‘Nexus of Change' event slated March 22-23
BOWLING GREEN, O.—While many people say they want change, they often don't know where to begin. Recognizing that fact, Bowling Green State University will host a groundbreaking Nexus for Change conference March 22 and 23.
It will be a first-time gathering of change leaders, activists, practitioners and scholars from around the world. Conference organizers hope BGSU will actually be the nexus for change—both in the emerging discipline of large-scale change and in developing new methods to address the critical needs of the 21st century.
So far, more than 300 people from the United States, Japan, Ireland, continental Europe and South America have registered to attend the two-day event to be held in BGSU's Bowen-Thompson Student Union. They include many of the “method masters” who created the 61 approaches detailed in “The Change Handbook.” The handbook was co-authored by Dr. Steven Cady, a BGSU associate professor of management and conference organizer, with Peggy Holman and Tom Devane.
The idea of addressing large-scale change can be daunting but, according to Cady, “what these methods do is demystify the process and provide concrete ways to make it happen.”
“Working on our own, as valuable as that might be, we will never have the impact that working in concert on a large, movement-level scale might have,” said Peter Block, author of “Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used” and a partner in the Designed Learning training company. “This conference holds the possibility of clarifying what we are learning and creating transformation in a way we have not yet imagined.”
While there are a multitude of methods for successful large-scale and whole-system change, there has never been a unifying name for the body of work, nor an objective, scholar-based approach to studying and evaluating the methods, Cady said. He would like BGSU to become the catalyst for that exploration.
“Leaders, activists, practitioners and scholars interested in these approaches don't usually talk to one another,” the BGSU faculty member explained. “At the Nexus conference, we are getting everyone together in one room to explore possibilities that are greater than we can individually imagine.”
The conference reflects two common practices of successful methods for engaging whole organizations and communities: getting high involvement from participants and taking a systemic approach to change.
“It's pretty straightforward. People support and defend that which they help to create,” Cady said. “Here is the question for leaders—who will you involve in the conversation? This is important because those who craft a picture and plan for the future are the ones who will end up getting it done. If leaders are the ones figuring it all out … well, the implementation will likely end up on their personal to-do list. I think today's leaders are looking for something different. They are looking to involve more and more people in a way that creates inspired action. These methods provide the roadmap.”
The somewhat unconventional agenda will use the methods as the basis for the conference design.
“Aspects of the different methods will be mixed and matched to create intensive, dialogue-based experiences. Numerous perspectives and personal agendas will coalesce; in that tension, innovation is bound to emerge,” said Cady.
In planning “The Change Handbook,” Cady and his co-authors issued a call for proposals and then applied a rigorous set of eight criteria to choose which methods they would include.
The chosen methods range from the relatively new Community Weaving approach used to create social support networks, to long-established methods such as Future Search, which concentrates on bringing the right people together for an intensive study of a situation with a focus on finding common ground under complex conditions. It is approaches such as these that have been effectively used alone to provide outreach from Seattle to Texas for victims of Hurricane Katrina, as well as by such corporate giants as Ikea and governmental agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration.
Dr. Heinz Bulmahn, vice provost for research and dean of the BGSU Graduate College, likens the study of change to the development of the interdisciplinary field of neuroscience 25 years ago. “The intellectual community needs to take a look and see if there's something to this. The conference will be the forum for that to take place,” Bulmahn said.
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Contact: Bonnie Blankinship, Marketing and Communications, at 419-372-2618.
(Posted March 15, 2007 )