ALI (Authority, Leadership and Innovation) is the international Group Relations Conference that was held for the first time in Italy in 1998 in cooperation with the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust and the Cesma.
It is also known as the Seminario di Arona after the town where the first 12 editions took place; since 2010 it has taken place in Villa Cagnola (Gazzada), on the Lake of Varese.
Its structure, goals and theoretical references are consistent with the Group Relations Conferences method managed by the Tavistock Institute, known as Leicester Conferences, and by other organisations that in different countries belong to an international network informed by the Tavistock tradition.
ALI’s primary task is learning about leadership, authority and organisation and about the roles and conscious and unconscious processes underlying these dimensions that affect strongly the work activity.
ALI is a temporary training institution, where the residential situation creates the conditions to maximize learning from experience. By working and living together for 4 days the membership – between 24 and 60 – can understand the group, organisational and social dynamics that develop in the “here and now” with the help of the consultants.
Over the years hundreds of people coming from a great variety of contexts have taken part in the Conference. Both the membership and the staff group have different professional backgrounds and geographical origins. In the different editions British, Spanish, American, Israeli, Dutch, French, Swiss and Italian people have participated. The GRC have involved people working in the business world, the school, the university, the civil service, the socio-health services, the non-profit sector, in consultancy agencies and in religious institutions. The official language is Italian and English is the second language.
Since the first Conference in 1998 ALI’s design has changed, though not so radically. In the last editions some variations have been introduced, with an emphasis on the exploration between membership and staff and the introdction of new experiences, such as Social Dreaming. Also, in some of its editions the Conference has focused on different issues, depending on the emerging problems or emerging trends in the social and political contexts, such as the international turmoil, the conflict between competition and cooperation, the generational confrontation.
Over time the sponsorship has also changed. From the first editions, funded by the Cesma and the personal investments of the founders, with the Tavistock & Portman Trust guaranteeing the model, the Conference shifted to a more autonomous and “Mediterrenean” formula, up to the last editions that have been organized fully by Il Nodo group, with the Tavistock and the Cesma as cooperating bodies. Today the ALI Conference is part of the “Group relations” international network (see www.grouprelations.com) and is clearly becoming “the Italian formula of the Tavistock method”.
Even though it is not always easy to assess the learning prompted by the Conference, in general those who have participated in ALI are satisfied, because of the vital thinking stimuli they have received, and refer about changes in their life and about a different, more effective capacity to manage work and institutional dynamics.