Sharing and building Solution Focused practice in organisations

History of SOLWorld

The start of SOLWorld is such a long time ago (20+ years) that it might be a good idea to tell again the ‘origin story’. 


Once upon a time there was the Bristol Solutions Group.  This started as a monthly public SF meeting in April 1994 with Harry Norman, Jenny Clarke and me. The group evolved into a closed peer supervision group around 1996 and met monthly, everyone bringing a difficult case for discussion.  Harry Norman and John Henden led the development of the SF Reflecting Team model in the group which we used at each meeting.


By late 2000 the group included Paul Z Jackson, Kate Hart, Ron Banks as well as Harry, John, Jenny and me. The group was in search of a ‘project’ to get more in touch with a wider SF audience. Paul and I were writing The Solutions Focus. We all met at The Hatchet in Bristol, allegedly the oldest pub in the city (,_Bristol) and Paul and I proposed a meeting/conference to celebrate the publication of the book. We suggested inviting anyone who was interested to come to Bristol in February 2002, more than a year ahead, to talk about SF work in organisations and the book. They were keen, and so we started out. (And this list, then called SOLUTIONS-L, was started by me at the same time. All the list postings are archived and available!)


We had the good sense/luck to book a hotel in the centre (Jury’s, now The Bristol Hotel) with an expandable meeting capacity. We called the meeting SOL 2002 (being the opening of ‘Solution’, and also the Latin for sun – the sun is still the SOLWorld logo, although updated later). The first person to book was Peter Szabo. We expected about 20 people, but 80 came, from nine countries including across the Atlantic (thank you Alan Kay and Mike Goran from Canada). A three day conference was planned and went very well – all who proposed workshops were given a slot, and every presenter was also involved in a keynote plenary session. You can still see the programme at, and photos at


At the end of the second day I was wondering how to continue the connections which were being formed. I put up a poster saying ‘How will it be at SOL 2003? – meet in the bar this evening’. A good group came, the steering group was formed, we agreed that SOL was (in Louis Cauffman’s words) a delicate plant which should not be moved too soon, and so some of the Bristol team agreed to do it again the following year. I wrote the SOL Charter ( and off we went. The next event was again in Bristol, before Michael Hjerth and a Swedish team took it to Stockholm in 2004. We passed the SOL candlestick to them, and it has been part of every SOLWorld event since (easier since the Japanese group made a lovely flight case for it!).


Since then there have been over 50 events under the SOLWorld banner ( - needs updating for the Summer Retreat 2022, note to self). Bravo to all the organisers, without whom there would be nothing.


And why did the name change from SOL to SOLWorld? People were confusing us with Peter Senge’s Society for Organisational Learning (also SOL)! I knew about them when we started but never dreamed we might rise to such prominence. And the website has always been


I hope that helps new members of the community to catch up, and the longer term old hands to remember the early days.

The SOLWorld Candlestick

The idea came to us in preparing for the second SOL conference in Bristol that it would be leaving the city and we wanted to give a connection to be passed on. I think the Olympics was one inspiration, they always pass on their flag. The candlestick is made from Bristol blue glass (, a heritage craft in the city since the 18th century and recently revived), and was hand made less than a mile from the sites of the first two conferences. With a candle in place it provides a visible sign of the spark and light of SF moving on from one place and group to the next.


You can see the candlestick making its first appearance at the end of the 2003 conference, with John Henden passing it to Michael Hjerth (last photo on the page) And here is the candlestick passing at the end of the 2019 conference

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