Theme : At our Oxford 2016 conference in September, we examined the relationships between Influence, Power and Change, and their overall role in change processes. As power is a critical resource for every actor, be it in organisations or in society as a whole, the conference aspired to help us understand how some individuals acquire power while others do not; why some individuals retain their power once they have attained it; and why others fall from their lofty positions in spite of the political advantages power provides. Given the role of power in organisational and societal processes, it is important to understand how the dynamic of power changes and how power can inhibit or enable change.
In addition, the detailed knowledge was subsequently ‘unfolded’ into more detailed discussions using the unconference approach. This engagement framework enabled participants to put more contextual sense and meaning around the topics using a consensus-based approach, and generated a further set of learning outcomes.
Going forward, a SPREAD paper will be produced, articulating the key discussion points and learning outcomes from the conference.
We started by sharing our first thoughts on power: the taboo, the negative connotation versus power as a positive source, the different types of power, the origins of power, and the unavoidable presence of power. The questions that we had going into the conference mainly focused on how to better understand power and how to apply power within organisations.
Our first speaker Phil Wall is a CCC graduate and the founder of WeSeeHope, a charity enabling children isolated by poverty to create a better future. He introduced the notions of the power of purpose, the power of courage, the power of vulnerability and the power of responsibility. Phil helped us see how the powerless and underprivileged can be viewed through a new lens such that they can be empowered and inspired to create better futures.
Leading the second session, Martin Hermann a Physician by training, focuses on implementing complex change in global health and development. He contrasted the knowing, certain, control and individual with the not knowing, the uncertain, the not in control, and the group. Martin’s activity-based sessions helped us to re-evaluate the time-bound myth that power is the possession of the privileged few, and to analyse what is really is a pervasive and multi-dimensional property of wider human interconnectedness and relationships.
Our final presenter, Stewart Clegg is an Australian professor in the field of Organizational Studies and the author of many books, including the Sage handbook of power. Leveraging a seventies’ TV political satire and Luke’s power structures, he created a frame of reference of different aspects, bases, and concepts of power. This frame highlighted the endless political ecosystem struggle that leverages influence, rhetoric, and resources in pursuit of political agendas. Stewart’s insights helped to surface and illustrate the many components and states of ‘power’ as they exist and influence the real world.
Dorthe Sorensen prepared and orchestrated the unconference process, and facilitated further unfolding of the topic such that attendees could create more contextual sense and meaning. This created a further set of learning outcomes and activity-based engagement, which Dorthe captured.
In summary, many interesting questions and new ways of looking at power in organisations and wider society emerged during the course of the conference. These comprehensive perspectives demonstrated how tCL has evolved as a platform for reflection enabling meaningful conversations within a diverse group. There will be many outcomes resulting from this impactful conference starting with the SPREAD paper later in 2016.