What Hurricane Irma Did for Me – PS74

From the moment we lined up to register at the local high school shelter, there was a visual smorgasbord of diversity. Young and old, black, white and in-between, two legs, one leg, and four legs – dogs, cats, chickens, parrots, hamsters. Once you registered, you were required to stay the duration – there was no reserving a place just in case. Lights were out at 10 and when lockdown happened there was no leaving the block you lived in.

Every creature was welcomed – no ID was required – just your name, address, who to contact in an emergency.  You could come from a totally different town with your dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs and ferrets.

I loved that demonstration of equity.  Our shared humanity was honored and respected.  We were patient and courteous.  We're not in a race to anywhere. We gratefully accepted the rooms we were allocated with the roomies who showed up.

Hurricane Irma Shelter – Pictures Tell a 1000 Words

Shelter Arrival Hurricane Irma

Our space in the shelter, Braden River High.

Sleeping on floor Hurricane Irma

Juergen and His Mom bedding down








Pets - Hurricane Irma

One pet area in Shelter


Kids playing - Hurricane Irma

Kids playing in Shelter

Evening Stroll Hurricane Irma

Evening Stroll before the storm



Sunset day after Hurricane Irma

The evening after Hurricane Irma


Tears of Relief

I had tears of gratitude, relief and love for me and my little family. We were so fortunate, and I am so privileged to tell my story through my lens of appreciation and gratitude, and feeling safe. and I had tears also for those who are still living in uncertainty and trying to make sense for their future as they continue to clean up from natural disasters whether they be hurrianes and floods, fires, earthquakes or tsunamis.

From my Friend, Paloma in Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria

Paloma's email received today after I had reached out to her yesterday.

Hi Robyn. Times are tough. I'm not going to lie. Still no running water or electricity. I can deal without electricity but water worries me. Gasoline is limited so we can't be driving around. Just basically living day by day, making lines, doing our best to keep our hopes up. At least now & then we have signal so that's better b/c we've been able to contact our loved ones. Please keep us in your thoughts & prayers.  Paloma, sent from iPhone.

Paloma and all of you in Puerto Rico, you are in my heart, thoughts and prayers daily.

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How Heartfelt Conversation Is Co-created with Appreciative Inquiry

I continue to be struck with wonder at the transformative power of Appreciative Inquiry. It doesn't matter how often I'm present to the experience of  Appreciative Inquiry, the magic, the power, the spirit to move people toward each other to give of their best selves and share their aspirations never fails to deliver.  The collective energy among a group of people who don't know each other at the start, irrespective of how many are in the room, who they are, what the topic is delivers expressions of hope, possibility and positive potential.

Affirmative topic of Generations Wiser Together

I've just come off designing an AI workshop and facilitated the same workshop with two very different groups.  The goal of the groups was the same.  We were inquiring into the affirmative topic of Generations Wiser Together.  My client, worked tirelessly to bring groups together in two different towns.  We aimed to attract as much diversity as possible.

Heartfelt Conversation - younger and older person in dialogueIn the one group, we achieved our objective of great diversity.  We had a good mixture of ages – from 70+ to 17 year olds.  A good balance of genders, and a good balance of Caucasians and African Americans showed up.

In the second group, in a smaller town, we were not as successful with attracting diversity.  The group comprised all Caucasian women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, with an 88 year old and a 20 something.

Yet, in spite of the different group compositions, the magic of Appreciative Inquiry came through.  We opened up space for people to converse deeply and at length with each other.

Maximizing Diversity

Following the classic AI interview protocol, we invited the group members, seated in a circle, to pair up with someone, requesting tJack and Junehey look around the circle and find someone least like them physically.  So we had younger black men paired with older white women, and younger white women with older white men.  Regretfully, we had no older black men.

The connections that were formed in that initial discovery conversation set the tone for a continued evening of enriching discovery, deep sharing, surprise and delight, joy, laughter and demonstrations of great talent from group members.

Co-creating Wishes and Dreams

Demonstrations of great talent came in the second phase of our AI protocol when groups shared their wishes and dreams for a wiser world, when generations are living more wisely together.  With the invitation to be as imaginative and as playful as they dared, groups in less than 30 minutes co-created presentations of their wishes and dreams.  Words and ideas they had been sharing moved from the head and heart into the body.  Embodiment of artistic talent through poetry, music, dance and drawing transformed the space and transfixed the groups witnessing each others' performances.  Spontaneous applause and appreciation broke out after each group had performed.

Heartfelt conversation - Wisetribe 1We moved into identifying opportunities – what might we design that could bring the dreams and aspirations into reality?  What ideas did member of the group have that could strengthen the bonds across the generations and help bring about a wiser world? Here was the chance for members to share what they had a passion for, would be willing to take responsibility for.  They invited others to join them in their dreams.

Opportunities for a Wiser World

Opportunities for a wiser world ranged from bringing Eastern practices into one of the hospitals in town in the form of meditation and yoga, that would not only help patients who could take part in such activities, but especially for the staff who experience stress in their jobs in the hospital environment. Another suggestion was to take the produce being cultivated in an organic farm into restaurants in the town.  One woman, a retired journalist, was excited to take the AI questions and ask them in her community to deepen connections among community members.  Moreover, she was inspired to reach out to her journalist colleagues, hoping to bring some media attention to the intergenerational wisdom exchanges.

Simplify ChartAnother project that inspired a young woman was to assist older people in their “right sizing”.  She had discovered that when she helped her father simplify his life by sorting through all his possessions, amassed over a life-time, their love, respect and appreciation for each other strengthened.  She listened deeply as he told the stories associated with different objects before he let them go.  She learnt so much about her father's past, valuing the experience, she felt so many other older people might also enjoy telling their stories as they simplified their situations for a new phase of their lives.

Heartfelt Conversation

In our closing circle, where the participants are invited to share a high point of their experience and also what they might to take forward from the experience and implement for themselves, the insights and connections were truly touching.  This is when the magic and transformative power of Appreciative Inquiry is evidenced.  At the beginning, we were a bunch of strangers and in 3 – 4 hours.  After a series of heartfelt conversation, we had deeply touched each other's lives, through a series of intentionally constructed affirmative questions that seek to discover the best in people, their communities and the world around them.







Highlights from an Appreciative Inquiry Summit

Sharing stories at an Appreciative Inquiry Summit

“Joy and pride grow from knowing you have just done something as well as you can do it”  ~ Lloyd Dobens

I know that feeling.  I have witnessed it in others.

Recently I completed an extremely satisfying 6 month project.  The project was to lead the design and facilitation of an Appreciative Inquiry Summit for the Chief Diversity Officer of a very large global organization.  The Summit, with over 300 people, was an appreciative inquiry into the affirmative topic, “Freedom to step outside our comfort zones”. There was much joy and pride in knowing we had all done something as well as we could do it. 

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