A Three Day Conference that Changed My Life


Three Days That Changed My Life

By Nancy Zentis, PhD

Several months ago, I attended the Evolve for Change Conference and had the most amazing experience.  Here are some of the highlights of the conference:

I attended several open space sessions where they used Zoom to create rooms to get feedback from participants on their opinions about using cocreation and action reflection learning to become a more human and full person.  During this session, the discussion focused on how OD Practitioners get in our own way of being fully human when working with clients.  One way to become fully human is to focus on the client and their needs and set our needs aside.

Many of the presenters are members of an organization founded by Owen Harrison, who specializes in Open Space Technology (www.OSIUS.org).  OSIUS is planning a conference in 2022 that I want to check out.

In another session, I was introduced to Braver Angels, an organization that focuses on encouraging people to hold conversations to Create Meaningful Connections Across Differences.  Members of the group shared that when two or more people have different points of view, they recommend creating a conversation to gain more understanding of the experiences, feelings, and beliefs of the other person, discovering any areas of the commonality, and sharing ideas for how to bridge the differences.

There are Four Types of Conversations: RED/BLUE – 1. conservative and liberal/progressive, 2. Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, 3. Across Generations, 4. Rural/Urban

Here’s a process to facilitate leading discussions on differences:

  1. Be Mindful and reflective
  2. Ask questions about the experience
  3. Agree before the challenge to explore not debate
  4. Speak to your involvement
  5. Demonstrate the RACE MODEL
    1. Reflect
    2. Ask
    3. Collaborate
    4. Expand

Another participant shared an experience with Weave, the Social Fabric Project.   He stated that the common root of many social problems is lack of trust.  Building social trust is the key to finding common humanity and supporting people in the community.  During this session we conducted a dialogue “What can I do to bring people together to bridge the differences?”

Another topic presented was on Building Social Networks, and holding a Sacred Space to build trust, set ground rules and identify expectations, and to create positive conditions.  He also spoke about a Shared Commonality Framework – creating a new context for developing relationships.  Words used to describe the new context include humility, show-up with vulnerability, grace, get and stay Curious, listen, humanity, and connecting hearts.

I also attended a session on the “Heart of Dialogic OD”.  The topic of discussion was how to develop as a Dialogic Practitioner.  The common thread learned from this session was to lead with your heart, take risks, and be yourself.  Be willing to invest in personal growth work to expand your mindset and use yourself as an instrument.  Other important thoughts shared were to be in the moment, focused, practice personal wellness – physically, mentally, emotionally, and learn how to manage stressful events and conflict, know yourself, partner with someone else, practice personal self-development, be authentic, vulnerable, and look for mentoring opportunities.

One key thought shared was the importance of being separate and connected to the client at the same time: don’t get emotionally hijacked, be aware of experiences in the moment, practice self-differentiation and self-management.  Recognize how you self-manage and your level of effectiveness.  Identify what the client needs, wants, and feels and be aware of experiences in the moment.  Most of us have had difficult experiences to handle, no one is perfect.  Learn from your own experiences.

Another practitioner offered this advice – Walk toward your fear, what you bring to every encounter is yourself!  Remember as practitioners, we have the ability to influence the whole system; so you can’t ask others to do something if you haven’t been there.  When the client shows resistance or judgement, name the resistance, make it part of the conversation.  Deepen the relationship by taking that step into the unknown. Determine what they are looking for, what their purpose is, and help them to feel safe.

Please take some time and research some of the topics reviewed in this article and incorporate them into your practice.  Consider joining new organizations, check out the publications at Bushe-Marshak Institute, attend a conference to learn more about the amazing work of our colleagues, attend GIODN events to learn from well-known practitioners in the field.

In conclusion, although I was not able to attend all sessions, this experience was life-changing for me.  If you can take away one thing from this article, know this – We have a lot to do as OD Practitioners.  Let’s change the world.


References: Harrison Owen- openspaceworld.org, Bushe-Marshak Institute – https://b-m-institute.com and the Aspen Institute – https://www.aspeninstitute.org/ideas/

About the Author:

Dr. Nancy Zentis is the CEO of Institute of Organization Development.  She is recognized as a leader in the field of OD with over 40 years experience.  She is the founder of the Institute of Organization Development, an award winning, globally recognized organization providing OD Certification Programs to support the professional growth of those who have passion for the field of OD.

She is the founder of GIODN.org, a global OD network, providing members with monthly presentations with experts in the field, and a monthly book club, where authors who present their latest book.  GIODN offer members a variety of downloadable OD tools, a membership directory, blog articles, podcasts, and YouTube videos of past presentations.

She can be reached at Nancy.zentis@instituteod.com


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