Groupwork Centre Blog

The course that changes lives

As we prepare for our next intake in the advanced program of group facilitation, we’ve been thinking about what this six-month course offers and why so many of our graduates refer to it as “life-changing”.

That’s a big call, we know. It’s best summed up by a participant in our first intake in 2001, Victorian Greens senator Janet Rice, who explains in a video clip on the course webpage how the advanced program has influenced her as a facilitator, politician and activist.

“It changed my life,” Janet says. “It opened me up to a whole different way of engaging with people.”

Last year, we revised our vision at Groupwork Centre to embrace this transformation we regard as essential as we face the upheaval of the meta-crises we find ourselves in. As facilitators, we see the disconnect and trauma being played out in communities. Providing some tools to help people work through this has become a big part of our work.

Like Janet, we wanted to acknowledge the life-changing nature of our work not just on our clients and business partners, but on us too. All our facilitators are graduates of this course, developed by our co-founder Glen Ochre.


Here’s our new vision:


Our vision is a world transformed by conscious collaboration

  • We dream of a life nourishing world for all
  • We believe groups have the capacity to change the world for the better
  • We are alive to the challenges of the times we are living in, defined by unprecedented change, upheaval and uncertainty
  • We work where our services have the greatest influence and the most impact


Our challenging times

Being “alive to the challenges of the times we are in” was a big step for us. It means we no longer accept that “neutrality” or sitting on the sidelines of big and divisive issues is always productive or helpful. We’ve deliberately stood up and placed ourselves in the vanguard of the change we so strongly believe in. 


This doesn’t mean we feel a need to take sides. More often it means we have to listen more, say less, and work through challenging issues for the benefit of all.  


Sitting alongside our vision are our values of awareness, equity and connection. These represent the three spheres that we all operate in, knowingly or unknowingly: the personal (our awareness of ourselves and others), the political / structural (the systems and institutions that govern our lives) and the spiritual (our connection with others). 


Together, these headline elements of our strategic narrative guide our work as conscious collaborators. They underpin our advanced program too. 


From despondency to delight

Which brings us back to the challenging times we are in. We all feel overwhelmed at times because the outlook is grim, whichever way you look. A heating planet burned by bushfires, devastated by storms and floods, coupled with war, food insecurity and a housing crisis. Little wonder there’s growing distrust in public institutions, disinterest in government and disillusion with big business. 


Part of our despondency is the realisation that this global meltdown is our own creation. We know the way we live and work – and how we treat our beautiful planet – is choking the very life out of us. But so far, all we’ve managed to do is tinker at the edges of the problem, with little impact. Solar panels aren’t shifting the dial while we’re still mining coal.  


And yet out of this chaos, which theorists refer to as “systems collapse”, alternatives to the status quo are beginning to emerge. Small dynamic “islands of cohesion” fired by genuine collaboration are influencing others and forming alternative networks that bypass or displace outmoded institutions.


German author Otto Scharmer, who leads the Presencing Institute at MIT in the US, developed Theory U as a tool for understanding the causes and the solutions to the global collapse. Theory U says the systems change we need will be driven by the creativity and imagination of our species. These unique tools we humans are born with can’t be harnessed by AI and the digital environment. That’s two big plusses. 


Shifting the energy

One of the great attributes of Theory U is that it allows us to see ourselves in a different light: as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. This can shift our energy from despondency to delight. And that in itself is no small thing. 


At a group level, we see magic happening when we collaborate effectively, when we take time to listen and hear each other, when we value all living creatures for themselves and the wonder they bring us, and not how much money they might be worth. 


Systems theory, with its emphasis on the drivers of cause and effect, and an understanding that chaos, collapse and regeneration are remarkably common and navigable, aligns with our approach to collaboration. 


We need to “sit in the fire” of conflict and chaos to feel the heat, observe it, understand it and work through it together. We get better at it the more we do it. The feeling this generates of belonging and being part of something greater than ourselves is undeniably transformative.


Further details of the course can be found here.

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