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What is the Tavistock Group Relations Conference (GRC)?

The group relations conference is a temporary learning institution that exists as long as the conference is taking place - from a few days to a couple of weeks. The assumption is that processes occurring in the conference duplicate those in organizations in everyday life, so that participants, through direct experience, have the opportunity to learn about these processes and their place in them. The conference offers opportunities for experiential learning on various issues:

  • Taking up roles, authority and leadership; exploring questions such as "What happens to me when I am required to exert authority, to exercise leadership, or, on the other hand, to accept authority or to be a follower?"; "What are the circumstances in which I succeed in making an impression, and when is my voice not heard, and why?"
  • Understanding overt and covert dynamic processes in organizations and in groups - processes linked to choosing or being chosen, competing for leadership, feelings aroused by inclusion or exclusion, the creation of mechanisms for delegating authority and responsibility, etc.
  • Exploring the influence of the structure: "How do the boundaries of time, space and task influence my behavior, my efficiency at work, my identity, the manner in which I take up leadership, use authority or respond to it?"
  • Exploring reciprocal relations between formal layers and informal events in the organization and their consequences for the organization's culture and performance.

Although the conference does not focus on personal factors or interpersonal relationship, but on what happens in groups and in organizations, we know that personal, group and organizational elements are linked to one another, and these links determine the ability of individuals, groups and organizations to create, to change, to develop and to grow. During the conference, special attention is paid not only to conscious and overt behavior, thoughts and feelings, but also to unconscious and covert processes happening in the individual's internal reality, in various groups and in the whole conference system.

The group relations conference originates in experimental groups created by Wilfred Bion in the forties of the twentieth century. The experiences recorded in that group work are at the base of the theory leading to the development and design of the group relations conference by Kenneth Rice at the Tavistock Institute in London. The first conference of this kind took place in 1957, with the aim of investigating the behavior and development of people in groups, in organizations and in society. The "Leicester conference", as it is known, whose basic design has not changed significantly since then, takes place annually, and has served as a model for similar conferences in many other countries worldwide.

Although the Tavistock group relations conference derives from wide theoretical knowledge based on psychoanalysis and open systems theory, and is supported by extensive field research, the conference does not include theoretical discussions, but is based on the experience in the 'here and now'. Questions discussed in the conference are not debated in their academic contexts but are explored while being experienced.

In general, the events in the conference are divided into two categories - events focused on the experience in the 'here and now', and events dedicated to review and application. The 'here and now' events include large study groups, small study groups and systemic events. These events are designed to enable exploration of the processes while they are occurring. The events focused on review and application - in small groups and in plenary sessions - offer opportunities to gather the experience in the 'here and now' events into insights that can be conceptualized, connected and applied to the everyday life of the participants, both at work and on the personal level.

Who is the conference for?

The conference is offered to professionals in positions of authority and management, in the private and public sector, who work within groups, organizations and social systems. But we believe all people live and act in groups, so that participating in the conference can contribute significantly to the improvement of any individual's understanding of the processes governing hers/his life.

Further reading:

Rice, A. K. (1965) Learning for Leadership - Inter-Personal and Inter-Group Relations. Tavistock Publications.

Other sources appear in the references on this site.