Newsletter Nr. 2 (September 2004, subsequent to our 3rd Conference, our 2004 Paris Conference - please see also our Conference Notes)
By Evelin Lindner, September 2004
We try to build bridges and this leads to innovative conferences
We need a short introduction to our work
We need debriefing
Do we need more leadership?
The problems with PowerPoint presentations
We all have humiliated others!
How to avoid the fragmentation of our group
Lamenting versus defining challenges
How many short vs. long presentations and open discussion do we want?
Debriefing comments from our participants
Dear Participants of our 2004 Conference in Paris, 16th-19th September!
May I express my deep gratitude and appreciation to all of you who joined our Annual Conference in Paris in 2004! You ALL made our conference a unique and extremely exiting experience! I felt as if I went through a whirlwind, so many enthusiastic creative ideas and contributions "swirled" through our conference!
I would also like to send warm greetings from all of us to those of you who wanted so much to participate but were prevented to do so by adverse circumstances. We all missed you!
What touches me most is that we all come together and work for our common cause, not because we get paid for it (we all contribute to our group's activities also financially; in my case I "invest" my entire life into our work), or because it is part of our "job," or because we gain status, or because of any other motivation. We are deeply committed to our goals and this dedication is extremely powerful.
May I share with you some points that somehow have "gathered" in my mind, and that I try to attend to in the aftermath of our conference.
As you all know, our conferences are very innovative in that they attempt to build bridges. We wish to make research relevant for practice and vice versa. Bridge-building is difficult, by definition, and requires all of us to learn how to "walk the talk." What is wasted time for some of us, is the most interesting part of the conference for others, and the other way round. While some wish to concentrate on academic debate, others wish to build the value base of our network or the organisational structure of our group. We all need to stretch ourselves. And, even if this is difficult, it is necessary, we believe. People are often compartmentalised in isolated realms, such as academics and practitioners, who often speak different languages to an extent that they do not learn from each other. We wish to make both, academics and practitioners, aware that turfs, though often staunchly defended, may at times also stultify potential mutual fertilisation. Academics would be surprised if they knew how much research is carried out by practitioners, and how much they could indeed learn from practitioners. We would like to invite both - academics and practitioners - into something that Gerd Inger Polden calls the Third Room where we meet as equals who wish to jointly draw maximum use of the efforts we all invest.
There are many other points that merit being mentioned. Judit told us that she needed a short introduction to our group. When she attempts to explain who we are and what we do, she is confronted with questions such as "and what is humiliation?" or, "and what is your group doing?" Judit reports that she runs into trouble, because she feels all this is too difficult to explain. I have now written a short-and-easy description of "what is humiliation," placed an explanation of "what we do" and linked it to the vision statement our group formulated anew. What is your view?
Another point concerns debriefing. We did not do a good enough job on that at the end of our conference; please remind us that we improve this in our next conference. Perhaps you could send me your debriefing comments for our present conference individually, so that we do part of our debriefing by email? I could add your comments to this newsletter (with or without your name, according to your wish) so that we can share them with everybody?
Eric kindly offered to make it possible that we will have a place on our website that is dedicated to our members, accessible by password, so that we can discuss internal matters freely. We could place our debriefing discussion in this members' area as soon as it is available.
One comment was that I should have been a little more "dominating." I should have used a little more of the authority of a leader. What is your view? I did that last year, and tried to be more in the background this year. What should we do next year?
Another comment referred to PowerPoint presentations. As we all know, sometimes PowerPoint presentations represent an improvement over overhead presentations, however, they often merely overload the audience with images, efface the presenter, and make it difficult for presenter and audience to connect with each other in any meaningful way. I think we all appreciate this point and are aware of the pitfalls of PowerPoint presentations.
We discussed that in cross-cultural psychology, relationships between representatives with different cultural backgrounds is greatly facilitated when everybody accepts that "we all are ethnocentric." In the same vein, Bhawuk suggested that it may be a great starting point for discussions on humiliation, when we all admit that we all have humiliated others. Not that we are all humiliators, but that we all have humiliated others. Arne Næss reminded us in last year's conference that there are no "murderers," or "humiliators," but only fellow human beings who have murdered or who have humiliated. In the same spirit, we wish to highlight our shared humanity as primary, and any other characteristic as secondary.
The Jean Baker Miller Training Institute recently hosted a conference about Creating Relational Possibilities , with its last session about Holding a Vision of Hope. I think that both headings are also important for our group and our conferences. We are not motivated by financial rewards or by wanting to have "a job." Our motivation is provided by our values and goals and the enthusiasm and hope we can create in our group. We want to contribute to building "a better world" and this is what drives us. Thus, the inner cohesion of our group must be our priority, otherwise none of our activities will have any grounding and we will fail. This is, incidentally, also the cutting edge guideline in corporate sector consultancy ("hire for attitude, not for skill!" Kjell A. Nordström, Stockholm). In other words, it applies even to ordinary companies that need to make profit. Therefore, nurturing the relationships among ourselves, caring for each other, keeping our spirits up, must be the object of our primary attention.
The cohesion of a group is threatened in many ways, not least by the well-known practice of creating minimal group differences. Conferences typically end with people fragmenting into smaller groups, trying to make allies in those smaller subgroups by asserting themselves against the "others" by finding minimal differences and objections. This involves distancing and finger pointing, where all subgroups point at others, and at the organisers, saying, "they" failed to have done this or that. Based on our understanding of the dynamics of humiliation, we have learned that there is always the temptation to gain power by putting others down, that is, to exploit an "us against them" perspective. In contrast, we would like to invite all participants to rather adopt a stance of we are all responsible for our conferences and our work together. There are no "they."
Creating minimal group differences is a temptation that fragments many movements and we propose that it is beneficial and more productive to be disciplined in staying with our joint goals and work for these goals in a joint effort. This means connecting across differences with an understanding that our differences enrich our work together. Thus, our work involves moving beyond the mind set of "us against them" toward the wisdom of "we."
The United Nations may serve as example at the global macro level (I know, not all elements of these two cases are comparable). Many citizens of the United States place themselves "outside," as if they were not part of the globe, and point at the UN by declaring it to be incompetent. They overlook that the US is part of our common home, planet Earth, and that any finger pointing at "them" betrays the failure of the very finger pointers of being constructive participants in "us," namely humankind, who is jointly responsible for our globe. We have to learn to cooperate constructively, if we are to build sustainable life on Earth for humankind. Yet, finger pointing is easy, while constructive cooperation requires immense dedication, good will, skill, and willingness to broaden one's horizon and learn to build bridges. We, in our group, cannot address macro problems with any credibility, if we do not attempt to "walk the talk" in our own midst. We invite all who join us in this effort to be aware of these dynamics.
Not to forget, lamenting over what we have not yet accomplished only drains our energy and makes it more difficult to conceptualize as a challenge whatever is still missing, as a next step, which we have to undertake with enthusiasm, motivation and courage in a joint effort!
We are very grateful to our hosts in Paris and greatly appreciate the wonderful hospitality that was offered to our conference. A consensus emerged that we wish to have our annual conference also in other places in the future so as to widen our global view. Next year, Eric and Véronique will be so kind as to invite us to Berlin (22-24th September 2005), please mark this in your calendar!
My questions to you are now as follows: What about 2006 and the subsequent years? And what about the dates? Now we have September as our conference date, should we change that, too? The alternative ideas as to where we could have our conference were as follows: Apart from Paris, where we, I believe, always will be kindly welcome, and Berlin, suggestions emerged that we could meet in Nepal, Hawaii, Cameroon, Dublin, or Oslo. Bhawuk suggested that we also could "piggy back" on other conferences; he had two concrete propositions of which conferences would be suitable. Please let me know what you think!
As you remember, we had a big discussion as to whether we should have longer presentations or not. Some said that long presentations take up too much time - that 15 minutes' presentations would be better - others responded and told us that nobody likes conferences anymore with lots of short presentations that stultify every attempt to go into any depth. The other alternative, namely having discussions only with the papers being placed on our website available to all, was regarded with scepticism as well, since nobody has the time to read many papers. What are your views as to our next year's conference? Should we go for longer presentations one morning, shorter ones the next morning, then open discussions in the afternoons, and the third day again as a film day?
I would like to end this newsletter by thanking you again for all the wonderful mutual support. I must say that I do not tend to blush, however, when Linda, at the end of our conference, thanked everybody who contributed to our conference and who continuously work with and for our network, I did blush, out of joy and happiness. I think there was nobody who did not contribute, therefore let me give my warmest thanks to ALL OF US! I very much look forward to our upcoming workshop in NY (18-19th November 2004) and our next year's conference in Berlin!
Evelin, Hameln, 25th September 2004
Here are some of my thoughts about the conference.
1. I enjoyed the variety of presentations.
2. I liked the size of the group, which wasn't too large for substantive discussions.
3. Both of the locations for the conference worked very well!!! Thanks, Evelin!!
4. It was great to have our meals taken care of....Thanks so much for arranging this, Evelin!
5. The hotel was conveniently located! THANKS AGAIN, Evelin!!!
6. Transportation from the airport to the hotel was extremely convenient. THANKS, Evelin!!
7. I appreciated that, for the most part, people attempted to walk their talk...
8. I think it is helpful to have a opening presentation by you, Evelin, describing the "psychology of humiliation."
What could we add, change, or do differently... some ideas...
1. Restrict the presentations/discussions from 9-5 PM, six hours a day.
2. Have HumanDHS administrative meetings at 5:00-6:30 PM, after the formal presentations, invite anyone to participate?
3. Get an agreement with the group about starting sessions on time...maybe use a signal to let people know that the session is starting, such as a bell...then start and end on time.
4. Film day...perhaps films should be limited in length or offered in short clips?
5. Idea: Have the last hour (or hour and a half) of the conference dedicated to closing comments allowing participants to 1) to talk about what worked or didn't work and 2) share one thing that they would be taking away with them?
6. Have a business meeting immediately following the last day of the conference to debrief with organizers.
7. I like the idea of having "formal" presentations in the morning and discussions (open space) in the afternoon.
8. Allow lots of time for discussions.
9. Have people share abstracts of their papers in advance of the conference... not whole papers (too much reading).
I challenge any feedback that suggested that you needed to be more "dominating"! Rather, I think we need to make agreements about time so sessions will start and stop on time, while maintaining some flexibility to change the schedule as needed... I'm sure there were frustrations about the time issue...We can do something about this and not expect one person to dominate the group. I think we can improve our shared process of leadership...Maybe we are learning how to exercise leadership that doesn't depend on domination (humiliation)???... Although I am always happy to have you, Evelin, be the leader for all conferences whenever you want, I think we can learn to share leadership so that all of the responsibility doesn't fall on the shoulders of one person...
It might be a good idea to develop a timeline of the arrangements for the next conference to share with the core team?... Below is an example:
A timeline of the arrangements for the next conference
-- New York Workshop
--Finalize and announce dates for Annual September 2005 Conference
--Finalize location for Sept 2005 Conference (Eric & Veronique)
--Develop a list of participants for Annual Conference
--Begin developing list of new, invited presenters?
--Decide if the next annual conference should have a theme?
--Work with the core team to develop a format for the next annual conference...presentations, open discussions, film day, etc.
--Finalize format of program
--Send an announcement about the dates of the next conference to past participants inviting their recommendations for presentors?...for this we would need to have info about the location and accommodations.
--Send invitation to new, invited presenters
--Develop program with
--Collect abstracts of presentation papers
--Finalize participants and presenters
MAY - JUNE
--Collect and post abstracts for the conference
--Post conference program
--Send announcements detailing the travel arrangements, accommodations, and conference location.
Annual HumanDHS Conference of 2005!