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Live Staff in Boston, MA | Online Membership

An Experiential Group Relations Conference
in the Tavistock Tradition

Sponsored by the Center for the Study of
Groups and Social Systems, Boston 

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Friday April 1, 2022 - Sunday, April 3, 2022

An ONLINE Group Relations Conference in the Tavistock Tradition

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Human connection is essential for survival, but it can also be dangerous.

Making contact creates a portal that allows for access and exchange. We cannot always control what happens at that boundary, but the nature of those connections determines the quality of our lives and the future we create together. This conference, entitled CONTACT, will focus on the dynamic of connecting. 

For two years now, the world, everyone, everywhere, has been reacting to the pandemic. Some people deny the danger and fight the precautions while others isolate and withdraw from the outside world. Most people carry on, mobilizing to meet wave after wave of menace. Underlying these reactions are anxieties, conscious and unconscious, that drive individual and collective behaviors.

How, when and where we connect have become high-tension decisions. On a large-scale, we can see some of the consequences of these dilemmas -- disruption, regression, polarization and loss of traditional standards that provide containment. Other effects dwell under the surface and have yet to take shape. To address these disruptions, we must first understand them.

This conference is an experiential journey into this moment in time. Using the Group Relations conference model of study, the CONTACT conference will create a living laboratory so participants, members and staff can grapple with these collective dilemmas. If safety permits, the conference staff will meet to work live with the online membership. Otherwise, the event will be completely online. 

Either way, this three-day event gives us the opportunity to experience

what it means and what it takes to approach and possibly reach

across boundaries. It is an opportunity to make contact.

Dannielle Kennedy, PhD, LICSW

Conference Director



The online conference is designed to provide members, together with administrative staff and consultants, an opportunity to create and study a temporary institution, giving participants the chance to experience, examine, and understand systemic processes – overt and covert, conscious and unconscious –  encountered in the exercise of authority, leadership and power.


Entitled CONTACT: Authority and Leadership in a Disrupted World, the online conference  consists  of  an  online  membership  attending   on   Zoom   and, virus levels permitting,   a   live   staff   working   together   face-to-face  in  the  same physical  space  in  Boston,  MA.  This  hybrid  configuration  will  offer  the opportunity  to  explore  various  aspects  of  relatedness.


The learning method is experiential, and members learn through action and reflection on their immediate, here and now experience in the conference.  This method distinguishes this conference from other educational events where faculty provide didactic information for participants to take in.


The purpose of the conference is educational.  Participants are involved in a program of studying groups at work, in real-time, with structured discussions for review and application of insights.


  • Compare and contrast overt and covert group processes through participating in interlinking groups that vary in size, structure, and task.

  • Identify aspects of group life that create vitality and goal fulfillment and those which lead to resistance, complacency, inertia, and decline.

  • Articulate underlying patterns of group interaction by forming groups, establishing leadership structures, and relating with other groups and the institution as a whole.

  • Discuss personal and collective reactions to well-defined authority and clearly delineated boundaries.

  • Compare and contrast familiar and unfamiliar roles and with various social behaviors including isolation, autonomy, affiliation, collaboration, and coalition building.

  • Be able to discuss how various aspects and perceptions of individual identity such as race, class, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and education level intersect and are used by groups with and without their conscious awareness.

  • Compare and contrast the differences between the stated task of a group and the task it actually appears to be pursuing.

  • Develop awareness of their own capacity and responsibility to lead or advocate in their home organizations and social contexts no matter what their formal authority roles.

  • Apply what has been learned and experienced in the conference to personal work and home situations.



The Tavistock tradition combines social systems research with a psychoanalytic approach. The conference provides a unique experiential learning opportunity to study one's own and others’ behavior as it happens. By holding the contextual factors of task, role, place, and time boundaries constant and observing the emergence of dynamics in the here-and-now, attendees become participant observers whose task it is to make sense of the temporary organization they are co-creating.


This  model  of  experiential  learning  attempts  to  examine  unconscious  as  well  as  conscious  dynamics that impact the emotional and working lives of groups. It provides opportunities to explore how we authorize ourselves and others to feel, speak, act, lead, and follow. It highlights how social identities and roles intersect and how we create and relate to the limits of task, time, territory and self. In this unique format aspects of one's motivations, behaviors, projections and ways of assuming roles that might be out of awareness are brought to light.

As dynamics emerge for collective examination, participants can see what supports or detracts from their effectiveness and how leadership and authority take shape. Organizational narratives at the level of the whole system develop and dynamics that emerge in the conference often mirror the external environment, offering everyone an opportunity to see broader social and organizational undercurrents more clearly.

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This conference is open to anyone wanting an opportunity to learn through immediate and direct experience about group dynamics, influence and about overt and covert actions involved in the exercise of leadership, authority and power. No particular background or experience is necessary to participate. A wide variety of organizations and industries have participated in CSGSS conference memberships. Click "+" below to see the list of organizations and industries




The Conference design is based on two types of events: Experiential and Review. Experiential events provide participants with immersion in different types of groups that are vital for organizational life. Group activity is examined in the here and now to provide members the opportunity to learn about processes that are ordinarily out of awareness. Review events provide opportunities to articulate members’ experiential learning to enable them to apply their insights to the groups, systems and institutions in which they ordinarily function.

The Small Study Group 
The Small Study Group is composed of 8-12 members and 1-2 consultants. The task of the Small Study Group is to study the exercise of authority and leadership in a group context as they emerge in a setting that allows for close interpersonal exchange.

The Institutional Event
In the Institutional Event the focus shifts to the conference institution itself. Its primary task is to experience, examine and understand the impact of subgroups, how they develop relationships with each other, with management and what their experience reveals about the overall institution.

The Large Study Group 
The Large Study Group is composed of all conference members and typically has 2-3 consultants. The task of the Large Study Group is to study the exercise of authority and leadership in a group context as they emerge in a setting that makes close interpersonal exchange difficult or impossible.



Conference Opening
The conference will open with a meeting of all staff and members for a presentation of the structure, design, and concepts underlying the conference. Announcements by administrative staff will address practical and logistical issues. The task of the opening is to orient participants and to cross the boundary into the conference.

Review and Application Group
Usually composed of 4-8 members and 1-2 consultants, the task of the Review and Application Groups is to provide participants with the opportunity to consider their conference experience in a traditionally reflective frame. The members’ experience of role is often part of the focus. The RAG meetings create a bridge between the here and now events and the participant’s group and organizational dynamics in life outside of the conference. 

Institutional Event Discussion
The Institutional Event Discussion provides an opportunity for discussion among all members and staff. Its task is to share information and consider how the groups formed to co-create a unique social system and its relationship to the underlying dynamics of authority and leadership.

Conference Discussion
At the close of the conference, a meeting with all members and staff will provide the opportunity to discuss and make sense of the conference experience as a whole.


All Conference Events will begin and end precisely at the times scheduled.
The conference will begin promptly at
2:00 PM Eastern on Friday April 1, 2022 and end promptly at 4:00 PM Eastern on Sunday, April 3, 2022

Friday, April 1                  The Conference Opening is at 2:00 PM Eastern Friday; events end at 8:00 PM Eastern

Saturday, April 2             Conference events run from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM Eastern

Sunday, April 3                Conference events run from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Eastern




Members of the staff design and manage the conference as a whole.  As collective management, they manage the boundaries of conference events, particularly in relation to time, task and territory.  Staff do not manage the participants or their behavior, but instead collectively manage the boundary conditions that allow the participants freedom to engage the primary task as they choose and as they authorize themselves and each other to do.

The consulting staff serve the purpose of the conference by linking their own experiences to the conference activity and offering observations, reflections and working hypotheses that explore both the conscious and unconscious aspects of the process that is emerging. Their observations and interpretations focus at the level of the group and not on the individual.

Throughout the conference, the roles staff members take are open for examination and reflection by participants and the staff themselves. It is the purpose of all staff members’ roles, whether they work in administrative or consulting roles, or both, to encourage and support participant awareness, analysis, reflection, and understanding of the emerging conference dynamics.

The consulting staff will be chosen from among those listed below.  Though unlikely, staff may include others not listed here.


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Dannielle Kennedy,

Conference Director
and Consultant

Principal, WORKLAB, Organizational and Leadership Consulting; Former President and Board Member, the Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems (CSGSS), the Boston affiliate of the A. K. Rice Institute (AKRI). Fellow, AKRI. Faculty, CSGSS Leading from Experience Workshop, Private Practice Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, Cambridge, MA.


Jodi Austin, PhD (c)
Head of Administration

Doctoral Candidate, Executive Leadership Coach, Administrator for Group Relations International; member of Association of Black Psychologists; member, CSGSS; GRI Co-Creator.


Davíd Luna, JD
mak wemuk

Associate Director
and Consultant

Consultant specializing in racial equity and social justice, Luna Consulting & Coaching; Secretary, Executive Committee, Washington-Baltimore Center for the Study of Group Relations; Co-Creator, Group Relations International; Certified Consultant, A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems; Past President, National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives; Member, National Lawyers Guild.

Lauren Levy, LPC
Associate Administrator

Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Co-Creator, Group Relations International; Member, A.K. Rice Institute.



Candice Crawford-Zakian, PsyD

Co-Owner & Creative Director, HumanStudio, LLC; Lecturer on Leadership, Harvard University Graduate School of Education (HGSE); Affiliate Consultant, Konu, LLC; Consultant & Executive Coach, Subculture; Leadership Development Consultant, INSEAD (France); Vocalist & Songwriter, West of Neptune; Co-Creator, Group Relations International; Member, A.K. Rice Institute.


Joshua DeSilva, PsyD

Associate Director and Director of Training, American University Counseling Center; Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice; Vice-Chair, Virginia Latino Advisory Board; Clinical Member and Certified Group Psychotherapist, American Group Psychotherapy Association; Member and Consultant in Training, A. K. Rice Institute; Co-Creator, Group Relations International.


Donna Elmendorf, PhD

Director, Therapeutic Community Program and Human Development Initiative, Austen Riggs Center. Faculty and Supervisor, Austen Riggs Psychoanalytic Training Program; Fellow, International Dialogue Initiative; Faculty, Leading from Experience Workshop; Chair, Leadership Committee, American Residential Treatment Association; Associate Editor, Organizational and Social Dynamics; Organizational and Executive Leadership Consultant; Member, Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems, AK Rice Institute, International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations.


Robert Whitehouse, MA

SVP of People & Talent, MiQ Digital, New York, New York; Member, NY Center for the Study of Groups and Organizational Systems; Member, AK Rice Institute; Consultant In Training, AK Rice Institute Robert has been involved in the group relations space since 2009, acting in various roles, including member, administrator, small study group consultant, and large study group consultant.


Barbara Williams, EdD

Director of Bureau Kensington Consulting, a psychoanalytically oriented organizational consulting practice, past visiting professional at Tavistock Institute, London; Guest of the Toronto Psychoanalytic Society (TPS); Member of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO) and the Organization for Promoting Understanding of Organizations (OPUS), accredited consultant AK Rice Institute (AKRI). Advisory Editor for the Journal of Organizational and Social Dynamics; co-ordinator of Insight for Community Impact the Group Relations network in Toronto.


Jeanne MST Woon, PhD

Psychologist and Director, Counseling Center, University of Central Missouri; Associate, the A. K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems (AKRI); Mentor, AKRI Training & Certification Program; Member, Midwest Group Relations Center; Member, New York Center for the Study of Groups, Organizations, and Social Systems.



This online conference is designed as an integrated experience with each event building on the one previous. Participants should plan to attend all events.

Continuing Education
This conference is offering 18 continuing education credits/clock hours for psychologists (all levels), and mental health counselors.  The Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers has been applied to for approval of continuing education credits. For information on continuing education credits for nurses, social workers, or marriage and family counseling, call 617 277 3915. * 

Fee Reduction
Reduced-fee registrations will be available for those needing assistance. Please contact the Head of Administration, Jodi Austin, at for details after you complete your application. Additional resources for those seeking financial assistance are available through The Grex DEI Scholarship Fund at

Withdrawal Policy
Fees can only be refunded (less $50 administration charge) if a written notice of cancellation is received at before 6:00 PM Eastern on March 18, 2022

Staff will not report the behavior of any individual member to anyone outside the conference.

FEES (due in full upon registration)


Full Conference Fee - $450

Current Members of CSGSS, AKRI, GRI, ICI and BGSP Faculty and Staff - $400

Full-time Students with Current ID - $350

One discount per application. Partial fee-reductions are available to help those for whom the conference may be financially out of reach. These grants will be based on the overall enrollment of the conference relative to the number of applicants seeking assistance.

To arrange for fee-reductions, applicants must correspond with the Head of Administration, Jodi Austin, at after completing application.

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* The Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. BGSP maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 5676. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.

The Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers has been applied to for approval of continuing education credits. For information on continuing education credits for nurses, social workers, or marriage and family counseling, call 617 277 3915.