WHERE DO WE COME FROM?
In AMED, we have been engaging in an extended period of heart-searching over the nature of possible futures for ourselves and others. The Autumn/Winter 2017 edition of e-O&P asked the question ‘AMED 2020: What do you see?’ Adopting an Appreciative Inquiry approach, this initiated a continuing series of co-inquiries into AMED’s future, including a seminal workshop in April 2018 on the theme of ‘Re-imagining AMED 2020: To be or not to be?’ facilitated by Tony Page.
The Spring/Summer 2020 edition of e-O&P illustrated the forces that are clamouring for – whilst perhaps sometimes dulling – our attention (e-O&P, Spring/Summer 2020). These include the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘Me Too’ and other protest movements, mass migrations, Brexit and its consequences, and other devastations arising from natural disasters and inter-human conflict.
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
Against this heavy backdrop, there are nevertheless hopeful signs of energy and support for both continuing to develop certain existing activities, and for resourcing and experimenting with fresh initiatives. We see new, more radical initiatives for refreshing and re-energising personal, management and organisational learning and development in and beyond lockdown. What might ‘a new normal’ look like? What can we do to realise a better, fairer world? How can we discover and sustain the search for fresh horizons?
An emergent development in our efforts to revitalise and resource AMED’s societal contribution, and to engage with a more diverse, intergenerational community, has been the formation of an AMED 2020 Hosting Team, to work alongside – and overlap with – AMED Council. In recent years, we have also been making greater use of internet technology and social media, for example using telephone conference calls, then Skype and – since 2019 – Zoom, to hold Council meetings. Since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, when in-person meetings have been virtually impossible, faute de mieux we have been taking advantage of Zoom to host virtual workshops and enable connections with and between our membership and supporters as well. Generally speaking, reflecting trends in wider society, technology is playing a more significant role in our interactions, to help us address questions such as those raised in Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian triptych: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
SEEDS OF CHANGE?
During our co-inquiries, we have been paying attention to two perspectives on change and anticipated change in particular. From different angles, each perspective proposes that, whilst change initiatives may have fairly immediate organisational effects, their human impact often has longer-term, unpredictable or unimagined consequences. William Bridges (2020) identifies three common phases of transition through change. These phases are endings, new beginnings, and an intervening neutral zone, where personal certainty is temporarily lost (if it ever existed in the first place). Sharpe’s (2020) complementary idea of Three Horizons, helpfully summarised by Curry (2015), invites us to trust that seeds of a future potential are already germinating under the apparently arid surface. Rowena Davis’s article in this edition elaborates on these two concepts.
WHAT ARE WE?
Given this context, as edition co-editors, and in conjunction with e-O&P’s design and production editor David McAra, we have been collaborating with authors and each other as critical friends. We invited prospective authors to share in writing and conversation their experiences, plans, reflections and ideas concerning their own and AMED’s senses of purpose and identity – their perspectives on ‘Fresh Horizons’. In this edition, contributors consider how change affects, or might affect, themselves and the groups and individuals they identify with. To encourage them in this project, we invited anyone who was interested to engage with us in two optional, facilitated support sessions for writers and critical friends. These gatherings afforded a rare chance, via Zoom, to surface, share, refine and enhance ideas, issues and practices in the formative stages of drafting contributions and/or in developing critical friendships, and to raise and answer questions about the editing and publication process for e-O&P.
CRITICAL FRIENDSHIPS IN WRITING AND EDITING
As we understand them, critical friendships (MacKenzie 2015) are generous, well-intentioned, broadly democratic interactions, with some similarities to action learning. When such relationships work well, critical friends can raise and address emerging issues of concern within a small, temporary community of writing practice, help to overcome any writing anxieties, and gain validation for provisional ideas. Critical friendship supports a range of writing, formats and diverse interests, and enables contributors to relate their experience and ideas to the wider field, context, individuals and communities that matter to them. In doing so, we hope you’ll agree that contributors to this edition have written thoughtfully and well in service of their readers and themselves, and have taken every opportunity to engage in – and express – creative and critical thinking. They have done so in the spirit of developers of any persuasion who themselves embrace change, whilst at the same time helping others also to move, adapt and affect change within their external and internal worlds. Through this reflexive and reflective process, they are paying attention to their own and their stakeholders’ transformation and purpose.
Mindful that people, artefacts and phenomena resist attempts to straitjacket them in narrow categories, for the sake of convenience, we have nevertheless arranged the contributions in this edition in a sequence that might be construed as forming a trajectory that broadly arcs – if zigzag – through past, present and future orientations.
Tom Boydell’s reflections on AMED’s genesis within the Association of Teachers of Management (ATM) and subsequent 25 years of existence in the arena of management education provide an invaluable – initially retrospective – perspective, which nonetheless has resonances for AMED in 2021 and beyond.
It serves to anchor our deliberations in AMED’s origins and early development. Tom does not pretend to offer a comprehensive history, but what he has surfaced is a fascinating collection of memories, dreams and reflections. These give us an invaluable insight into our origins, and helps to demonstrate how AMED has been emerging and transitioning over time to become what it is today. It also hints at what AMED might become in future. His piece is a fascinating recollection of the pre-AMED and early AMED period, and serves as a launch pad for imagining fresh horizons for AMED.
Tom’s article is followed by a cluster of stories grounded in more recent timescales and experiences. Rowena Davis writes about dealing with and rising above the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic by – after initial hesitations – embracing technology in her professional development practice. She explains how, by making a concerted change to digital working whilst keeping in touch with her feelings, she has also been able to make life-changing personal decisions about how and where she lives. Rod Woodhouse shows how he and Andy Millington have developed a digital community in the form of a webinar series dedicated to wellbeing for students who are caught up in a pandemic see-saw of change in academic and personal life. This is an example of experiential learning and development at its best, crafted within a strong ethos of critical friendship. Andy Millington’s is a moving account of giving and receiving critical friendship whilst co-facilitating this webinar series and supporting Rod in writing his article for this journal. Andy also introduces a method of contemplating art and metaphors as ways of enriching our understanding of critical friendship at work.
In dialogue form, David and John Sweet illustrate how a Maltese English language school’s business has been able to survive of necessity through ingenuity and diversification. At the same time, their joint efforts exemplify the practice of critical friendship between a father and son. As director of studies, David tells how the pandemic, and multicultural issues, have had a direct impact in his life and on those around him. Their narrative also shows how a collaborative approach has been the essential formula for making rapid radical change in adopting a technology-based approach to distance learning approach, made necessary by the requirement to teach and learn within the constraints of social distancing.
The final group of five articles, reinforced by other AMED initiatives mentioned in the subsequent Forthcoming Events section, show glimpses of, and possibilities for, better things to come. Steve Dilworth and Jeremy Keeley hold out the prospect of personal and organisational horizons refreshed by honouring reflection, genius and love (a word rarely found in the lexicon of management and organisational learning and development), and through a process of co-authoring and co-creation. For them, their longstanding critical friendship is an embodiment of love at work in ‘What next for e-O&P?’
David McAra’s insider account makes the case for a thorough review and overhaul of e-O&P’s production and design, and of AMED’s publication and communications capacity more generally. He invites – indeed urges – offers from fresh, contemporary talent to make a contribution to this aspiration. As a companion piece to David’s, Bob MacKenzie traces his evolving practice as commissioning editor of e-O&P, and echoes David’s call for a fresh generation, well versed in the ways of this digital age, to form the nucleus of AMED’s editorial team.
In the last article in this edition, Sam Hirst’s Gothic Guide draws vividly and intriguingly from their own experiences, skills and interests in breaking new ground in teaching, learning and sharing online. They show how precarious academics and practitioners in other fields can set an independent course towards new horizons, even in the most difficult circumstances. With awesome energy and inventiveness, taking advantage of the latest internet and social media developments, Sam’s exemplary approach and practice has much to teach and inspire other freelancers and networks – including AMED – as they experiment with sustainable innovation.
FRESH HORIZONS: PROSPECTS FOR 2021 AND BEYOND
In his BBC 2020 Reith Lectures, former Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney has identified three significant global ‘C’ crises – those of credit, Covid and climate. This edition of e-O&P forms part of a wider set of initiatives to identify and establish AMED’s relevance and contribution in the world beyond 2020. We hope that the energy, ideas and examples generated by pre- and post-publication conversations associated with the articles in this collection, combined with our 2021 Forthcoming Events, will have some positive effect. Other strands of this Fresh Horizons project include the Race and Climate workshops within our Exploring Urgent Social Issues workshop series, the Spring/Summer 2021 edition of e-O&P on ‘Living with catastrophe: re-thinking survival as every day practice’, guest edited by our young generation artists Erica Piasecka and Fizza Hasan, and the Autumn/Winter 2021 edition of e-O&P, on the theme of ‘doing things that matter’, guest edited by Tom Boydell and Mike Pedler. The active involvement of Tom and Mike provides some continuity from their lived experience of AMED’s pioneering days, whilst connecting with urgent proposals for a braver, more equitable new world.
Despite the ambient gloom, the contributors to this edition give us reasons to be hopeful. We look forward to welcoming a younger, more diverse range of members to the AMED community, and we’ll do all we can to support their initiatives, energies and talents in progressively taking over the reins. With all eyes fixed firmly upon fresh horizons, we are confident that AMED and other like-minded networks can continue to make a contribution to a better, fairer, more sustainable future.
Bridges, W. & Bridges, S. ‘Bridges Transition Model’. https://wmbridges.com/about/what-is-transition/, accessed 25.6.20
Curry, A. (2015: 11-13). Searching for systems: understanding Three Horizons. APF Compass. January. Reproduced by Triarchy Press at https://www.triarchypress.net/three-horizons.html, accessed 25.6.20
Earthrise as seen from Moon Orbit. Apollo 8, December 24, 1968. Photo: NASA http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/history/apollo/apollo-8/images/68HC870.GIF
Paul Gaugin Triptych (1897-98). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_Gauguin_-_D%27ou_venons-nous.jpg
MacKenzie, B. and D. McAra [Eds]. (2020). Transitioning through turbulent times. e-Organisations and People, Vol 27, Nos 1/2, Spring/Summer.
MacKenzie, B. (2015). Critical friendships for coaching and mentoring in writing. e-Organisations and People, Vol 22, No 1, pp: 42-51. Spring
Sharpe, B. (2020). Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope. 2nd edn. Triarchy Press. https://www.triarchypress.net/three-horizons.html.
In addition to the authors who appear in this edition, we would like to thank and honour the essential contributions behind the scenes of David McAra, long-standing (and long-suffering) design and production editor of e-O&P, and Linda Williams, AMED’s Office Administrator, who manages pre- and post-publication social media so efficiently. Any errors in fact, interpretation or omission are ours alone.
ABOUT THE EDITION EDITORS
John is interested in change and transition, and in how direction and orientation can be achieved through Journaling. Also, in how other forms of reflective practice can make lives more appreciative and more joyous.
Bob is commissioning editor of e-O&P and convenor of the AMED Writers’ Group. He is also Visiting Professor at the University of Chichester. Bob’s abiding interest is in the potential of writing, editing and conversation, interacting, to foster personal, organisational and societal learning and development in service of humanity.