and institutional events:
An overview of
designs, foci, structures, and functions
Stan De Loach, Ph.D.
History and parameters of the
Structural permission for transformation
from individual and collective chaos to community
The intergroup event was first incorporated
into a group-relations conference in 1959 (Higgins & Bridger, 1964).
Originally, three member-formed groups were assigned the task of negotiating
among themselves an agreement about the content of three plenary sessions
scheduled near the end of the event. In subsequent years, the task
was re-defined as learning about the development of organizational structure
in complex social systems through the formation of self-selected groups
and the study of the delegation and exercise of individual authority and
leadership in a multi-group context.
Currently, the intergroup and
institutional events are conceptualized and implemented variously in order
to respond to differing purposes and cultural contexts. Frequent
experimentation, albeit extemporaneous and unexamined, and innovation in
regards to the structures, philosophy, and realization of the events mark
the intergroup and institutional events as dynamic components of group-relations’
Intergroup events allow conference
members to form groups, using their own criteria as to membership, size,
and manner of functioning. During a plenary opening, the director
describes the aim of the intergroup event as the study of the covert and
overt processes occurring within, between, and among the participating
groups. Alternatively, a written outline of the event's purpose and
structure is placed on each of the seats intended for the assembly of participating
The number and identity of work
spaces set apart and authorized for the groups' tasks are made public,
as is the location during the event of the staff and management of the
conference. To dissuade members from reconstituting their pre-existing
small study groups or systems, the number of spaces allocated for member
groups during the intergroup event is usually one more than the number
of small study groups offered in the conference.
After opening remarks and response
to members' requests for clarification, the director usually departs the
plenary room, in order to address tasks of direction within the staff subsystem.
A staff consultant, alone or together with a consultant to the member-staff
boundary, may remain in the plenary room space in order to be available
to assist members in rational subdivision into groups. The staff
consultant's task is finished when all members acknowledge, by word or
deed, their alignment with one of the subdivisions effected. At this
point, the staff consultant and boundary consultant exit the space used
for the plenary opening of the intergroup event.
Rarely, members may be
to groups constituted on the basis of race or nationality (Instituto
de Relaciones Grupales y Organizacionales, 1993; Walker, 1993). In
conferences with multiple categories of members, such as those with and
without previous conference experience, some members may not be
to engage in the intergroup event. Likewise, staff 's participation
may vary. The entire staff, a subset of the staff group, or just the
consulting staff members may publicly participate in the activities
of the intergroup event.
1999, 2006, 2016 by Dr. Stan De Loach All rights reserved.