as well as possible if solely online.

So our model this year is made up of a mix of online and onsite locations. The whole conference will work together online on days one and four. The conference will have two smaller ‘sub-conferences’; while one sub-conference works onsite in person on either day 2, the other sub-conference works online. And then alternate on day 3.  The design will include the study of large groups, small groups, and events that entail intergroup activity and where the function of management and the use of authority can be experienced and explored.

In addition to the wider membership (i.e. those for whom this is their first or second experience of a GRC), we are also inviting applications for a Training Group, which will form a sub-system in the conference. The Training Group will be made up of people who have significant previous GRC experience (i.e. at least 2 GRCs), and would like to take up some differentiated roles within the GRC, working within the membership and also alongside staff. 

Our staff group will include a significant number of GRC practitioners who have used the opportunity since the pandemic began to resist a simple binary that privileges either onsite or online approaches to learning. They have done this by working on or attending as members other online GRCs since March 2020. So we know about the challenges as well as some of the unexpected learning experiences that can emerge when the location of collaboration is online.

The Training Group, which will be open to people with previous membership (or staffing) experience, will be invited to work across both sub-conferences and to work with staff in a range of roles. It offers an opportunity to take up a role that brings the pleasures and challenges of both membership and staff tasks and roles in both face-to-face and online locations.

The Training Group has its own additional schedule and events and will work onsite at the Tavistock from where its members will connect individually to the online parts of the conference. This invites further exploration into the complexities and dynamics of moving between different locations of collaboration.

Applicants for the Training Group need previous membership experience of at least two Group Relations Conferences to be eligible to apply.  To apply, please email grc@tavi-port.nhs.uk and  request a Training Group application form. Early application is recommended as places are limited and allocated on a competitive basis.

 The Training Group schedule will involve time onsite on the afternoon of Monday 13 December and may entail earlier start and later finish times than the wider membership.

Conference plenaries involve the whole membership. The opening plenary invites members and staff to share their experiences of ‘crossing the boundary’ into the conference i.e., what is desired or feared, what left behind?  The closing plenary will be an opportunity to reflect as individuals on what has been experienced and what might be taken from this experience.

Small study groups are an opportunity to work in small groups (no more than 10 people), in order to better understand small group processes as they occur.

Large study groups are where all members come together to experience and learn about the interpersonal processes arising in a large group.

Review groups provide a space for a small group of members to review together the experience of the conference, including exploration of the roles taken up and opportunities still to be explored. A central aspect of the review group is using the perspectives of other members to make sense of individual experiences.

Application groups continue the work in the review groups, and are an opportunity to explore links between conference experience and each individual’s experience in their own organisation.

Whole System Event offers the chance to experience and explore relationships between groups, and the challenges and opportunities of exercising authority on behalf of others, where tjhere is a recognised management presence. What kind of  system is created, how it is experienced, and how open it is to change and development will be influenced by the conscious and unconscious beliefs brought to it.

‘It was an honour for me to be given the opportunity. And I both enjoyed the privilege to attend and learnt from the hard experiences’ – Member

‘Fascinating and memorable experience! Thank you!’  - Member

‘I would do it again and recommend it to others’. – Member

‘A highlight was the chance to really explore one’s own motivations and behaviours, and check that the self-dialogue one gives oneself is honest,  and really seek a deeper level of understanding of self and others’ – Training Group member. 

‘There was a lot in the conference, which will undoubtedly digest and marinate over time.  The highlight was the in- between position, really incredibly hard to hold at times, with the wish to be staff or at times the wish to join the members.  However, I have to say that the Review and Application groups did so much to unpack the experience in relation to the organisation and self’. – Training Group member

‘I valued being part of the TG working; particularly the continuity of working together throughout the conference and grappling with our role as the TG; being in between staff and members. It helped me to think about leadership and my own middle management issues at work as well as putting me back in touch with my own ambition’. – Training Group member

Training Group (i.e. those with significant prior GRC experience)

Full Training Group fee: £740

20% discounted Training Group fee for Tavistock staff/students:  £595

Trust Staff if sponsored (Training Group): £55

Wider membership

If you are a student here, please check with your course to see if the GRC fee is covered by your course fee and if you therefore have a priority place which will be offered to you once we have received your application for the GRC.  If not, we are happy to accept applications and you will be placed on a reserve list and offered a space only once priority places have been taken up:

Membership fee £635

Tavistock staff and students entitled to 20% discount i.e. £510

There may be a limited number of sponsored places available to Trust staff.  For more information on fees please contact the conference administrator at GRC@tavi-port.nhs.uk

Whole membership (including Training Group)

Tuesday 14 December 9.30 am to 5.30pm (Registration from 9:00)

Wednesday 15 December 9.30am to 5.30pm

Thursday 16 December 9.30am to 5.30pm

Friday 17 December 9.30am to 4:15 (followed by social event until 5:30)

To maximize the conference learning for you and other attendees, we ask all members to commit to attending the whole of all four days.

N.B. Training Group members need also to commit to the initial meeting in the afternoon of Monday 13 December. The Training Group timetable may also entail commitments beyond the timetable for the wider membership.

Restrictions allowing, the GRC will work in two ‘sub-conferences’ at times, to ensure that every member has the opportunity to work together with others onsite at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust for either Day Two (Wednesday) or Day Three (Thursday). Day One (Monday) and Day Four (Friday) will be fully online for all members. We will aim to make sure that you know well in advance which day you will need to be onsite at the Tavistock .

The Training Group will have a base from which to work at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, including on the afternoon of Monday 13th and when connecting individually to the online events of the conference. 

Training Group - Please apply by Friday 3 December 2021

Tavistock Students - Please apply by Friday November 26 2021

Conference Director

Lydia Hartland-Rowe, Clinical Lead, Add | Wellbeing, Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust;  Portfolio Manager, Psychological Therapies 2019 – 2020; Cohort Director, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Programme, NHS Leadership Academy 2015-17

Conference Associate Director

Dr Rajni Sharma, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Director at the Northern School of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy (NSCAP) with extensive experience of working with and consulting to groups.

Training Group Director

Gwen Hanrahan, independent organisational consultant and executive coach, Module Lead and faculty member on the Tavistock’s Masters in Consulting & Leading in Organisations and supervisor on the Executive Coaching Programme at Tavistock Consulting.

14 December 2021 09:30 to 17 December 2020 17:30

Tavistock Students: Membership Application Form 2021

Tavistock students apply here

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