Sunday, 17 November 2013

Relational Change Open Day: Starting A Fire…by Sue Gammons

On 4th November, Relational Change held their first open event, an invitation for anyone interested in Relationality to come along and explore this topic with Marie-Anne Chidiac, Sally Denham-Vaughan and Mark Fairfield.  Approximately 25 people gathered at the Ability Media Centre in London - some were therapists, others were working in organisations or with community groups, and all had an interest in how they could bring the importance of relationships into sharper focus in their work.

After some initial introductions, Marie-Anne, Sally and Mark each shared inspiring and moving stories of an aspect of their relational histories, how this informed their values and ultimately led to the formation of Relational Change. In small groups we then shared our stories, leading to identification of a personal value. We explored together what we were already doing to live this value and what more we were called to do.  We shared some of our most personal stories, many of which had rarely been shared before but heavily influenced our work today, and our resonances with others' stories.  In doing so, a community was forming, one where people talked of deep connections being made, trust developing and a place where they could find mutual support.

One participant on the day had the following to say:
"Thank you for a really inspiring and moving day.  I loved every minute of it and learned a great deal. It was a real privilege to work with [Sally, Marie-Anne and Mark] and your transparency and integrity.  It was also a delight to be with a group of such engaged people prepared to explore new ideas and exchange thoughts so deeply. People who want to be positively impactful through the way they live their lives, and who have so much to offer.

So I feel enhanced by the process and felt that I had really said “hello” - to those with whom I worked in triads especially - but in some way connected to everyone in the room because of the way that you held the day.  I love it when I leave a day reluctantly, knowing there is more to share, rather than wanting to pelt out of the door and get on with other things!"

Another said:
"Some words stayed with me yesterday which seemed supportive in keeping the fire tended until we are mustered again, at which point no doubt the fire will look after itself.  These were; stand up, my street, movement, called forth, passion, grass roots and turning the soil. I awoke with these words all around.

About ‘relational’ I thought it’s about something being exchanged, and me and the other being changed. Seems sort of obvious now ..."

The outcome of the day was the formation of three regional Community Action Networks, in the  southeast and southwest of England, and in Sweden. Community Action Networks (CANs) bring together people who share values and seek mutual support to make positive change in their neighbourhoods and community groups.  Participants of CANs (usually about 7 to 12 people) meet regularly to deepen their leadership capacity, brainstorm about what they want to change, and plan actions for positive change.

If anyone is interested in joining one of these CANs, please contact us. 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

CREATIVELY MOBILISING: Comments from our Practitioner Training

We recently ran the first part of our Practitioner Training and introduced participants to the importance of sharing values, gaining support and building connection when forming communities. Together with our partners at The Relational Center in California and Relational Matters in Australia, we refer to this educational curriculum as the ‘Relational Movement’. This blog features comment from one of the participants with responses from another participant, Lucy Chamberlin and course leader, Sally Denham-Vaughan.


Saturday, 6 July 2013

Being There: The Relational Change Community Day

Following the last meeting of the Relational Change Founding Community in London on June 24th, 2013, the usual ‘Action Notes’ were distributed. One of the attendees suggested that it could be helpful to offer more of a ‘felt-sense’ of what being at the meeting was like, (thanks to Shaun Whatling of our Advisory Group for the suggestion).

Clearly, a major reason for founding Relational Change was to try and establish a supportive and stimulating community, and the day was conducted in that spirit. Sue Gammons, (Advisory Group Member), provided a feedback from ‘The Relational Turn’ Conference at Esalen, and led an experiential enquiry focussing on individual passions that might be supported via membership of Relational Change. We also continued to discuss shared principles that form our organisational DNA.

We asked Mike Clark, (Advisory Group Member and non-Gestalt practitioner), to write a few words about his experience of the meeting. Very generously, Mike agreed, and here is what he wrote: we hope you find it interesting.

Being There: The Relational Change Community Day: June 24, 2013.

Starting a new, collaborative initiative is exciting, but also nerve-wracking.  Everyone comes along with some idea of what they are starting, but they cannot be concretely sure how it will turn out, nor how others feel and think about the ideas. 

As an outsider to the Gestalt world I had only a vague sense of what Relational Change (RC) was about but saw something in how it seemed to overlap with various social science ideas I had read about, plus I felt that it resonated with my sense of how people ought to act.  Others will have had more concrete ideas of what RC was or ought to be about.  They may have also needed a clearer idea than I to be able work out how it fitted with their worlds that were already full of Gestalt work.  Part of the beauty of a new endeavour like RC which is developed in the right spirit is that it can accommodate a broad range of ideas and needs and be mutually nourishing.

So, what was it like for me, with a career in research, to attend the last RC community day?  The enthusiasm of people is energising for me as I see their ideas and actions emerging to develop RC activities.  Various metaphors were used to help make sense of where RC is at.  The idea of a walk in the woods was used and extended and reinterpreted.  From a pleasant summer's afternoon stroll with friends to a fairy tale of scary monsters in the dark depths, the story evolved.  I was reminded of  the story supposedly written to win a bet that a fully formed story could be written in 6 words. The authorship is attributed to Hemmingway, but it probably pre-dated him. The story is:

 'For sale: baby shoes, never worn'. 

 Imagination and emotive connection - in abundance in this story and in RC meetings.

RC will forever remain in some sense evolving as people, ideas and situations emerge and interact to develop new endeavours.  This is part of the excitement - though nerves will jangle again at times.  But there is, and will remain, a sense of a core set of ideas and principles for RC to keep returning to.  This may not always be fully articulated in one 'constitution', but members will feel it and it will help to provide an overall sense of purpose and unity, and from which to develop new energies and ideas.

Mike Clark.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Living and Working within a Relational Frame

Can there ever be justification for truly barbaric acts?  The Woolwich brutal and sickening murder of a young soldier in the south of England this week reminds us that as a species we are capable of totally un-relational and unspeakable acts of destruction.   Hannah Arendt wrote of the ‘banality of evil’ and yet this murder seems all but banal or ordinary.  This was an intentional act, thought out and planned for maximum impact and media exposure. 

Is there any way we can understand the motivation of the killers within a relational frame?  

We could of course scrutinize their individual histories and backgrounds of the killers and find psychological problems, personal or political grievances as well as hardship that may lead them to that day.  But is that enough of an explanation?  Yes of course, being relational means taking account of the context or situation in which behaviour takes place but can we really relinquish our sense of agency and responsibility that has allowed many to overcome horrendous situations? 

What does it mean to be ‘relational’ and how does it support us in our lives as human beings?  

Come and join the conversation on this very topic at our low-cost Open Event on the 4th of November in London.  The day will be facilitated by Marie-Anne Chidiac, Sally Denham-Vaughan and Mark Fairfield

An International Movement for Relationality
Since March, we have a new partner organisation in Australia/New Zealand, called ‘Relational Matters’ and founded by Leanne O’Shea. Together with The Relational Centre and Relational Matters, we have linked up to start discussing ideas for an international relational movement, whereby we can explore the notion of relationality in different cultures and communities around the world. We are very aware that no ‘one-size’ of ‘Relational’ fits everyone, and are keen to promote a pluralism of ‘relational varieties’, fitted to supporting and sustaining both people and the planet in differing contexts.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Philosophy for better living

In searching for ways in which we can we learn more about relating, most of us turn to our personal experience.  It is after all our primary way of knowing and one that shapes our patterns of relating.    Beyond that however, modern society seems to rely mostly on social and psychological research to understand and shape our notions of collaboration, attachment and even love!  

Philosophical insights however provide further weight to the importance of relationships.    Despite Stephen Hawking assertion in his book ‘The Grand Design’ that philosophy is dead and that science is the new provider of answers to the "big questions", science has yet to capture the fullness of emotion and the complexity of relationship.   

Cicero says "that to study philosophy is nothing but to prepare one's self to die".   We also however feel that it enriches our lives and equips us to better live.   Heidegger for example coined the phrase “being-in-the-world-with-others” as an existential given of life whilst Sartre looked at it differently as “Hell is other people”… What did they mean and how does getting to grips with their way of viewing the world teach us how better to live today?  

Interested?  If yes, join us in our monthly philosophy reading/study group.  

The group will be facilitated by Marie-Anne and Sally.  We will start off reading some materials giving an introduction to philosophy and the work of phenomenologically orientated philosophers and discussing if/how the reading influences our work.  The group is suitable for coaches, psychotherapists, consultants and trainers and can be joined via Skype or in person in London or Malvern UK. No prior knowledge of philosophy is necessary.   Please call us to discuss this further and see if it will meet your interests/needs.  Both of us believe that studying philosophy has hugely enriched our practice and our lives and we'd like to share this with you.

Marie-Anne & Sally

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Welcome to Relational Change

First, a big thank you to all of you who have subscribed to our Relational Change mailing list and then patiently waited for our first communication- here it is! 

It has been an exciting start for Relational Change as our community has begun to form with a first meeting of associates, advisers and affiliated centres at the beginning of the month.  It was a wonderful moment to finally sense and feel the energy of 14 of us sitting together in one room in London and starting to co-create a future direction.  Thank you to all of us for travelling to London that day, some from as far away as Stockholm and Istanbul. There was great energy around specific projects that encourage and support relationality in various contexts and we will be sharing some of these with you as they form in the next few months. 

In the meantime, we are keen to keep growing our network of practitioners that work relationally be it as therapists, coaches, community builders, leaders, managers or consultants.  We are building a social movement together and hope to become a powerful voice for relational approaches and supportive, sustainable initiatives   We are planning to have an Open Event on the topic of relationality towards the end of the year, so watch this space!
Sally is currently out in California for 6 weeks, having been at the Esalen Couples Conference where there was a focus on developing Field-Relational thinking. It was a great opportunity to hear, and contribute to, latest thinking and also to share the news of our Relational Change community.  Folks were very inspired by what we are starting and some of the RC models that are currently awaiting publication.  We will post these on the website once they are in print.

We would also encourage those of you who might consider attending The Relational Turn Conference at Esalen in June. It is organised by our partners at The Relational Centre (TRC) in LA in collaboration with other key practitioners, and will also see the launch of our Australian partner, ‘Relational Matters’.  This will be an important moment as we become part of a more global possibility that we both with Mark Fairfield and Leanne O’Shea have worked hard to develop.
We would love to hear from you and your views on our vision, projects, website or anything else that might excite you around what we are doing (email us at  If you haven’t already, check out our latest changes to our website

Marie-Anne & Sally