Submitted by Ken Howard, Chair of the Work and Meaning Division of the INPM, for the Positive Living Newsletter (November 2017). Read the rest of the newsletter here.

Ken Howard (Chair), Shizuka Modica (Vice Chair), and Rachel Newton (Secretary)


At the International Meaning Conference in Toronto in July 2016, the INPM Board initiated its efforts to launch the Work and Meaning (WAM) Division. Fourteen months later, we have the following major milestones to report:

  • Defined the division’s vision and goals
  • Began work on defining terms related to meaning and work
  • Delivered a 7-person panel symposium at the International Meaning Conference in London (June 30 – July 2, 2017), entitled “Engagement Is Dead: Long Live Engagement”
  • Established the Division’s bylaws
  • Developing the Work and Meaning track and suggesting speakers for the 2018 Meaning Conference in Vancouver


The WAM Division’s mission is two-fold:

  1. Conduct scientific research and establish best practices that enhance the quality of meaning in work.
  2. Support and develop individuals, teams, organizations, and societies to thrive.

Focus Area Clusters

To attain the WAM mission, we have three Focus Area Clusters (FACs):

  1. Research: To collaboratively develop workable theories and useful measures that will bridge theory and practice for a wide audience, including the general public.
  2. Practice: To collaboratively build a body of best practices and new interventions that change the meaningful experience of people in work.
  3. Dissemination: To collaboratively develop and implement ways to disseminate information about our learnings from research and best practices development between the FACs, among the membership of the INPM, to other professional groups, and the public at large.

Narrative Summary

The WAM Division grew out of the momentum achieved at the 2016 Meaning Conference. Shortly after the conference, board advisors Luis A. Marrero and Gordon Medlock convened a meeting with all interested parties. Great ideas and visions were exchanged about the future of the WAM Division. The momentum for action, however, quickly dissipated like vapor when Luis and Gordon actually tried to put together an executive team of Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary. All interested parties were geographically quite dispersed—from Canada to the US to Hong Kong to Singapore. Rightfully, everyone was also fully booked with her/his busy life. No one wanted to take on a big task of creating the Division ground up with no funding. However, in the late fall of 2016, officers were elected; the executive team and the board advisors started to hold bi-weekly Momentum Meetings in January 2017 to get to know each other and create our common vision. All we had was our inspiration and the board’s strong and consistent support. What we collectively learned so far is that we are very generative when we share our ideas. Our symposium at the London conference is the testament for our learning with each other.

Given the difficult birth of the WAM Division, we are delighted to report the aforementioned milestones, and we welcome anyone who would like to join our always-fascinating-and-passionate discussion at our bi-weekly Momentum Meetings. We may be finally crawling our way out of the loving cradle that the board had provided. We are now excited about the prospect of walking on our own soon!

Contact: Ken Howard at

WAM Activities and Achievements since the 2016 Meaning Conference (Detail)

Jul–Sep 2016

  • Gathered names of practitioners interested in an INPM division on Meaning and Work (during the 2016 Meaning Conference).
  • Gathered preliminary information from interested practitioners about what they find beneficial from a Meaning and Work division.

Oct–Dec 2016

  • Continued organizational discussions.
  • Elected Division Officers: Ken Howard (Chair), Shizuka Modica (Vice-Chair), Alice Ballentine (Secretary).
  • Created and circulated a prospective member survey to seek input on mission and goals for the proposed division.

Jan–Mar 2017

  • After minimal response to survey, decided to start developing mission, goals, and structure utilizing the small group of motivated people that we had at that point: Alice Ballentine, Ken Howard, Sharon McCormick, Shizuka Modica, and Rachel Newton, with Luis Marrero and Gordon Medlock as board advisors.
  • Started bi-monthly “Momentum Meetings” to gather momentum on organizing the division.
  • Adopted as division name “Meaning and Work Division.”
  • Developed division mission statement.
  • Determined that the division would have three working groups: Theory, Practice, and Dissemination. Developed mission statements for each.

Apr–Jun 2017

  • Began work on defining terms related to meaning and work.
  • Submitted application to do a panel symposium at the International Conference on Meaning (Jul 2017), entitled “Engagement is Dead: Long Live Engagement.”
  • Symposium application accepted, began work on organizing it, using it also as a vehicle to continue our work on defining terms.

Jul–Sep 2017

  • Delivered symposium (well-received). 7 presenter panel: 4 on-site and 3 remote.
  • Ballantine and McCormick departed committee to pursue pressing business commitments.
  • Developing Work and Meaning track and suggesting speakers for 2018 Meaning Conference.

Oct–Dec 2017 (to date)

  • Secured Keynote Speaker for 2018 Meaning Conference: Chris Corrigan (The Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter).
  • Awaiting action by the Board before inviting additional speakers.