Tricordant’s own Julie Beedon, recently took on the important role in Chairing the 2016 ODNE Conference. Here, she reflects on her experiences as a Chair, whilst noting some important lessons learnt.

At Last year’s ODNE Conference I was delighted to be elected to the ODNE Board and to take on the Conference Portfolio.  Chairing the Conference this year has been challenging. Not least because the previous chair, Kate Cowie, had built up a great community of people who returned eagerly to the Conference every year. Of course they came with high expectations that this year’s conference will live up to and build upon the years before.

The Conference is an important event for our community, as it is a place where we can all come together. We reflected upon this as a planning team and conceptualised the Conference as an important ‘space’ where certain things needed to happen.  These included exploratory learning, creating warm relationships and connections and advancing the impact of the file of OD.  With this in mind we also touched on the principles and noted that a ‘must-do’ was to make a profit as the Conference makes a vital contribution to the ODNE’s overall budget.

So as we prepared to welcome friends, old and new, to the 2016 Conference we made some exciting decisions. A new venue was chosen to enable us to include more people and allow us to work within a flexible space with room to share. An open space was created for people to contribute to the Conference whilst learning from some stimulating key note speakers. A day was dedicated to those who were joining us for the first time, allowing them to locate themselves in the field and in our community.   This was our most radical decision and we entitled it the ‘New to Field’.  I was grateful to be able to hand the responsibility of running this day over to my fellow board members – Shelly, Ola and Martin, who held the development portfolio. It was wonderful to join in, hear people’s stories and see how well they connected to each other and the ODNE community present on that day.  It was full of energy and enthusiasm and we could not have had a better start.

The Conference got off to a wise and humorous start with our first keynote speaker, the Canadian Professor Gervase Bushe. Gervase discussed the nature of dialogic OD and how it supports the traditional practice of diagnostic OD. Personally, I felt right at home hearing Gervase speak as my guides and mentors over the years, in the field of Large Group Interventions, have used the principles of Dialogic OD.

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We then moved into practice and engaged in a Kaleidoscope of conversations on a range of participant issues using several dialogic lenses. I was really impressed when one of the newcomers to our community stepped in the circle first and shared her issues sitting with a stunning and fast paced array of questions and observations. In the true spirit of self-organising systems, we then opened the space to whatever people wanted to share or work on.  The array of offerings gave us the high quality problem of being spoilt for choice.

The next morning was opened by Dr Mee-Yan Cheung Judge who had opened our first ODNE Conference. She enthralled us with her witty take on the challenges of OD as we look into the future and the changing world.  Many tweeted and shared how inspirational and uplifting she was. I was again awe-struck by how well she pulls things together and makes meaning of them for our work in this field. After more open space we ended with a more technical input on ‘reflexivity in action’ by Christine Oliver and Martin Miksits who gave us some interesting models of reflexivity in conversational practice.

There is more to the Conference than the story of what we did and how we worked together. Over the past four years, each Conference has provided new friends and deepened connections with ones we have known for years.  This year, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Rhoerig and hearing about the INOC group in Germany who are keen to work in partnership with us. Present also was many of the NTL Programme Alumni who I am thrilled to see continue building on their learning. I love to hear stories of how they have developed and applied the things we share on the programme.

As one Conference finishes another starts.  We have already begun our planning for this year and we kick started it with feedback from this year’s Conference, which pressed us to include new people better, open up the space more, keep two or three strong key note speakers and include cases we can work on. Positive feedback this year focussed on our keynote speakers, the Kaleidoscope and Open space, the ‘New to Field’ day, the venue and the overall organisation of the Event.  We know we can build on this next year creating more time for reflection, less chaos in setting up any Open Space and ensuring that agenda items are fewer or shorter. A consideration especially important on the last day!

I am looking forward to beginning again and have already received some brilliant suggestions and offers for what we can do next year. It is a privilege and an honour to serve the community in this way. I found Chairing to be a stimulating, exhausting and harrowing experience.  Retrospect would have seen me involve more of my design team colleagues and share the task of ‘holding the space’. I had not realised how much detailed logistics and marketing is involved (note to self – bigger team and clearer roles moving forward) and I could not have done any of it without the amazing support of Sheila in the ODNE Office.  I am sure I drive her insane, especially during certain time periods, but I have appreciated her patient understating and perseverance. I am deeply appreciative of everyone who came and made it such stimulating and rewarding experience.

Thank you.