October 17, 2008

Notes from the Field

Reflections on the Integral Theory Conference (2008) from Integral Leadership Review:

Russ Volckmann: A highlight of the conference for me was meeting Mark Edwards. I found him not only to be predictably brilliant, but warm and very present. His paper, Of Elephants and Butterflies: An Integral Metatheory for Organisational Transformation, is available on the conference CD. I do not know if there are plans to publish it elsewhere. Following some graphic humor of caterpillar transformation, Mark discussed the nature of metatheory and integral as a metatheory: “i) a metatheory for the study of organisational transformation, ii) a general method for performing metatheory building research, and iii) some evaluative comments on the metatheory building resource used in this research Ken Wilber’s AQAL framework.” But there are other metatheories to consider, as well, including some we are discussing in our dialogue for the last two years in Integral Leadership Review. Examples are social mediation and the work of Vgotsky (which he notes has never been addressed by Wilber), Bandura’s work on learning, systems dynamics and autopoiesis, alignment, stakeholder, decentering, evolution and the governance holarchy.

Edward Kelly: …while the conference was conducted in a very supportive manner, this did not preclude integral from being under the critical spotlight. This might have come as a surprise to some delegates butmayreflect the change from a small cult to a broader movement (as discussed by Roger Walsh). There was also a sense that this conference signaled that integral was developing two distinct strands: integral research on the one hand and integral life on the other. Integral research is spearheaded by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens and integral life by Robb Smith and the integral institute. Both are complimentary, but both are also different. The integral theory conference was primarily about the former, although Robb Smith used the conference as an opportunity to re-launch integral life.

Finally, sitting on the plane (getting some high altitude perspective) I wonder whether I will return for the second biannual integral theory conference in two years time and whether I would encourage others to do likewise? Given all things being equal I will return in 2010 and in the meantime would encourage others interested in integral research to consider doing likewise. Overall the quality of the papers was very high, the presentations very engaging and the welcome and hospitality of the organisers (including all the staff at JFKU and volunteers) was wonderful.

Gayle Karen Young: It is undeniable that seeds bore many fruits in this conference. The intellectual horsepower was awe-inspiring. Behind the papers, the rigor, the numbers, and the abstracts were the stories of love—love of truth, love of beauty, love of people and the more-than-human world. We move through these multiple worlds, and frequently other worlds get reduced to the merely tangible. While papers, posters, panels, and presentations formed much of the tangible structural spine for the conference, they also formed windows into personal and then collective stories of tenacity and courage, of descents into the ambiguous and into uncharted territories.

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