20 years of SOLWorld!
Celebrating with the community
Jan 2, 2023
What does SOLWorld stand for?
On the SOLWorld website we can read:
SOLWorld stands for Solutions in Organisations Link-up. The strap line is “Sharing and Building Solutions Focused practice in organisations”.
For us, sharing is the key word. The originators of the approach, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, have not trade marked their work. Indeed, the SF approach itself is based on collaboration.
It is important to us that SOLWorld retains this generosity of spirit and the collaborative ethos. No-one owns the Solutions in Organisations Link-up name. We do not favour a membership based organisation with the corresponding administrative costs and duties.
National or regional groups holding conferences under the SOLWorld umbrella subscribe to the following principles:
- Delegates are SF practitioners working primarily in organisational and business environments
- Their practice reflects SF ideas and principles
- SF ideas and principles belong to everyone
- SOLWorld conferences are designed with processes which exemplify the SF approach
- They encourage conversation and dialogue as well as formal presentations and workshops
- The distinction between audience and presenters is minimal: the audience is encouraged to participate and presenters are encouraged to join the audience for other presenters
- Presenters are expected to attend and participate in the whole event
- International conferences adhere to the same principles. We hope that different countries will volunteer to host the events.
The InterAction Collection Editorial team invited the SOL community to share some stories, fond memories and wonderful encounters to commemorate 20 years of SOLWorld. Here is a collection of what we have received so far:
The Origin of SOLWorld
The start of SOLWorld is such a long time ago 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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatchet_Inn,_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 http://solworld.ning.com/notes/SOL_Conference_2002, and photos at http://solworld.ning.com/notes/SOL_2002_Conference_Reflections.
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 (http://solworld.ning.com/notes/SOLWorld_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 (http://solworld.ning.com/notes/Past_SOLWorld_events - 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 http://solworld.org.
I hope that helps new members of the community to catch up, and the longer term old hands to remember the early days.
I have read your story with great interest and appreciation! Thank you very much for sharing.
And how did the candlestick tradition and ceremony come up?
Happy 20th anniversary to All, Victoria
Thanks for asking about the 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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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) http://solworld.ning.com/notes/SOL_2003_Conference_Photos. And here is the candlestick passing at the end of the 2019 conference http://solworld.org/photo/solworld-2019-passing-the-candle?context=latest.
Thank you Mark for the ‘origin story’. Not only was it good to read, it also reminded me that it was because of Peter Senge’s “SoL” that I found out about SOLWorld. In September of 2005, I attended a conference in Vienna, the Second SoL Global Forum put on by Senge and his associates. It was good and I enjoyed it.
In the spring of 2006 I googled “SoL Vienna” because I wanted to be reminded of the name of one of the presenters and, lo and behold, up popped SOL Vienna 2006, the upcoming solution focus conference in Vienna. I had just completed a certificate in SFBT with Heather Fiske in Toronto and I was really curious about SF applications in organizations. So I went and that was the beginning!
I have many wonderful personal memories and one which stands out is when I ran a workshop at SOL 2009 in Texel, with Loraine Kennedy and Lina Skantz, where we put people in cardboard boxes to help them think outside the box!
It was lots of fun. Participants ran with the exercise in all sorts of creative ways that were very meaningful. Impressive. A group of people, I can’t remember who, took the premise and turned it into a delightful act at the Saturday night cabaret.
Thanks to everyone for all your contributions to such an inspiring organization. Best wishes, Suzanne Canada
Thank you for bringing back some memories………
And yes, I remember 2005 was my first SOL Conference at Interlaken. I had the privilege of meeting all the pioneers of SF and of course Insoo Kim Berg. I witnessed the brilliance of SF with Peter Szabo and Insoo in action – the video on Brief Coaching, Ben Furman’s Twinstar and his famous Whinge hand and Wish hand. Got to meet Aoki-san for the first time too and so much more. After that, I never miss the Summer University….the best learning opportunity ever. Just so proud to be part of the SF community. The cabaret is my favourite talent show.
Also, I remember the story about Daniel Meier’s Team Coaching with the Solution Circle – “Hi Daniel, I ordered your book a long time ago, but still haven’t receive it. And Daniel: “I’m so sorry, I have not published it yet, but because you ordered it, I have no choice but to start writing it!” What a way to inspire yourself! 😊
Looking forward to the next SOLworld conference in 2023.
Simon Lee Managing Partner, BRIEF Academy
Wow, what a treat to hear all these stories. We hope this thread goes on with many more examples of great encounters, learnings, lovely memories, decisive moments in your SF “career”, etc.
Fyi: The SOLCandle is currently at our home in Switzerland. It came back to us from SOLWorldDACH2022 in May.
Have a wonderful day!
Elfie & Dominik
Many thanks Dominik for this prompt about our SOLWorld memories
It would be great to hear yours – not least because the Dominik and Elfie story is one of the many ripples that have come from SOLWorld:
- There have been professional and personal partnerships (and yours and Elfie’s is both as is Jesper and Kati’s); professional relationships are many, especially the long established Ilfaro and numerous partnerships for specific projects and clients;
- Much of the work by these partnerships has been captured in writing, for example on various websites (see SOLWorld and SFiO) and in the book Solutions Focus Working edited by Mark McKergow and me;
- There have been regional events like the Central European conference (in English with other languages represented), Scandinavian conference (also in English with other languages represented);
- The SOLWorld banner has spread beyond English speaking conferences, with events Denmark primarily in Danish, in German (DACH), and in Japanese J-SOL).
I have so many memories of my own – and things I love to be reminded of. After attending every SOLWorld international conference since 2002, and being closely involved in organising 3 of them, I have friends and working relationships all over the world. Like Daniel, my most immediate memories are of the social occasions, especially the cabaret. At the first conference in Bristol, we had paid entertainment, and then thought it would be much more in keeping with the ethos described in the Charter (http://solworld.ning.com/notes/SOLWorld_Charter ) to have entertainment by the people for the people. Ably compered by Paul Z Jackson since the very beginning, the cabarets have been a highlight, showing our SF colleagues in different and often surprising lights. I have enjoyed my own performances too, giving me the courage/incentive to perform on other platforms, singing, rapping and even stand up comedy. Oh – and becoming an honorary member of the J SOL girls, performing the frog song (Japanese words escape me) at a J-SOL conference cabaret. The SOLWorld cabaret has been model has been adopted by other conferences in the SF world.
Looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Vienna - https://www.solworld2023.at/ Jenny (aka the grumpy old woman)
Dear SFiO Team, thanks for remembering the 20years anniversity and inviting us to contribute.
Dear all, I am happy to read all your stories, follow your links and dive into the original history again 🙋♀️👍 It allows me to feel footsteps and heartprints of many people I have got to know over the last years.
My fond memories of our inspiring and caring community especially include people who are no longer with us. And the way how openly we deal with death and grief in such a large audience (the SOlworld list) is something very special. Sharing not only our successes but also questions, doubts and our vulnerability.
I will always remember how Mark informed the community via the list about Björns cancer and limited life perspective he and his family faced in summer 2014 (see https://sfworkblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/bjorn-johansson/) And how Mark reached out (of course after having gotten the approval of Björns wife Eva) to the community via e-mail and invited everybody to contribute to „Björns best summer ever“. This example of having the possibility of co-creating and contributing something to Björns last summer 2014in that summer encouraged me to do something similar within our family when it was clear that my father would die within a short time.
I mention Björns Story with the link above and more examples of SF friends and how they dealt with death and grief in my book which will be published in February. More information might come on the first-Tuesday-of the month possibility here on the list.
One more colleague who already passed away a long time ago was John Sproson. I keep a handwritten quote from him in my diary „A candle looses nothing when it lights another candle.“
Tonight I will light a candle and think of all of you. I’m grateful and feel blessed to be part of the community.
Deep bow, Julia
Feel free to continue adding your memories to the SOL list and we will gladly continue enriching this feature with your stories.