Race in a Global World: Leadership, Organizations and __________

Gagandeep Singh
8 min readFeb 27, 2024


Offering some of my experiences

Many moons ago, Dr. Patrick Jean Pierre invited me to join him on a journey to explore race relations and collective humanity, within a global and virtual group relations conference — he stated this opportunity to work on race in an email as a ‘divine intervention’, as he painstakingly persevered to build a staff comprising of consultants from all parts of the globe — from Australia, Africa, China, South America, Europe, Central Asia, and India.

The virtual group relations conference on Race, was supported and organized by New York GRC and I am really grateful for their support.

Our journey began several months ago and culminated into a crescendo of intensity and inner dialogue for me a couple of days ago, as we worked on US time zones with a very large membership of 50 plus members. All of us on the staff were delighted to see an equally diverse community of members coming in from all parts of the globe.

In ways more than one, this conference was a first for me and lived up to Patrick’s claim of ‘divine intervention’, and this blog speaks of my inner struggles and my insights as opposed to a commentary or description of a four-day event.

Part 1

Racial Identity: What does it mean to me?

As a preparation for this conference on race and race relations, I had to do some work with myself on my racial identity and this meant realizing:

My younger brother many years ago had his ancestry DNA testing done, and the results were quite hilarious — the test results spoke of many a racial gene — from the Nordic gene, Central Asian ancestry, a touch of Tibetan Mongoloid here and there, the odd Oriental Mediterranean gene, and of course the overwhelming Brachycephalics, behind the name of Indo-Aryans.

The test was hilarious for racial identity seemed to offer little for me — it was a ‘khichdi’ (a messy yet delicious concoction) that offered perhaps a glimpse of my ancestry burdened and ridden with consequences of migration, cross-pollination out of love and violence, and an ambivalence to the notion of ‘purity’.

The ambivalence was always there — from being seen as an outsider or alien in my own country — in the form of relentless ragging in school, to choosing a profession that allows me to relentlessly travel as a nomad, and experiencing a certain envy of those who could hold on to a more ‘real and crystallized’ racial identity. It was only later when I honoured and dignified the identity of a shape-shifter when things fell in place.

The Conference allowed me a certain ebb and flow as I worked with myself, my colleagues, and the membership on how race and racial identity got deployed consciously and unconsciously as a ‘scaffolding’, as a ‘prison’, as an ‘island within an archipelago’ amongst other emergent forms by all of us.

Part 2

Race and Race Relations: My experience of the Group Relations Conference

Group Relations Conferences have always triggered the seeker within me — and in ways more than one, the conference yields many a treasure that one excitedly witnesses within and around. These come in the form of dreams offered or large system processes or institutional events. Yet along with this intense experience of being like an Alladin in the magical cave of treasures, comes the cold pragmatics of choosing one or two priceless insights and emerging unscathed.

By the way, the Alladin story was set in ancient China and not in the middle-east as many would like us to believe.

From True Detective Series 1

Before the magical experience wanes away, and the spiral disappears, here are some of my treasures:

Race and Race Relations: Discerning the scaffolding from the stereotyping

The four days meant navigating the bloody trenches of stereotypes that get projected on racial groups, and yet discovering that the race identity can also be a scaffolding for dialogue and discovery. The trenches were full of loathing and hate and yet the scaffolding also offered members of the same race to experience some togetherness to explore the baggage we carry.

While the homogenous spaces created in the conference allowed others to explore the pathos and guilt of being the coloniser or the shame of being the oppressed or the relentless process of losing one’s voice, the conference brought alive a certain sorrow of being ‘unanchored and orphaned’ on this front for me. While many of the Indians worked with the patterns of self-hate that accompanied their industrious efforts to conform and be a part of the global society, I had to acknowledge and work with my sorrow of being the mixed race and discover my own scaffolding — this was supported by my colleagues in the staff.

Race and Race Relations: Islands & Prisons with No Visitation

The Group Relations Conference as a part of the design have an institutional event where members created their own subsystems and explore what the sub-system stands for, and how then this theme reverberates and resonates with the emerging institution across a period of time — the staff gets allocated to enable these discoveries in the form of management and consultants.

The institutional event was titled as EPE or emerging possibilities event and the virtual conference experience was richer — for it allowed the community to coalesce together on emerging themes that needed dialogue and exploration. In this conference, the archipelago of the institutional system got built around intra-race and inter-race themes and the design allowed me to access many such islands that members co-created.

Building on the archipelago metaphor, there were islands or spaces that offered a deep sense of connect and cathect where race played a role. The EPE was a gift for it offered a glimpse of multiple spaces — some of these were central where members worked with hope, with compassion, with unconditional belonging, and some that became like ‘sanctuaries’.

There was a space that dwelt with intense sorrow and guilt of being a choiceless spectator to violence and racism and yet paradoxically became an island that was rarely visited by others. There was a space of viscerally experiencing of being hated, exiled, and excluded and sentenced to a prison.

It was the sanctuaries of deep sorrow and carrying the hate that troubled me — I discovered my own self-indulgences of wanting hate and wanting sorrow and the disquieting disconnect from a larger world. There was both an impatience within and a dryness with which I look at guilt, shame and derision.

Race and Race Relations: Hope

For all the desultory experiences of working with race, there was also ‘Hope’ that energizes me for this kind of work. As often is the case, the hope emerges at the threshold of closure of the GRC..

I was deeply touched and moved by how a member approached me in the closing minutes and spoke of an immense struggle to be confronted on and to work with a clannish / tribalistic mindset. As he owned up his struggles and his blindness to what a racial identity imparts — I could not held tearing up and discovering what this work offered on race-relations — a certain sense of what it means to be human.

Some other thoughts

This conference on Race Relations was special to me for many reasons.

This was the first virtual conference that I have been a part of — working on US timings was challenging — but I think this platform has much to offer despite its constraints and its demands. I am still mulling over the virtuosity of being virtual but was witness to some intense work put in by all of us around the globe. Time boundaries were adhered to and it was surreal to be in India and yet be a part of this conference.

As a GRC practitioner, we were superbly held by a great team of conference administrators, who invested into creating a structure that created good work. Led by Viddhi, Fred, and Brinda, — this was perhaps the first time for me when there were no hierarchies that got created in the mind between the administrators and the consultants. I agree with Patrick’s claim that he had the best team of administrators — who brought in creativity, structure, and a sense of no-anxieties, by leveraging technology in this conference. The logo of the conference for example has been generated through AI.

This was the first time I worked with Patrick as the Conference Director, and who combined well with Eliat Aram as the associate director — he held his ground with all of us. He brought in compassion, humour, humility, and a willingness to learn from failure and escape the dysfunctionalities of perfectionism. I can of course lament that the conference did not allow for some time to mingle with him as the ‘brother’ in our earlier GRCs, but his leadership as the Director was a gift.

After many IFSI conferences in the earlier decade, this was the first time I worked with a staff where I was the only Indian citizen — the experience of working with my colleagues was joyful, wondrous, and immensely gratifying for me.

I am hoping that Race is offered again by Patrick and New York Group Relations Center — it is an experience that is undeniably rich. I hope that the next time, Indians join in as a community of members — for the Indian Racial identity (if there is such an identity) deserves some working with.

Race Relations — The EUM Perspective

Lastly, one of my colleagues — Monica Velarde, brought in Ashok Malhotra — reminiscing of her experience of working in India with him — and this blog merits a EUMian perspective.

Ashok Malhotra — a teacher and a colleague speaks of two universes that co-exist within us — the tribalistic identity (Universe of Belonging and Protections) that would use Race as a crucible for safety and belonging, and the identity of being human and discovering a touch and relatedness beyond race (Universe of Meaningfulness and Intimacy) in his framework.

This conference reminded me of how it difficult and yet exhilarating it is to co-hold the two universes within.



Gagandeep Singh

I work in the realm of Organization Development and focus on transformation, alignment and culture. I am doing my doctoral research on hybrid social enterprises