Sharing and building Solution Focused practice in organisations

SOLWorld conference 2011 Hungary - personal reflections

This year saw the TENTH international SOLWorld conference!  It’s all come a long way from the initial plans of a few people (including me) in the Hatchet pub, Bristol in 2000 to hold a meeting for anyone interested in applying Solution Focused ideas to organisational work.

This year we were beside Lake Balaton, Hungary in the delightful setting of the Grand Hotel Anna.  Over 120 people from 23 countries gathered to share and build SF practice in organisations, including people from Greece and Uganda for the first time.  Remarkably the largest contingent was the Japanese, led as ever by Aoki-san, and it was so great to see old friends like Yoshida, Ponta, Masa, Ito and all the others.

Pre-conference workshops by Anton Stellamans and Liselotte Baeijaert (resiliance – their new book in English is out now), and Harry Korman (language use in SF – listen, select, build) set the scene.  This year’s special guest was Nora Bateson (youngest daughter of Gregory Bateson) who brought not only her excellent film An Ecology Of Mind ( but also her charming, enthusiastic and very smart presence to our midst.  We watched the film in the first plenary session, and it was marvellous to see Bateson’s ideas put back into circulation in the SF community.  For some this was their first experience to the British systems thinker, anthropologist and pioneer, and to have his daughter with us as a guide was fantastic.  Following the film there were two exploratory workshops and many conversations about what Bateson means to us now.

The second day main plenary was the Japanese case of Zacros – an organisation making medical packaging materials who have gone through a journey towards being an ‘SF-inside’ organisation.  Aoki-san shared the story with Peter Szabo facilitating, and it was remarkable to see video and audio material as Zacros went from learning SF to inventing their own tools to ‘just doing it’.  As this movement grows we are finding more cases like this one, where the journey can be seen over several years rather than a single initiative.   I hope this case will be written up soon in InterAction so that everyone can see it.

The standard and variety of workshops at these events continues to build and build.  I had some great learnings with Ito-san and his ‘positive PDCA cycle’ – such a simple idea and so useful – and Marika Tammeaid’s workshop on ‘empowering photography’ was an excellent and novel take on a different way to engage people abut how they seem themselves (and would like to see themselves).  The Open Space session had 25 offers and a rich menu for all!

My workshop on the last day went very well – a good crowd turned up and we talked about the philosophy of rutenso (see my previous blog at and narrative emergence (paper available for download at  The final plenary with Kirsten Dierolf was a splendidly constructed history of SOLWorld and the SF in mangement movement – highlights available soon.  Thanks go to Eniko, Kati and the Hungarian team for an excellent event. 

We left with promises to meet next year in Oxford, UK, where the 2012 conference will be held at Keble College from 6-8 September 2012 (note the different time of year).  Hope to see you there!

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