The intergroup and institutional events:

An overview of designs, foci, structures, and functions

Stan De Loach, Ph.D.

History and parameters of the intergroup event:

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’ sociotechnical methodology.

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 members.

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 assigned to groups constituted on the basis of race or nationality (Instituto Mexicano 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 scheduled 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.

History and parameters of the intergroup event
Types of intergroup event
Intergroup and institutional event foci
The director's tasks
Structures: Paradigms for learning
Boundary functionaries
The staff room's boundaries
Recent innovation
The member-staff boundary consultant's entry into members' groups
The learning tasks of intergroup representation and negotiation

Related topic:  Study group consultancy: Elements of the task

1998, 1999, 2006, 2016 by Dr. Stan De Loach   All rights reserved.

iii 2016
vi 2006
vii 1999
vi 1998