The Conference in the Hallways

By: Mark Forman

When we launched the Integral Theory Conference (ITC) in 2008, we wanted to create a platform where individuals and teams doing work in Integral Theory and application could present, dialogue, and engage in healthy debate. We also wanted to require a scholarly paper with each presentation, as traditional academic conferences do, as a way to help build up the literature in the field. With two conferences completed, and the third happening this summer, these purposes remain at the heart of the event.  

And yet, there is something I learned which I hadn't anticipated when the ITC began: It isn't only what happens in the presentations, workshops, or through the submitted scholarly papers that enlivens and animates the event. As my friend and colleague David Zeitler would later put it to me: "The real conference happens in the hallways."

Oftentimes the best experiences are sparked and the most important collaborations unfold during breaks, meals, and in the evening after the day’s events are officially over. The Integral “conference in the hallways” is a four-day immersion in an embodied intellectual climate like no other, where the unforeseen can emerge because of the unique quality of the people in attendance. One of this year’s presenters, Linda Berens – Founder of the Linda Berens Institute – put it this way in a communication to her peer group:

[The ITC] is THE place to be to connect with thought-leaders and experienced professionals who are concerned about solving some of the world’s largest problems in a way that honors the complexity of life and being human.

For me, this isn’t just an idea, but something I have experienced first-hand:

At the 2010 ITC, I attended a presentation offered by Toni Gregory and Michael Raffanti. It focused on their grounded research into the developmental trajectories of Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela - how both Malcolm and Mandela came to understand and engage diversity from advanced stages of understanding. Though I had been aware of Toni and Michael's initial work in Integral Diversity, this presentation struck me as extremely significant. Here they were, looking at two of the last century’s most important leaders, and showing how deeply congruent their achievements and insights fit within an integral-developmental framework.

As someone with a great interest in diversity issues as well, I approached them afterwards, expressed my appreciation, and struck up a conversation. I liked them both immediately. Later that day, they came to my presentation (also on diversity issues) and the conversation spilled over into the break. We sat outside JFK University, our former conference home, and started talking about what was needed to move the field of Integral Diversity forward, a field that had largely been neglected.

I don't know how long it took for someone to raise the idea of a book on Integral Diversity, but it wasn’t long. We planted a seed and a few months later Michael approached me with a strong intention and idea for how we could collaborate on a text. Two years later, after a terrifically enjoyable collaboration, we have a mature manuscript that is just a month or two away from the peer-review process. We have fifteen chapters by thirteen authors, covering a wide variety of diversity issues and applications, including two chapters based on the presentations we ourselves gave at ITC 2010. Further, about half of the authors are conference veterans – we learned about them, and they about us, through participating together at the event.  

Most importantly, we will soon have a book that we can give with confidence to professionals, graduate students, and to educated lay persons that will ground and catalyze the field of Integral Diversity. No other book on the topic currently exists. We expect the text – Integral Approaches to Diversity Dynamics: Exploring the Maturation of Diversity Theory and Practice – to be published in 2014.

There is no doubt in my mind that the book would not have materialized without the meeting space of the conference. The conference isn't only about the sharing of information or having a place for healthy debate; it is about finding your intellectual and professional peer group, making new friends, and following the threads of shared interest and excitement. It is about knowing an idea or project is right because you have the face-to-face experience to ground it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I would say that an in-person meeting is worth ten times that.

Come join us at the 2013 Integral Theory Conference in person; bring yourself, your skills, and your enthusiasm to the shared endeavor of building up the field of Integral Theory and its application. You can find out all about the conference right here:

  1. Keynote Speakers
  2. Pre-Conference Workshops schedule (plus abstracts & bios)
  3. Academic Presentations schedule (plus abstracts & bios)
  4. Post-Conference Workshop
  5. Register for the main conference

Panel Discussions and Poster Presentation announcements to come!


Sincerely yours,

Mark Forman, PhD
Conference Co-Founder and Organizer
Integral Theory Conference
MetaIntegral Foundation