We are going to have an experiential event this afternoon, what we call an 'as if', 'as if you are in an IPN group', but before that, since about half the group are newcomers and roughly half are IPN participants, I thought that for the newcomers I'd set some context, give some background.
I'm going to speak from two positions, the first of which is my enthusiasm. And secondly I'll give some specifics about IPN.
First, to speak from my enthusiasm for IPN. I am an IPN enthusiast, it has been one of the great delights of my life in the last ten years, an extraordinary thing, to be in a community, a national community of people who are in touch but who are not in each other's pockets. And to be in a small group of seven people who have increasingly got to know each other intimately and yet who can speak the unspeakable if they need to, and do so from time to time, plus giving support and challenge from a group that meets every five or six weeks for half a day.
So I'm an enthusiast and I want to start from that point.
For a long time I had an ambition, how could spirituality, psychology and politics be somehow put in the same place? So that for me, leaving aside the rest of the world... how could they be not just something to be wondered about, not just ideas out there, how could they be integrated into the life? And one of the things that came out of my participation in IPN was the notion, that the integrating factor is love. Love is the factor that integrates those things. Not just love as an idea but living-from-love. Finding ways of living-from-love. Love being defined as: seeking the flourishing of others. Mutual flourishing - in the light of my flourishing, our flourishing. This is a life task, as I think you'll appreciate, something that we take on.
As I continued with this notion of living from love, it became clear to me that IPN is working-from-love. There are various versions of this, and of course we all fall off the perch from time to time and have to find ways of getting back onto it. But IPN is a way of working-from-love.
So that's the first of my three enthusiasms. Now the thing about living-from-love is of course it could be just a wishy washy notion, all very nice, a life style form. It needs to be grounded in something specific and practical, and where these three things (spirituality, politics and psychology) came together was through my twenty years of connection with the practice of Action Research, in particular the variant of it that some people may know, Cooperative Inquiry.
Cooperative Inquiry is a way of doing research, serious, rigorous, entirely adequate research, with people, as opposed to the research, which as far as I can see is done most of the time, research on people. It's participatory research. There are various other names for it that people use but the cooperative inquiry way of handling it is the one I know well.
Cooperative inquiry grounds living-from-love through an iterative, recurring cycle of checking out whether we are following the initial intentions and asking, what are we avoiding? What might be missing here? What's overheating? What's being neglected? Etc etc.
It might seem surprising to some of the IPN people here but I see IPN, the whole of IPN, as Action Research, a huge action research event. It's a form of research the outcome of which is accountability. Cooperative inquiry doesn't necessarily produce papers or articles that you can put on your Research Assessment Exercise, but rather, often quite unpredictably, it focuses on outcomes that the participants are seeking. In that sense IPN is a form of cooperative enquiry devoted to continuing civic accountability.
But as we heard this morning, as soon as we get into practical cooperation, you are brought up against power and to some extent politics. How is power shared, or not shared? Who holds it, who gives it away? And that's been the third of my enthusiasms, IPN is a piece of politics, IPN is intrinsically political, in the sense that everywhere in IPN people are aware of the distribution of power, of whether and how power is being held, where it is being given away, where it is being abused. Are we trying to insist? Are we insisting on something, or are we looking for something to happen, to connect, to unfold?
So I'd invite you to see being part of IPN as being a political statement, intrinsically a political statement.
It has provided for me a wonderful vantage point from which to study the institutional arrangements in the main psychotherapy and counselling accrediting bodies. It provides a sort of bench mark of accountability, from which to look at them, and indeed IPN was formed out of resistance to the mainstream accrediting bodies who do power, some of us think, very badly, I mean there is the extraordinary… absolutely astonishing incongruence between the institutional arrangements and what practitioners will do in the therapy room… quite extraordinary. The mismatch has continued and some of us have pointed this out quite diligently.
I'm not going to go on about this but I could… Because published today… Regulating the Psychological Therapies - From Taxonomy to Taxidermy, and as you'll see from the cover graphic 'mapped', i.e. the BACP/UKCP mapping exercise, 'measured'… i.e. the Skills for Health competencies that everyone has been asked to fill in… 'captured'… the HPC cage is being built, leading to the is the last of these… stuffed. From my perspective this is how it looks.
So I'd want to argue that part of the value of IPN lies in its values congruence, we may have all sorts of limitations and not yet have that much of a face out into the world, but we do have values congruence; it is lived and organized, in place.
Which brings me to my last point, a point of difficulty, because I couldn't really get on to this word democracy. I mean democracy to me is something that is long past its sell by date. We of course should think that democracy is a good idea, we should think so but actually the way it plays out is very, very poor.
And then… doing the leaflet… it clicked. IPN is living, walking, and talking democracy. This how democracy can be done. IPN as institution is doing democracy. That's my assertion, you may not find it so, but that's one of our achievements and I believe it is quite exemplary, something other institutions could adopt.
Now for the newcomers to IPN, some specifics.
The IPN culture.
It is important to see IPN as a culture… a minimum set of agreements that enable us to determine for ourselves as competent, educated persons, how we hold civic accountability to clients.
IPN makes no distinction between more or less qualified or 'registered' members, since we recognise that there are many routes to being a good practitioner. The structure is horizontal and multi-centred rather than vertical and pyramidal. Our aim is to provide intending clients with a context of basic security within which they can make their own decisions about which practitioner is valuable for them. Rather than using a central code of practice, each peer group creates and circulates its own.
IPN is a network of groups, autonomous groups. There is no individual membership of IPN, only group membership, but you can be an IPN 'participant', you can sign up to be part of the IPN culture until you find or create a group for yourself.
The primary task of an IPN group is to get to know each other well enough so as to be able to stand by each others work-to publish a group ethical statement to the network-and to find two other link groups that will validate your group process.
IPN culture is a mix of cooperation, self-direction and self-responsibility. If you want something to happen, you take the initiative, IPN consists almost entirely of local initiatives. This conference is an excellent example of that.
IPN doesn't train anyone. It has no premises, no administration as such, no board of directors.
But we do have Gatherings three times a year, where the IPN people who show up meet 'as if' we are, for the moment, the network. And we take decisions up to a certain level, it is usually fairly obvious what can be decided by such a group and what has to be more widely discussed by the network via the NetCom newsletter and ratified at future gatherings.
for more details see the IPN website