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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Splits, Extrusion and Integration: The Impact of 'Potential Space' for Group Relations and Sponsoring Institutions

This paper discusses historical sources and developmental links between group relations and four types of sponsoring institutions research and evaluation, clinical, professional development and spiritual. The argument will be made that (i) these four types of sponsoring institutions have each uniquely influenced the theory and practice of group relations; and that (ii) group relations is an object and a source of ambivalence in the 'political spaces' of sponsoring institutions that leads group relations to be a source of both creativity and terrifying anxiety. The paper will elaborate on the objectives, cultural foundations and values of the four types of sponsoring institutions and their bearing on the development of group relations. (i) The Research and Evaluation Sponsoring Institution. Research institutions apply research and evaluation methods to fields that vary from social policy, production and delivery systems to role effectiveness and knowledge creation. The research and evaluation core culture is likely to arise from the need to create new knowledge, and for problem solving, and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of systems; it is robust, practical and outward-looking. (ii) The Clinical Sponsoring Institution. In clinical institutions, core influences are identifying and distinguishing normal from abnormal, proposing models of illness and health, pathology, trauma and growth. Treatment models of 'care and cure' are more likely. (iii) The Education/Professional Development (or Training) Sponsoring Institution. In the main this develops skills and competencies by culling from the knowledge and experience of others other educators and researchers. Learning would be derived from deductive methods and transmissive and situational learning, relying on dependency assumptions of 'filling empty vessels'. (iv) The Spiritual Sponsoring Institution. In faith-based or spiritual organizations, philosophies concerning engagement with the cosmos, mystery, the experience of being; faith, belief and sustainability are likely to dominate.