An invitation to Flourish
We are almost half-way through the year and already knee-deep into the preparations for not one but two conferences: the Flourish conference in 2016 and the International conference we are hosting with IODA in 2017. I am personally sitting with a lot of excitement, anticipation and energy when I think of what and who we will be engaging with as a local OD community over the next 18 months. And yet, we have to also acknowledge that 2016 has not been an easy year for our country, economy and society thus far.
Max du Preez ended 2015 with a sober reflection in one of his articles, stating that “South Africa is in crisis and its people are more depressed than at any time during the past two decades. Instead of doing a sober audit of positives and negatives, of our nation’s strengths and weaknesses, most of us talk ourselves deeper into depression.”
In tuning into the OD community and our shared challenges this year, I realise that internal practitioners are by and large working with shrinking budgets, increased expectations from business and often with an employee-base that is disillusioned and anxious. Our independent practitioners are also feeling the tensions of their clients and are being stretched and challenged in terms of workflows, having to collaborate and creatively re-imagine projects and ways of doing in order to deliver within the budgets available. At a macro-level, South Africa is being rocked by low growth forecasts, ever-looming downgrades and social and political upheaval. There is definitely a lot to be anxious or depressed about as Max du Preez intimates.
There is however another way of looking at this…
As an Organisation Development Practitioner who is passionate about social and organisational change, I am excited about how much of an impact our work can have in supporting the transformation our country has been needing and waiting for since 1994.
If you think about it:
- We have tools, methods and frameworks that enable us to make sense of the current reality.
- We have the facilitation and convening skills to bring people together across divides and boundaries to be together in generative dialogue.
- We are ideally placed within our organisations to initiate conversations around racism, sexism, inequality etc. and to invite community building, understanding and empathy into the workplace communities we are stewards of. Katherine Train’s recent OD Corner session on empathy in the workplace is one of many reminders of this.
- We know that, given the complexities underlying the situation, there are no silver bullets and we know that we are in the territory of deep dialogue and multiple experiments within and beyond the boundaries of our organisations if we want to create the South Africa where we all prosper together.
Is this not in a fundamental way what lies at the heart of OD?
So here is the invitation to reframe how we think about these times and our role in it. I believe the 2016 Flourish conference is going to enable us to delve into this by taking us beyond superficial enquiry into an exploration of how we work with rank, power, influence, race and prejudice within our organisations. Each organisation is a microcosm of our macrocosm and we need to get our hands dirty (in some instances it may feel like, again, but I would like to argue that the ground we are treading has fundamentally shifted from where we were 20 years ago).
I want to personally invite you to re-ignite the bright light of your OD spirit and participate in the upcoming OD Corner sessions. I am particularly excited about the sessions with Chantelle Wylie (“Use of self/presence in working across boundaries of race, class and gender in SA public service” in June) and Vonnie Mostert (“Business’ role against the racism, sexism and exclusiveness challenges of the world and our country” in August) in Cape Town over the next couple of months. In Johannesburg, the August Case Clinic on ‘Tackling tough conversations in corporates’ also looks very promising.
More importantly, we have made the radical decision to reduce the cost of Flourish 2016 by 30% compared to 2015 to meet the current times and constraints. If you are an SAODN member, you also qualify for a Flourish! discount equal to your full SAODN annual membership fee if you register early for the conference.
I am looking forward to the conference, and every time I read another headline that is about racist comments or social injustice I find myself wishing that September would come quickly so our community can delve into how we contribute to shifting this. I will also be attending the International OD Conference in India in August this year, and look forward to bringing back the learning from this to our local community.
See you at the next OD Corner and at Flourish in September!
Managing Director, SAODN