Diamonds, dust and coordinated management of meaning

I went to the one day Aspens conference on Monday. Aspens is a group within the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice for systemic therapists working outside the statutory sector e.g. independent therapists, those working in charities etc. What struck me reflecting on it afterwards is that I have taken away learning at several different levels.

1. I was involved in organising the meeting – so I have learned about aspects of organising and running a meeting, including:

  • We didn’t really think in advance about environmental factors including temperature, background noise and yet they had a considerable impact on people’s participation and enjoyment.
  • I helped with AV support and hadn’t anticipated that the speaker would bring an encrypted memory stick and an encrypted Trust laptop – next time I must ask for the presentation to be emailed in advance!
  • Feedback – two participants can feed back completely opposing views on one aspect of the meeting. How do we make sense of this is reviewing the meeting afterwards?
  • If people leave at lunchtime do we accept that as inevitable or do we try to find ways to encourage them to stay all day. It’s sad that they miss out on part of the programme but maybe it means that the people who do stay have an even better experience.

2. We left time in the programme for networking. Some people may think that this is just an excuse to meet and chat, but for me it’s so important to find out what other people are doing and share experiences. The meeting reinforced my belief that meeting people and sharing ideas/ experiences is probably the most important part of a conference/ workshop. It’s too soon to tell for sure, but I think I’ve made some helpful connections that will both be supportive and help me develop my practice in the future.

3. Another aspect I have learned about is presentation and exercises. There was one particular exercise that I might want to use myself (with due credit to the meeting presenter of course!) Our presenter was flexible and used his presentation as a resource that he could draw on depending on how the meeting went, deciding on direction as he went along. I really like that model.

4. As a participant myself I took away some important points to remember:

  • We learn from dust (maybe at least as much as diamonds) – I can’t be the only person who learns a lot from seeing what doesn’t work, however:
  • I’m better at thinking what I didn’t do well (or need to do differently) rather than what I do well or should do more of. I need to try to do both.
  • The title – diamonds and dust – reminded me that someone once told me that supervision is shining a light in dark places – I really like this idea – isn’t therapy the same? Maybe we can think of continuing professional development in that way too.

For anyone who hasn’t come across CMM (coordinated management of meaning), I think it fits well with thinking about learning at different levels. See this link for a Pearce Associates Seminar from 1999 on Using CMM “The coordinated management of meaning”, especially p. 35-36 on hierarchies of meaning.

And a final quotation just because I like it:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

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