What You Need To Know About Appreciative Journaling – PS86

Introduction to Tim Slack and Appreciative Journaling

This is actually a re-introduction, as I've invited back Tim Slack of Appreciating People, based in Liverpool in the UK.  Our conversation focuses on two topics: appreciative journaling and positive education.  Tim updates us on some of the innovative work they’ve been doing in a variety of organizations, and in very complex government agencies including health care, education, correction services, faith-based organizations, and more.

Appreciative Journaling Guest Tim SlackMy curiosity for those two topics comes from the trailblazing work that Tim and his partner, Suzanne Quinney are doing with the transformational change methodology Appreciative Inquiry.

Appreciative Journaling – Appreciating People has created a series of appreciative journals for different clients to help them tap into their reflective capacities to enhance their learning and develop their appreciative muscle.

Positive Education – Tim will be attending the World Positive Education Accelerator (WPEA) in Fort Worth, Tx in June 2018. In the previous show, I interviewed Molly McGuigan, who’s the project lead for this global positive education initiative and I wanted to bring Tim in off the back of that because through his firm’s work in education in Liverpool, he’s helping to bring positive education into the school system. It will be valuable to hear how Appreciating People is bringing greater flourishing and well-being into the wider school system.

NEW FEATURE: Episode Transcript Links

Click on the below links to jump to the related topic within the full transcript below:

 Links to Resources

Tim's Website:  Appreciating People 

Appreciating People: Online Store called Essentials

Twitter Profiles: Appreciating People and Be More Awesome




Studio School, Liverpool, UK


Robyn:  A very warm welcome to this episode number 86 of Positivity Strategist. I'm your host and my name is Robyn Stratton-Berkessel.  I've invited my talented colleague Tim Slack, back to the show. Tim is the founder of the firm, Appreciating People based in Liverpool, in the UK. His co-founder is the equally talented Suzanne Quinney, who's also been a previous, popular guest on my show. So first let me hear from you, Tim. Welcome back!

Tim:  It's very nice to be back on. I love your stuff. It's really good and we strongly recommend it to all we train. “Go find the podcast.”

Robyn: That's wonderful. Well, I can't wait for you to share some of the cool stories that you've been working on since we last spoke. I think that was about eight months ago or so. I know so much has happened since then.

Tim:  I decided I'd listen to my own recording yesterday to make sure I wasn't repeating myself tonight.

Robyn:  Oh, that's great. And did you like your recording?

Tim:  I did, yeah.

Robyn:  It's good, isn't it? When you listen and you think, well that was good! Give yourself a little pat on the back. That's very appreciative. Tim.

Robyn:  So just to remind the audience that both you and Suzanne and your team, from my perspective, and, I think you're getting the recognition globally for this, you work in the most innovative ways with the transformational change methodology, Appreciative Inquiry that we both love and practice. During our conversation today, Tim, you're going to update us and some of the ways that you've been doing AI work in a variety of organizations and particularly in very complex government agencies including healthcare, education, correction services, faith-based organizations and more. And maybe we won't get to all of those today. So there's another opportunity to continue. But as a start, I just want to say that I see a common theme in the way that you and Suzanne engage with your clients that taps into their reflective capacities that enhances their learning.

Appreciative Journaling as a Game Changer

Robyn: 02:25 And that's with the use of journaling. So I'd love for us to dive a little deeper to explore the power of journaling. That's one focus that I sense will be of value to those people who are listening. The listeners might learn something more about journaling and even be inspired to take up journaling if they're not doing it already and experience the benefits that it brings. But there's another reason why I'm also excited to be talking to you at this time and that's because you're going to be attending the World Positive Education Accelerator in Fort Worth, Texas in June 2018. Now in the previous show which was episode 85. I interviewed Molly McGuigan, who's the project lead for this global positive education initiative and I wanted to bring Tim in off the back of that because through his firm's work in education in Liverpool, he's helping to bring positive education into the school system. He's got some really fabulous stuff to update us on with that and I think it's going to be valuable to hear how Appreciating People is active in bringing greater flourishing and well-being into the wider school system. So does that sound like a plan to you, Tim?

Tim: It does, but let's start with the journal first?

Robyn: And do you know why I want to do that, Tim, is because you bring it into your client engagements and I think it's one of your big differentiators and it's really powerful. So I know you've done it for a number of clients over a number of years, so you must have evidence that it's working and you've got more ideas in the pipeline. So yeah, go ahead and tell me what the impetus for that is and how it's impacting.

Tim:  Like all good Appreciate Inquiry stuff. This is a story really.

Tim:  It started in 2009, 10, I think. My wife, Suzanne (Quinney) was doing some groundbreaking work with men in a hostel in London, dealing with drug and alcohol misuse problems. And she was using a notebook saying to the client here's a notebook, write down the things that you already good at and you enjoy and what's important to you. And they tried it and it worked a bit. And then we thought it was interesting. The idea seems to work but let's look at it further. Then went online and saw all these books being sold as journals with all these flashy covers but nothing inside. Then we realized there was a gap in our training because we felt very influenced by Jackie Kelm which was, if you're going to create a good AI practitioner, they need to expand the appreciative muscle. and need also to create an appreciative mindset. We realized that journaling might be the way forward if it's a different form of journaling. So we coined the phrase appreciative journaling. One Boxing Day, a curious English habit around Christmas, I woke up very early in the morning and thought I need to do something. So in six hours, I wrote the framework for Food for Thought, which is our first journal. Also during that morning I also emailed Jackie Kelm and said, can I use some of your stuff? And as ever, she's incredibly generous said, of course, you can. And so we wrote this little booklet launched it at AI the global conference in Ghent [Belgium]. We began to use it in training and know others were using it. We had a big grant from the Healthcare Project in Liverpool because they saw it as a powerful tool for well being and then suddenly it began to expand. Others saw it, a school saw it and said, oh, I love it, can you do something for young people? And that led led to How to be More Awesome, which is the young person's journal and workbook, that could have went into next stage when we were using Awesome and Food for Thought and our training and what we found was Awesome, was more popular than Food for Thought with adults even though it was designed for young people. With young people, it was more popular because it was slightly wacky. It had jokes in it and other things in it as well as AI tasks and all those kinds of things. Others then heard about Awesome and the journaling and, like all good things it was fairly organic. And then we were approached by the National Waterways, a museum to say, can you do something for us? And that led to Number 1, which is a young children's workbook about curiosity and strength-based work in museums, but that has a journal in it as well.

21 Days of Journaling Makes a Massive Difference

Tim:  So that was our third thing you have to do. And also we realized in the work that we're doing with journaling and we knew and we knew from the evidence we use from Barbara Fredrickson, Martin Seligman, we knew from research on the importance of journaling that 21 days or 28 days of saying three good things make a massive difference. And we then realized by looking at this point, with the last three or four years, we've trained hundreds of people in the basics of AI. We realized there were two kinds of journaler: Those who love journaling and look at buying Food for Thought or, Awesome and were doing it again and again, and those who struggled with it. We realized that probably the best way to do it is to do it in a shortened way. So we said to people: What happens if we produce something with only 21 days in it for “three good things and add seven days of “gratitude.” That was the game changer because we realized that was all you had to do. Then alongside that, the school where we targeted and wrote Awesome came back and said we love Awesome, but it's not really what we want.

The Impact of Journaling Writing 3 Good Things a Day

Tim:  So we say what you want? They said, well actually we want a resilience program like Awesome, but wrapped around a student planner. So we said, OK, we'll design that in about two months working with the school, we produced it a year and a half so and we decided not to release it into the public domain until we tested it for a year. So for a year, one school has used this new version, the student planner addition. But in that version, it says the first 28 days is three good things. So the whole school did three good things for 28 days. That's 300 students. They then had a series of school assemblies and noticed the impact. The young people were more confident, were happier, and they realized over a year that the three good things didn't go away. Staff was saying to the kids and kids to the staff were saying “what's your good thing of the day?” So we've seen a cultural shift with that journal. So that's led us to then in Reflections building in a 21-day journal into our latest product. So journaling is part of our core training predominantly to help develop the creative muscle and the appreciative mindset.

Robyn: That's great. It is the evolution and I feel very honored that I have, other than the first one, Food For Thought, in my possession the others and I'm excited to talk about Reflections in a little while because that's the latest one. I'm just curious to know how do you get the commitment from people to do it? I mean, what do you sense to be their motivation to actually participate in this and write down every day for 21 days what three good things happen to them?

Tim:  To be fair sometimes is because we tell them to if we're honest with it

Robyn:  A compliant culture (laughter)

Tim:  but also we know, we hear people say, oh it's really good. We got the feedback. They see the evidence that journaling is a good idea and when we do the training, we tell the story of the school. We tell what happens, what we notice. And Suzanne has been working with this program called Learning for Excellence with this, with hospitals all over the country. She's now getting feedback how much people like this journaling because people ring us up and they buy another copy for a friend. So we know it's having an impact. And also as I said earlier, it's films like the great TED talk by Shawn Achor on the Happiness Advantage is a really good explanation of why things like journaling is really, really important.

Robyn:  We know through positive psychology and neuroscience, it's that mind-body connection. So the very act of putting a pen to paper and then prompting yourself to write about something that you can access that had a positive impact on you has an extraordinary effect on you.

Journaling Builds Resilience

Tim:  There's another side to journaling as well because early we realized that Martin Seligman's people were using it with the US military as part of building resilience going into Iraq and Afghanistan. So we knew there was another side of journaling which was about building resilience as well as their appreciative muscle is actually about coping with stress, dealing with difficulty. Certainly in our world – I'm the health world – nurses and doctors have a very stressful time. So we're seeing journaling as also having a secondary function or parallel function about helping people be more resilient and more and more positive about themselves and coping better.

Journaling as s Mindfulness Practice

Robyn:  And because it's about that quieter, more reflective state, it's also about being more mindful. We know the positive impacts of being more mindful where you begin to just focus on one thing at a time and be very attentive to and aware of what's going on for you in that present moment. Over time that has very positive implications

Tim:  That is interesting because both in Awesome, there's a mindfulness activity, and in Number 1 for Waterways and Canals, there's a thing called the mindfulness zone and we're encouraging children, young people to actually create a space on the waterways where they can practice their mindfulness. We have built those bits into the, into the resources as well.

Appreciative Journaling in Positive Education

Robyn:  I want to talk about Reflections, but maybe we'll come back to that because when you're talking about the young people, going on the waterways and inviting them to be more mindful. Let's switch now to the topic of positive education and what you're doing in the school, that Studio, right? So I'd love you to say more about that before we go back to Reflections – the book, I mean.

Tim:  There's probably three strands to this: One is that our journals are being used in schools across the country, even wider in Europe and America and Australia and India. So we'd have some examples on how those journals are part of the positive education process. And also, as you know Number 1, the one for the Waterways Museum is causing some excitement in the museum world.

Tim:  So we might, we might see other museums talking to us about developing something similar for the museum visitor.

Robyn:  That's why I's saying you are doing these very innovative things in Appreciative Inquiry, and how these other schools and institutions are finding out, it's not only through word of mouth and experience locally, but there'll be links on the show notes page, which is 86 I've already referred to that so people can actually buy these from your website.

Tim:  Yes you can, and we can also link you to our website also now is, for example, the article about the Studio school using AI. You'll be able to download from our website in our Section or the Download Section an article about the school.

Tim:  With regard to positive education, my current thinking is that there's a big issue or big challenge for us to separate what is positive education in terms of the curriculum, and what we're doing with that, with the education activities etc. all to do positive education in relation to how this school operates. So the way teachers operate with themselves, with their colleagues. Some of the work we've been doing in the Studio school, for example, is looking at teacher appraisal through an AI Lens, looking at leadership through an AI Lens, looking at Learning from Excellence – the hospital project – being developed into a school setting so that, so you are developing an institution that has an appreciative mindset as well as doing positive education in terms of its curriculum is so, so important. Positive Education.

Robyn:  So it's all stakeholders, the whole system. It's not just about the curriculum. And that's so interesting that you brought that up because I was thinking at the time when you were speaking about the students or the young people being impacted by using the journal, what about the teachers and the administrators?

Tim:  Well yeah, here's a fine example of it, the great SOAR tool is used by the school to develop a strategic plan

Robyn:  You're talking about Jackie Stavros, SOAR methodology.

Tim:  Yep, Yep. So SOAR – strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results or resource – it's used by the school in the journal as a personal development tool and the head teacher, the principal, and the senior management team are using it as a tool for developing a strategic plan for the school. So you have that going on and also in the school where I work they have coaches. Every student has a coach, and the coaches have been trained to use appreciative inquiry in their coaching. So Ai is permeating the whole school system. Now having said that, that's the good news. The challenge is that education system here still works in deficit, but what they're doing is blending in AI to actually change some of the thinking.

Robyn:  At the policy level?

Tim:  Locally, not nationally, but certainly locally, hopefully, hopefully,  the national level. But I think it's a long way to go, but I think is sometimes you know, you're using AI in its original format as the organizational development process as well as using AI as an appreciative mindset.

Cultivating an Appreciative Mindset

Robyn: Let's, stop for a minute and explore this appreciative mindset. And I also want to say in parenthesis that it's not just about organization development, but it's also about design. You know, how we design through this appreciative worldview or mindset. So when you mentioned that earlier, say a little bit more about what you're meaning by introducing an appreciative mindset, not only in the hospital system, you know, where you've been working, but also in the education and probably elsewhere,

Tim:  If you look at the education one particularly I said earlier, I've been looking at the school has a system for appraising an annual review for teachers. Now, there are certain requirements of the State or the institution to do that. So how do we build an appreciative mindset to those questions or those tasks? And the answer has been is to help staff preparing for the appraisal to have an appreciative conversation or protocol to use the s SOAR tool as a way of creating the way forward so they are going into their final assessment from a positive standpoint and you could argue with an appreciative mindset and that's where we've begun to look at. And it's very early days. I'm going to actually have a signing off tomorrow as a trustee, but it's there, it's been worked out with the staff, the senior staff.

Tim:  And the other thing with mindset is getting students and teachers working from positive ways in the classroom as well, and appreciative ways. And, as they have a school they've developed a Thanks app for saying “thank you.” And we're looking at developing a Three Good Things app with the school. So the students designed the app for us. So you can do Three Good Things as an app.

Robyn:  So this, the students are creating this themselves. Didn't they help design How to be More Awesome?

Tim:  Awesome. They co-designed it. Yes, we did. Lots of the activities were tested and created with them.

Robyn:  So coming back to mindset then, it truly resonates with me because it's going beyond just the process of going through the 5-D Cycle and all these different ways of helping an organization become more aware of itself and planning and so on. But it's also what is mindset? What's the frame that I'm approaching this from?

Tim:  I think two parts. One is I think it's about, it's about building, reframing into your day to day practice, how you reframed stuff. Secondly, it's going actually in from an AI perspective with a combination of the Anticipatory and Simultaneity Principle at the same time. I'm anticipating this is going to be a great teaching session or a great piece of work. I give an example of the power of Anticipatory Principle linked to this about mindset. We were working with the hospital staff in the Midlands and one of the consultant pediatrician I asked the question: “When do you use the principles?” She said, well, I used Anticipatory Principle when I meet the patients' parents, I say, oh, what'd you do? She said what I do if I'm going into a situation where I have to tell parents that their child is terminally ill, I go, “how can I anticipate this being a meeting where I'm working at my best? I'm sensitive. I am caring. I'm thinking the best way I handle this. And they can come out with the best outcome of a very difficult situation.” Now that's a mindset. When she told us this, the whole rooms when completely hush. It was one of those magic moments. But it really means about that, going in with that strength, that ability to be appreciative in a difficult place.

Robyn:  That's a great example, Tim. It brings the Principles to life, which means that you are, in our speak, “being appreciative.”

Tim:  I think that's, I think that's probably the most important thing. I think one of the things I noticed in myself is I struggled when I come across a person who was very negative or situations. I become ultra sensitive to it, which on occasions I think isn't very helpful. Because you're so trained up to be and so self-appreciative about it, you become a bit of a pain when you meet people who are very negative and you have to catch your breath and think about it. There may be very good reasons why they're negative.

Robyn:  I think another piece of the appreciative mindset is being in this state of inquiry always thinking about what's the inquiry here rather than going in there with what's the solution? What do I want to achieve? What's the answer here? But it's being open to there are endless possibilities?

Journaling as a Way to Strengthen Curiosity in Children

Tim:  That's why when we did what we called Number 1, the book, for the Waterways – the Canal – people, we had two big things. One is how do we foster curiosity in children because that's an important part of being open to multiple as possibilities, how curious you are. You want to inquire. Secondly, how do we blend in Appreciative Inquiry in a subtle way which isn't obvious? So if you look very carefully at the book, you'll see the questions are about reflection, about being curious, looking in a different way at experiences. That's how we blended it in, in a very subtle way. When we wrote it, we weren't sure. We were told how subtle it was often done it.

A New Wave of Appreciative Inquiry

Tim:  This brings me to something else with this actually, Robyn, which is, I think I've said this before to you, maybe there's a new wave around Appreciative Inquiry where the tools like the 5-Ds aren't as apparent as how you're operating, how you're working in any situation you're in. It's less about the big summit. They are still great and very important, but in all of our work, it's  the small steps that are making the big difference.

Robyn:  I totally agree with that. And I'm just thinking back to when I, (and you're aware of this because you've told me), but when I published my book in 2010 – eight years ago – it was the first book that took small workshops made them accessible for people to create just in small groups, focusing on an appreciative way of engaging in the traditional problems that people have. That was the first book that was written that wasn't about an AI Summit and heavily into theory. Then you come along and go even more micro. You've gone down to the individual doing reflection and making the changes. And even though we still have the tools that guide, it's not about them so much. It's about how we make the translation for ourselves.

Tim:  I think that's really, really very important because then the micros come together you get the change. You get the movement, the actual generativity. – what Gervase (Bushe) talks about and it continues.

Robyn:  So anything else you want to say about the contributions that you've made and the evidence that you're seeing in this positive education growth?

Positive Education

Tim:  I'm the only one comment would make, which I think I love the phrase positive education I think is a far better way of explaining what we're doing. I've just changed our language the way about what I talk tomorrow at the school. It'd be about, you know, bringing in positive education into all what we do. So I think the term is really helpful.

Robyn:  Yes. And what does that mean? What are people understanding by that?

Tim:  Well, I hate talking about myself, but my understanding is that, that the whole of our education approach works from a positive standpoint, be it the curriculum, be it the school, the system, the structures, everything. That's how it works.

Robyn:  So it's looking at strengths-based. asset-based.

Tim:  Absolutely. As you said multiple, multiple possibilities.

Robyn:  And engaging the people within the system so that they themselves are co-creating the future. They want the reality that they're in …

Tim:  It's all that – about co-creation, co-design, co-learning.

Why I Love Reflections

Robyn:  So now I want to come back to your latest publication that I love called “Reflections” with the subtitle, “Realizing the power of Appreciative Inquiry: an Appreciative Journal and Practical Resource Book”. Do you want to know why I love it?

Tim:  That'll be helpful. We love the feedback.

Robyn:  Well, I love it because of the simplicity of it, the practicality of it and the fact that you have so many outstanding reference points and quotes that, that make it very accessible. For example, the benefits of journaling, but then you give some resources as to why that's the case. If anyone's really interested they can go and dive a little deeper and go to the sources behind what you're saying.

Robyn:  So I think, I love that. I mean, I love the fact that it's simple, but there's depth there. I just love the idea that when you're inviting people to do their 21 days of journaling followed by seven days of gratitude, you're asking deeper questions. For example, when they write down what the three good things are for each day, you then ask against that positive event, why did this good thing happen?That's going deeper, right? And what does it mean to you? How can I have more of this?

Robyn: So I've been doing that, Tim, and it's very powerful because it requires you to begin to become far more reflective and think about the patterns shaping up over time. So you get begin to get a much bigger picture of what your capabilities are and what delights you and what good things that you're contributing to the world and receiving from the world. So it's, it's just super that you've done it that way. That's what speaks to me.

Tim:  Thank you. It's interesting as I listen to what you're saying is there were four things regarding Reflections when we to work on it. One was it's the first one where Suzanne and I have jointly written it. Normally I write it, then she turns it into English or edits it. This time we actually co-wrote it. Secondly, was the gestation of it was a conversation between me and Lindsey Godwin in a hotel in South Africa. I said we need to do something really practical and simple about AI. That then established Reflections and It took us two years after that. The other thing we're dealing with, one is that the journal is part of it, and the second thing for me was you do an AI training course; you go to workshops, and you do a lot of reading around it. What do you do on a Monday morning when you're back at work?

Tim:  How do you shift your organization, your thinking, the way you do things, and that's why the second part of the book has “here's what you do on a Monday morning.” The other way you want to look at was, and this is why the “Learning from Excellence” (LfE) is in it. How do you deal with moving away from a deficit-based or problem-focused approach? Hence the LfE stuff in it. So it was all those kind of combinations of practical tools going into the back: how do you, how do you do things on your first day? So it was designed for the practitioner at a very early stage of their journey at one level. The other joke for us was that we'd written the whole book, took it to our publishers who said, that's great too, I love the book, but you've actually two books. And they said, well you've written a book for the first stage practitioner, but also for the more advanced. So we took 40 percent of the book out and we have a new one being developed for next year.

Tim:  Because the way our publishers – Wordscape – are brilliant as they are and edited as well we did, we made it more and more lean and more focused on the individual. And the other thing for us was that we worked with Wordscape for six years now, is we have built a reputation for producing quality materials in terms of design. And that's what they do. Their ideas are fantastic and that's where the joy to work with them. Our book depot is getting bigger and bigger. This year we've had a lot of feedback saying is too good to write in.

Tim:  And secondly, one of my colleagues liked it, said it's great Tim, it's so lovely. It's so lovely to writing in, I'm using my best fountain pen. so to react to that kind of need, what we've done is we'll produce by March, just the 21 days as a separate mini booklet. So it could either stand alone as a project or you can use it to keep your main copy, pristine. So that's the one thing we're doing.

Robyn:  Well, I had a thought while you were speaking. You know, that I teach Advanced Applications of Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College an online course and I'm thinking that Reflections might be a good book for them to have because they saying we want the cookbook to know how to do to this? So, you know, there are all sorts of possibilities.

Robyn:  Very good. So, Tim, I will put links to many of your great resources and obviously to your online shop and of course.

Our Wrap Up

Robyn:  There are tons of things you could say, but we addressed two topics today; the journaling and the positive education and a host of other things that we spoke about. Is there anything else you'd like to say by virtue of wrapping up?

Tim:  We're now exploring a journal for women with mental health issues and we're now exploring a journal for women, for mothers with postnatal depression.  So there are more journals to appear the next few years.

Robyn:  Well that's just so wonderful because you know, you obviously have this, and I don't want to say it this way, that sounds crass, but there is a formula or a template, but you contextualize it.

Tim:  That's exactly right. We've actually now produced a standardized, “we know some things never change.” We need to be able to give the context, so the questions might change.

Robyn:  OK. That's the thing. You have a structure, you have a process, but you know, the context changes for people. So it's the same when we're using, if we go back to using Appreciative Inquiry and the 5-D Cycle and the Principals, they don't change. They're the same, and you make the translation, using the Poetic Principle, and you put it into your own context and you overlay your own perspectives on to it. And that makes meaning for you.

Tim:  I think in 2017 we produced four publications. That's heavy, but obviously, we're very chuffed with all of it. There were two years in development with the Waterways. We have some very interesting ideas coming forward and I'll bring this breakthrough now: we think we're about to start to work with the prison.

Robyn:  That'd be fantastic.

Robyn:  My heartfelt congratulations on the beautiful work that you're doing, and as I said at the outset, you know, I think you have this unique value proposition if I can use a business term, you know, you've got this, this differentiator that is setting you apart. And people recognizing it. So I'm so delighted and honored to have been brought up to date with this conversation. Thank you, Tim.

Tim:  Thanks, Robyn, delighted as ever!

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Positive Education 2018 – an Appreciative Inquiry Summit – PS 85

Exciting Global Gathering – Positive Education 2018

I'm excited in this episode to introduce Molly McGuigan, whose special talents and background enable her to be the project lead for a truly significant global undertaking on the topic of positive education 2018 that will extend way into the future.  The significant undertaking is the World Positive Education Accelerator  (WPEA) which is a four-day conference including a three-day Appreciative Inquiry Summit.  The event, taking place in Fort Worth, Texas June 25 – 28, 2018, is a massive collaboration of global players who've been actively bringing positive education into school systems all over the world.  There are many, success stories to be shared and many, many more to co-create.

Personal Stories

positive education 2018 Molly McGuiganTo start our conversation,  I invite Molly to share a little of her background and what the role means to her, and, with great interest, I wonder if there’s something in Molly’s personal history or upbringing, that points to the special excitement this project holds for her.  After all, Molly is a seasoned Appreciative Inquiry (AI) practitioner, having studied AI with Professor David Cooperrider and others in her MBA program at Case Western Reserve University.  She has extensive experience designing and facilitating organization development with corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and school districts.

Molly shares elements of her story, remembering fondly that as the youngest child of seven in her family, she was always included and encouraged to hang in with her big brothers.  “You can do this, Molly!” was instilled in her from a young age, and has stayed with her.  She found she had innate strengths that were noticed across a number of relationships including teachers.  Another story is how one of her teachers noticed she had a talent for playing the piano because she had an ear for it, rather than the ability to follow a music score!

Transcending Traditional Curriculum Design and Conference Design

We share thoughts about the importance of good role models and supportive people in our growth and development who positively impact our lives.  That impact at a young age informs the trajectory of our lives.  It can be positive or negative.  Hence, the excitement for an educational curriculum that includes a strong focus on strengths and well-being for all students alongside traditional academic subjects.

We could say the same applies to conference design.  The traditional conference with experts on stage sharing their wisdom to passive, seated audiences is no longer enough.  Attendees are saying, it's great to hear these inspiring stories from those on stage, and there are other ways to participate.  Through personal experiences, Molly, I and the collaborators of the WPEA are aware that conference attendees also have inspiring stories to share and dreams of better futures.  Our own voices matter.  Hence the theme of the WPEA is Turning Inspiration into Action.  People want to do it themselves.

With that awareness, the Accelerator is both a conference and an AI summit wrapped in one event.  It's likely to attract 1200 stakeholders from around the globe to elevate the strengths of Positive Education (see the PDF Infographic in LINKS below) and design initiatives focused on the educational transformation that will lead to students learning not only how to be productive but also how to lead flourishing and fulfilling lives.

This video is a compilation of the Positive Education 105 person Steering Committe, held at the David L Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College VT, rolling up their sleeves using the Appreciative Inquiry Methodology to plan for the Accelerator in Fort Worth Texas.

Aspirations for Positive Education 2018 and into the Future

Professors David Cooperrider, Case Western Reserve University, and Champlain College, thought-leader of Appreciative Inquiry and Martin Seligman, University of Pennsylvania, father of positive psychology share a passion to bring positive education into schools around the world.  They see this as one of the most important initiatives of our time and are invested in growing this opportunity, having already visited many places in the world to learn how to make this vision a reality. 

Listen in as Molly gives some background about the genesis of this initiative and what has been achieved already in Australia, Mexico, Dubai and elsewhere. See also the 2017 State of Positive Education PDF in the LINKS section below.

An area of focus in the lead up to the June Summit is the stakeholder mix in the room:  educators from all levels of education, from early education up through higher education, researchers who represent the best research, government representatives to consider policy changes in different parts of the world, and businesses and foundations that can share similar frameworks or ideas for education within their organizations.  Among these stakeholders, there's a focus and a dependence on networks of people for outreach to ensure connection with the right people and organizations.  Learn more about registration.

A vision is to have school groups, district groups, and other networked groups come to the summit and leave with their own initiatives and connections so they themselves can move from inspiration to action.

Hopes and dreams include keeping people connected post-summit; funding for a range of further initiatives; ongoing development for a positive education curriculum; and teacher and staff training; policy changes; expansive cross-sector relationships to name just a few possibilities.

With the generative, developmental nature of an Appreciative Inquiry Summit, the outcomes are in the hearts, minds, and hands of the participants and what they commit to take forward.

To find out more, please take at the WPEA website link below.

Stay Connected with Molly and Links to Positive Education

Molly on LinkedIn

Website of World Positive Education Accelerator

Register for the Summit, Fort Worth, June 25 – 28, 2018

Twitter: Positive Education (International Positive Education Network (IPEN)

Positive Education Infographic (PDF)

2017 State of Positive Education (PDF)

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

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Come up for AIR and Experience your Energy Soar – PS 71

Episode Introduction

My brilliant guest hails from Toronto, Canada. Maureen McKenna, affectionately known as Mo, is a woman of huge talent, energy, dynamism. She is highly acclaimed in her field of organization, community development and coaching, and is a leader in Appreciative inquiry not only in Canada, but globallycome up for air - Mo McKenna.

In this show, Mo shares stories about how she started in this field, where it’s taken her and where she’s headed, living to her strengths of curiosity and openness daily.  Mo has worked in just about all sectors: corporate, government agencies in education and healthcare.  Mo shares many of her inspirations in the links section below.  

Episode Background

I was keen to interview Mo Mckenna, as in my last few shows, her name kept entering into the conversation.  She was praised by Deacon Richard Manley-Tannis,as his mentor, episode PS 65 How an Intimate Conversation can Strengthen the Collective.  The show preceeding this one,  PS 70, Say Yes to Everything Results in Fun and Meaning with Wick van der Vaart from the Netherlands refers to Mo as great asset to AI Practitioner and an inspiration.  

Fortuitously, Mo and I finally met in person a couple of months ago in Cleveland, OH at Case Western Reserve University. We were co-facilitators at the Fourth Global Forum  – also a podcast episode – Ps68, Business leaders, Professors and Students Expose Flourishing Enterprises  

And it doesn’t stop there.  These synchronicities keep amplifying. We are both members of the Council of Practice with the David L.Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain college in Burlington VT. in the capacity of Field Practitioners.

Come up for Air

come up for air - framework

Mo is highly creative and innovative.  One of her creations is the AIR framework.  As she tells a story of its successful application in a hospital setting, I see it as framework for a conversation that guides people to a mutual appreciation of their past and helps them envision and plan an ideal future. The relational aspect of this framework facilitates understanding and generates new energy that is akin to when you come up for air and feel a huge relief, especially if you’ve felt silenced, misunderstood or not acknowledged for too long.

Concepts we Explore in this Episode

Appreciative Inquiry High Point Experience

In following the structure of an Appreciative Inquiry interview, I invite Mo to tell a high point story when she was fully engaged and delighted with her work.  She tells the story of working with The Toronto District School Board (TDSB).  It’s a terrific example of applying AI in a large system that invited all stakeholders to inquiry into “Student Success” while providing the Board members the opportunity to work on a real issue of strategic importance and learn about the process of AI at the same time.

High Performing Teams

Mo's own story harking back to her days at Xerox, and her reference to a study by Google finds that psychological safety is an enabler of high performing teams.  With Appreciative Inquiry, we invest time up front on inquiry – we don’t go straight to task.  We go back and learn from the past and get to know each other more deeply, becoming aware of each other’s needs.  That relational process creates psychological safety.

Learning Partners

We talk about the difference between being an “expert” and a “learning partner.”  As an outsider to a client system, we come in to be a learning partner, not an expert consultant. The client system has the expertise which is local knowledge of their own context and content.  We, as outsiders come with a process and a structure to guide the client to outcomes they want to accomplish.

Leadership Rises Up  from the Quiet Corners of an Organization

Mo and I share examples of how Appreciative Inquiry brings out the leadership is us all.  The psychological safety that an appreciative inquiry provides opens people up to each other's stories to listen more deeply, trust more openly and take risks.  People are encouraged to be more courageous, and Mo quotes her mentor, Jane Magruder Watkins:

You do no harm asking for what's working.

Links to Other Resources Mentioned in this Show

The newly designed, Appreciative Inquiry Commons

New York Times Article, What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

Bliss Brown Seminal Appreciative Inquiry Summit, Imagine Chicago 

Professor Amy Edmondson TEDx Talk, Building a psychologically safe workplace

Gervase Bushe Article,  Appreciative Inquiry with Teams

Angela Ahrendts TEDx Talk, The Power of Human Energy

“Passionate, positive human energy can provide a counterbalance to the disruptive negative forces of an age of unprecedented change. Through it comes confidence, inspiration and the power to transform things for the better.”  

Connect with Mo McKenna

Mo’s website





Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
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  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


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Say Yes to Everything Results in Fun and Meaning – PS70

UPDATE: I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have this conversation, with Wick van der Vaart.  He is an inspiration to all of us in our Appreciative Inquiry community and beyond.  At the time we were having fun doing this interview, Wick was on vacation in France.  He didn't let me know, but I learnt very soon after that Wick was experiencing severe headaches.   This recording went live at the end of July.  It saddens me deeply to say that Wick passed away from a brain tumor on October 15th 2017.  His story is beautiful.  You will be inspired.

Episode Introduction

This interview is with an Appreciative Inquiry colleague from the Netherlands, Wick van der Vaart.  Wick founded a learning institute in Amsterdam. His Institute offers, among many other courses, a two-year certified post master program in the Social Psychology of Interventionism which includes the teaching and practice of Appreciative Inquiry.  In 2016, Wick became the editor-in-chief of AI Practitioner, International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry.  These two major contributions he makes to the world came about because, as Wick tells us in this interview he has a habit to say yes to everything.

Say Yes to Everything

say yes to everything - Wick van der VaartWick's first story about his predisposition to say yes to everything came out when I asked him if he found Appreciative Inquiry, or if Appreciative Inquiry found him.  Some years ago, he traveled to the USA from his homeland to enrol in a program at the National Training Laboratories (NTL) in Bethel, Maine.  He had signed up for the Organization Development Program only to find that course had been cancelled. As a replacement, he was offered a place in the Appreciative Inquiry Program which was taking place next door.  And, following his natural inclination, he said “yes.”

Wick summarizes this fortuitous happening as

I walked into the wrong room and Appreciative Inquiry found me.

Appreciative Inquiry as a Different Lens

As a lover of learning, and researcher at heart, Wick also went on to do the traditional Organization Development Program and when I asked about the difference between the two, he shared that Appreciative Inquiry was more fun and the relationships he established in that course have become some of his dearest colleagues and partners today.  The lens of Appreciative Inquiry reflected a worldview his parents impressed on him – to do well in the world and for the world.  Wick discovered that the approach of Appreciative Inquiry accomplishes all the expected goals of the traditional organization development approach – productivity, profit, and specific strategic imperatives – and so much more.

Over and above the traditional worldview that traditional organization development offers, where the dominant discourse is money and power, the Appreciative Inquiry worldview focuses on doing good by doing well.  Profits are made as businesses need, but from a culture nurtured by a flourishing mindset where leadership is holistic, the workforce is thriving and the environment is respected.  In such workplaces, the whole self is valued, and the relational space between people enables deliverables and productivity and profits to happen alongside the positive connections between people. Appreciative Inquiry produces high quality relationships very quickly. 

The AI Practitioner – International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry

say yes to everything - AI Practitioner JournalHere is another of Wick's “say yes to everything” stories.  In 2016, he said yes to taking on the roles of editor-in-chief and co-publisher of the esteemed international journal of Appreciative Inquiry, the  AI Practitioner (AIP).  Anne Radford had founded in London about 20 years ago.  Through Anne's leadership and shepherding, it remains the leading journal on current research and applications of Appreciative Inquiry in the world.  The co-publisher is the David L. Cooperrider Center in the Stiller School of Business at Champlain College, Vermont.  AIP is a peer-reviewed journal. Each issue has guest editors who prepare and widely distribute a “Call for Articles” for their issue. Nearly 300 people from around the world have contributed as guest editors and authors to AIP in recent years.

Favorite AI Principle

I like to ask my guests which of the AI Principles is their favorite.  After thinking long and hard, Wick offered, the Anticipatory Principle, and you'll hear that it took my breath away as it also happens to be mine.  I asked why, and Wick's story demonstrates this principle that states “image leads to action,” and, more powerfully, “we are pulled toward the images we hold of the future.”

Wick has participated in two ironman events.  Training and participating are not easy.  He has to work hard to continue the training.  He applies the Anticipatory Principle to help him continue.  As he trains, and during the event, he holds the image of crossing the finishing line.  This is what propels him forward. This image of the future empowers him to keep going.  This image of crossing the finishing line gives him the ability to find the will and strength within to help him achieve his dream.

In support of this Anticipatory Principle that inspires Wick and me, I quote these beautiful lines that I found on Wick's website:

“You must give birth to your images.

They are the future waiting to be born.

Fear not the strangeness you feel.

The future must enter you long before it happens.

Just wait for the birth,

for the the hour of the new clarity.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

 Connect to Wick van der Vaart

Wick’s Institute: Institute for Intervention Studies

Wick's email:  [email protected]



AI Practitioner,  International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry

 Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


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If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

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  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

Innovative Ways that Inspire Human Flourishing for All

When did you last come away from an experience that had such an impact on you that you were filled with a joy and a hope that transformed you?  You witnessed human flourishing and unity with others. You felt inspired by the conversations and connections. You felt alive and energized. You experienced a sense of wholeness, oneness and community cursing through your body and a peace and infinite hope for what else is possible.

I am filled with gratitude that I just came away from such an experience.  The event was the Fourth Global Forum held at The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, at Weatherhead School of Managemhuman flourishing - diversityent at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.   Over 300 people were tasked to Discover Flourishing Enterprise: The Key to Great Performance.   We came from 29 different countries by invitation, from free will, to contribute our minds, our hearts, our skills, our knowledge.  We were curious and open and hopeful.  We shared stories, dreams and aspirations.

Diversity underpins Human Flourishing

We were a hugely diverse gathering of people: business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs, multi-millionaires and start-ups; professors and students; octogenarians and millennials; of spiritual traditions, or none.  We honored our diversity and our shared common belief: human flourishing exists at all levels: at the individual level, organizational and whole systems level.   We shared our stories, listened and asked questions. We dreamed together about what we can bring to life. We co-created designs and prototypes of possible futures;  and we rolled up our sleeves to develop deployment plans to turn our dreams and their prototypes into action.

Business as an Agent of World Benefit

human flourishing - AI Practitioner CoverIt was my first time at a Global Forum, even though through my Appreciative Inquiry Certification at Weatherhead, I became familiar with and practiced at interviewing business leaders on the topic of Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB).  For this event, I volunteered as an Appreciative Inquiry facilitator.  To my absolute delight, I was invited to co-facilitate the working group from AIM2Flourish with Professor Lindsey Godwin, my hero and dear colleague from the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College in Burlington, VT.

Appreciative Inquiry in Practice

To read more stories about the transformation that seemingly unlikely partnerships are delivering in the field of human flourishing,  please check out the special edition of the AI Practitioner  a publication of almost 20 years that focuses exclusively on the applications of Appreciative Inquiry across the globe.  This is a very generous gift from the owner, Wick van der Vaart, who co-edited this edition with David Cooperrider.


human flourishing - AIM2Flourish Logo

AIM2Flourish was born out of the Third Global Forum in 2014.  Since then Roberta Baskin and Claire Summer (who as of June, 2017 now leads AIM2Flourish)  and a handful of business leaders and professors have taken the dream to made it flourish.  They have worked on an AIM2Flourish curriculum for university professors to link their students to enterprises that are not only doing well in the conventional business sense, but also doing good for their employees, their customers, the communities in which they operate, committed to human flourishing for all, including the planet.  Moreover, the really unique and cool contribution that AIM2Flourish offers its partners is to invite the participating business schools and their students to identify the enterprises whose innovations and contributions to the world are also addressing any one of the 17 the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Human Flourishing - Sustainable development goalsThe business students – the leaders of tomorrow – move beyond learning in the classroom into the field of real business.  Imagine the impact on them and the enterprises they interact with.

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

I was human flourishing - prize trophydeeply honored to co-facilitate the AIM2Flourish working group comprising students, professors and business leaders from a number of South American countries.  This group included AIM2Flourish Prize Winners.  Their awards came from sharing the stories of the businesses who were helping to contribute to human flourishing by addressing some of SDGs.   The working group was brilliant and energized and committed to grow the AIM2Flourish mission by modeling leadership for 21st century and strengthening flourishing relationships across the plant.  I was struck with awe and filled with gratitude to watch them and hear them embrace the human flourishing - deployment planAppreciative Inquiry process with aid of their cell phones to translate English text into Spanish and then back into English to share their insights, dreams and plans.

And even though we had a language barrier, we communicated and shared delight and joy at our mutual understanding of each other.  We felt connected, united and impassioned by our shared commitment to amplifying human flourishing across the world.


Abundance of Talents, Generosity and Innovations

At this Fourth Global Forum every participant was a gift and there was an abundance of talent that spoke to our positive core of human flourishing, and wish I could name everyone, as every single person deserves credit. However, here's the line-up of outstanding keynoters and presenters, including David L Cooperrider, Chris Laszlo, Barbara Fredrickson, Tom Robinson, Jonathan Halpern, Jeff Hoffman, Shinzen Young, Jennifer Deckhard, Peter Senge, Julie Reiter, Fred Tsao.   Jon Berghoff was the masterful lead facilitator with his brilliant group of associates who made it such an outstanding event. Fun and practical improv tips were delightfully lead by Betsy Crouch and Zoe Galvez, co-founders of Improv HQ.  The talented graphic recorder was Jo Byrne,  Here is a sample of her talent.

And, I got to meet the charming Chuck Fowler, whose generosity and vision for a flourishing world started this all off.

Please, if you get the opportunity to attend the Fifth Global Forum in 2020, treat yourself to an experience that will fill you up and sustain you at many levels.  You will  enter into communion with those who care deeply about human flourishing and are actively leading positive change.

Opportunity to Hear Flourishing Voices in my Podcast Episode

There's also a podcast episode where you can hear the voices of participants at the the Fourth Global Forum:
Business Leaders, Professors and their Students Expose Flourishing Enterprises

Students and Business Leaders Hook up to be a Force for Good, with Roberta Baskin – PS58

Episode Introduction

Award winning journalist, Roberta Baskin is a most distinguished guest on Positivity Strategist podcast.  Roberta has had a stellar career in investigative journalism with more than 75 journalism awards both print and TV, including prestigious Peabodys, duPont Columbia Awards, and multiple Emmys.  During this time of global reporting, there was a stirring within: a shift that has brought Roberta to where she is today, Executive Director of AIM2Flourish.

Episode Overview – Business as a Force for Good

Roberta Baskin on Force for GoodAIM2Flourish is a non-profit organization, founded at Case Western Reserve University, whose mission is to accelerate the shift to a Business for Good mindset by recognizing the positive impact of today’s business leaders, and changing the way tomorrow’s leaders are taught.  What is so exciting about AIM2Flourish is that these future business leaders get out of the classroom into businesses that are doing good and positively working towards achieving any one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with a target date of 2030.

It’s as if Roberta had been preparing for this new role during her entire journalistic career.  Her investigations, during her time as a journalist, resulted in making beer healthier, exposing sweatshops in the shoe and soccer industries, uncovering pediatric dental abuses, and succeeding in banning dangerous products.

Did You Discover Appreciative Inquiry or Did Appreciative Inquiry Discover you?

Whenever my guests come from the world of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), I invite this question: Did you discover Appreciative Inquiry, or did Appreciative Inquiry discover you.  You’ll love Roberta’s quirky answer. (She’s very playful by nature, having enjoyed her company at a number of Appreciative Inquiry gatherings).  As a recovering journalist, Roberta offers that she needed to do the AI Certification twice, because she was programmed to focus on the bad stuff in the world.  Her default mindset was conditioned to find out “what’s wrong?” in situations rather than “What’s possible?” What a 360 turn!  When she met Appreciative Inquiry thought leader, David Cooperrider, her worldview flipped, as does most people’s when they discover AI, and/or meet with Professor Cooperrider.

Restorative Narratives

It's very encouraging to hear Roberta offer examples of media organizations that are focusing on the best of humanity even in the worst of times.  Journalists who report on tragic circumstances in ways that restore hope, resilience and possibilities that lift up the human spirit to inspire us all.   Restorative narratives shine the light on how even in pain and suffering, there are beautiful stories of hope and resilience and possibility.

Examples of generative journalism can be found in Images and Voice of Hope, Constructive Journalism Project, Solutions Journalism Network, Axiom News and Huffington Post has a What's Working Section.

Changing Business Education by Changing the Story of Business

If we hold the belief that business can be a force for good, how might we change the way colleges and universities teach business skills?  Instead of the same old traditional curriculum, we might inquire into the biggest global issues facing businesses today and create innovative partnerships and experiences for students to learn actively from personal experience rather than passively through books and the internet.

Organizations who value innovation, longevity and human flourishing as strategic imperatives,  demonstrate that their financial bottom line is so interconnected with our planet’s and people’s well-being.

Developing Leaders for 21st Century

AIM2Flourish partners with professors in business schools around the world with materials to help their students research, and engage in conversations with innovative business leaders, and begin to conceive potential solutions that will not only advance business goals, but also address the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals provide such an opportunity for business students to work on real issues such as ending poverty and hunger, shifting to clean energy, controlling climate change and working for peace.  All this is possible.  Our collective conscious has awakened to our global oneness.  We are all in this together.

Being a Force for Good Benefits all Stakeholders

AIM2Flourish is the world’s first global action-learning platform showcasing business innovation that tackle some of our biggest challenges. Founded at Case Western Reserve University, business students across the globe use Appreciative Inquiry framed questions (AIM = Appreciative Inquiry Method) to search out and report on golden innovations that address the 17 UN Global Goals.

As a participating business, the benefits are many:  brand reputation; being aligned with purpose-driven students; aligning with other leaders in the social responsibility space;  recognition as a positive change agent in the world and providing solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.

AIM2Flourish Stories and Ways to Participate

As you listen to Roberta, you will be inspired by students’ stories.  I encourage you to go to,  join up and participate in being a force for good.  The students and the companies that are being showcased will appreciate it and you’ll feel great about your contribution.

AIM2Flourish logo Force for GoodIf you wish to participate more actively, please reach out to Roberta. Her links are provided below.

Accept Roberta’s invitation to create your own profile on AIM2Flourish.

Contribute to the Sightings page.  Here's an opportunity to write up an innovation you are aware of that may help students explore more.

You, your family, community or organization  can become part of the global improvement movement to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 – only 14 years away.

AIM2Flourish is housed at the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit in Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management.

Links Mentioned

Website:  AIM2Flourish

Twitter: AIM2Flourish

LinkedIn: Roberta Baskin

Facebook: AIM2Flourish

Roberta on Wikipedia

Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit

Recent Articles by Roberta

1) Huffington Post blog: Business 101: AIM2Flourish 

2) Kosmos Journal: AIM2Flourish

3) AIM2Flourish Blog 

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


Listen to Stitcher


Listen on Google Play Music

Subscribe Via RSS

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

Shifting Power – Exciting Possibilities through Appreciative Inquiry With Tim Slack – PS55

Episode Introduction

Shifting PowerMy guest, Tim Slack is filled with energy, ideas, gratitude and generosity as he talks about his experiences with Appreciative Inquiry.  You’ll hear many references to people Tim admires, and whose work, contributions and essential being have been a positive influence in his work as a  master practitioner of Appreciative Inquiry.  Tim, along with Suzanne Quinney co-founded Appreciating People. They are recognized as UK leaders in the application of the power shifting approach of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in communities, organizations and government agencies.

Tim lives and works in Liverpool in the UK, not far from Penny Lane, of Beatles fame, and, he reports, the tourists still flock there!

Episode Overview –  Shifting Power with Appreciative Inquiry

In this episode, you will hear from Tim, how extensively and innovatively he, his partner Suzanne Quinney and their associates are applying the transformational change method of  Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in the world. In our conversation, we offer that Appreciative Inquiry is undergoing a sea change – a transformation – of its own. Tim and many other AI practitioners continually contribute to the growing number of  practical and life-changing resources, expanding upon the traditional resources of Appreciative Inquiry across the globe.  We talk about the transformative impact of AI at the individual, community and organizational levels. Tim gives examples the resources he and his team have created and the groups he’s been working with: kids in schools, surgeons and nurses in hospitals, women returning from combat in the military, curators in museums, students in universities, the homeless, LGTBQ community, clergy and members of churches and more.

Did You Discover Appreciative Inquiry or Did Appreciative Inquiry Discover you?

I like to ask my guests about their initial experience with AI because growing evidence reveals that when we have our first exposure to AI, it feels so natural to us, that it seems we have “come home” and the entire worldview, principles and practices makes perfect sense to us as a way of being and working.

Tim scored the double jackpot – he discovered his future wife, Suzanne, and AI together. It was Suzanne who introduced him to AI.  They have been co-creating and lighting up the world ever since.  Together, they embarked on a long learning journey with and about Appreciative Inquiry from some of the best teachers and practitioners.  They developed professional relationships which over time developed into strong personal friendships, collaborations and ongoing co-creations.

Influences in Appreciative Inquiry

It delighted me to hear Tim offered that my book, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-based Workshops was very influential in helping him see the many practical applications of AI.  He also included Jackie Kelm’s books, Appreciative Living and The Joy of Appreciative Living as examples which take AI outside of academia and big organizational development summits into small group work, day-to-day practices and personal transformation. (Links below are offered below.)

Appreciating Church – The Book

Tim shares the story about how the Appreciating Church project originated.  A range of different church communities undertook trainings in AI, but the continuity element was lacking, meaning people experienced training and it stopped there.  So Tim and his colleagues created a longer term process so that the participants had resources to be able to apply it themselves in their own communities and beyond.  The program has been getting stronger and stronger over two years and in January 2017, the book, Appreciating Church will be available. This is an exciting addition to AI's body of work.

The opening lines of the book, dating back to the 14th century, quote St. Julian de Norwich (known to be the first woman to write a  book in the English language):

And all shall be well, all shall be well… for there is a Force of love moving through the universe, that holds us fast and will never let us go.”  St. Julian de Norwich (c.a. 1342-1416)


Click on the image to view a PDF outline of “Appreciating Church” – the book

Listen in to learn more about this very exciting work, what’s in the book and how it could be recontextualized to other communities.  Hint, it’s about a God of Abundance, not pain and fear or scarcity, and how we can use our strengths collectively.

With 210 people already trained across the participating churches, Tim talks about the shifts that have already occurred and the impact this work is having, as it expands.  He also pays tribute to Jane Magruder Watkins and Ralph Kelly in embarking on this work.


Appreciative Inquiry Resources AKA Essentials

I find it delightful to plug into Tim’s perspective.  The “resources” he continues to create for the AI community – trainers, practitioners and their clients are referred to as “essentials.” Check out the Essentials page on the Appreciating People website.   They are truly beautiful and valuable – content-wise and aesthetically.

AI – A Sea Change?

We talked about the shift that we are witnessing in the applications of AI.  The sea change lies in the acknowledgement that AI is not just about big systems and organization development.  There is a desire to find out more about “the self” and desire to apply Appreciative Inquiry for personal growth and change.  Living in times of chaos and turbulence, we are looking for resources to help us be more grounded, to give us a framework that offers us hope and possibility, enabling us to tap into our inner strengths.  AI does this.  A recent survey I conducted confirms this trend.


The value of journaling to support the “appreciative muscle” came out of the work Suzanne Quinney had been doing with the hostel residents (Suzanne describes the power of this work in an earlier conversation I had with her.)  The questions, the inspirations, the prompts in the journals allow the person to document their thoughts, reflections, insights along their journey.  Tim has created a number of journals that are specific to different contexts.  For example, “How To Be More Awesome” for students; “Food for Thought” for people who want to strengthen their appreciative muscle. The process of journaling can help in building resilience.  Questions are drawn from Appreciative inquiry and activities from the field of Positivity Psychology, such as daily gratitude, mindfulness and wellness activities. Tim is a big advocate of multiple learning modalities, including art and humor.

Shifting Power – Ensuring all Stakeholders ARE IN

During  our conversation, one of the tools Tim mentions is the ‘ARE IN’ check-in process, created originally by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff who created “Future Search” which was based on the original Search Conferencing Participatory Planning and Design methodology. (Open the Positivity Lens Reveal below to learn more)

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One of the challenges in bringing the whole system together to explore an organisation’s development plans is to ensure you have got the ‘right’ people there.

ARE IN could be a useful mechanism to ensure buy-in and ownership – which is a precursor to shifting power – give voice to all.

This acronym is a useful reminder when planning a large scale, whole systems change experiences.

The ARE IN tool, was developed by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff, as part of the ‘Future Search’ methodology.

They recommend that a whole system event or process should include participants who ‘ARE IN’, i.e. those with:

A uthority to act (e.g. decision making responsibility in an organisation or community);

R esources such as contacts, time or, money;

E xpertise in the issues to be considered;

I nformation about the topic that no others have;

N eed to be involved because they will be affected by the outcome and can speak to the consequences;

This check list implies you have people in the room who can make decisions and who can ensure change is sustained beyond the planning stages. 

What is Excellence?

Tim leaves us with hints of what Appreciating People are beginning to work on – looking at excellence in surgical procedures in hospitals. He concludes by pondering if the next question we could be asking, after the seminal AI question “What’s already working well” is

“What is excellence?”

A banquet of food for thought!

Links and Mentions

Tim’s Wesbite: Appreciating People

Tim’s email: Tim Slack  [email protected]

Tim’s Blog Posts: News from Appreciating People

Tim’s Twitter: @AppreciatingPeople

Tim’s LinkedIn:  Tim Slack

Interview with Suzanne Quinney: Social Innovations by Appreciating People, with Suzanne Quinney

Interview with Jackie Kelm: Three Steps to Appreciative Living, with Joy Engineer Jackie Kelm

St. Julian de Norwich – Amazon Page


Books Mentioned in the Episode

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


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Listen on Google Play Music

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If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.



How to have Inspiring Conversations in Early Childhood Leadership, With Susan MacDonald – PS54

Episode Introduction

In this episode, my guest, Susan MacDonald talks about her work in early childhood leadership and how she is bringing appreciative, strength-based, positive change into educational settings.   How I came to meet Susan is a great story.  It was via email.  Susan requested permission to include one of the workshops in my book, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-based Workshops in her new book.  Susan shared: “I find your AI workshops outlines very helpful for engaging school leaders and educators in meaningful dialogue and would like to include one in my book.”  Naturally, I was delighted to receive such positive feedback and wanted to learn more from one of my happy customers!

Episode Overview – Early Childhood Leadership

Early Childhood Leadership with Susan MacDonaldSusan MacDonald’s consultancy is Inspiring New Perspectives.  She provides vision-focused leadership support for early childhood educational programs.   She’s  been developing and delivering inspirational courses and workshops for over 25 years.

Later in 20i6, Susan’s book will be published.  The title of her book is Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership: Eight Strategies to Ignite Passion and Transform Program Quality.

Power of Impacting People

Susan was literally born into positivity and strength-based beliefs and practices.  Her mother worked for 42 years in the Family Childhood Care arena, so growing up Susan witnessed first hand the power of impacting people’s lives.

Starting out her career in early childhood education programs, Susan experienced the dominant worldview of leadership as one that focused on all the things that didn’t work in programs, policy and practice.  In her first job, she was asked to find out all the things that were wrong and fix them. She intuitively knew there had to be a better way and set about educating herself to learn how.  Most impactful for Susan was undertaking trainings in coaching.  A major influence on her work has been the work of Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran whose mission is to transform schools one conversation at a time; and it’s through their book Evocative Coaching where Susan was first introduced to Appreciative Inquiry.  Susan describes this discovery as “very exciting.”

Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions

Appreciative Inquiry resonated deeply.  As with most of us who find out about AI, it speaks to us because we find what we have been looking for.  It speaks to our own deep knowing that people are innately good and want to contribute and have a voice, and given the right tools, they seek to see best in each other; and are inspired when they can do meaningful work and have a positive impact. Susan found that Appreciative Inquiry complemented her own intentions in the way she was bringing transformational change into the early childhood leadership space.

It was during this time that Susan discovered my book, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-based Workshops. During our conversation, she reveals how she has been inspired by many of the ready-made workshops I offer in this book.

Susan most genuinely stated that building strength-based communities, inspiring strength-based leadership, and helping people be respectful and positive was already living in the materials in my book.  Her three favorite workshops that are foundational to the work she is doing are:

  • Flourishing Communities
  • Appreciating Collaborations
  • Respectful Relationships

How to Introduce Appreciative Inquiry to Others

Including my workshops in her own work with educators in early childhood leadership has been fun, challenging, invigorating , and the work continues to have immediate impact.  Susan offers how using Appreciative Inquiry workshops has transformed people and changed their relationships.  Time and time again, the participants are inspired and want to bring “this” back to their own schools or administrative contexts.  “We need to be doing this!” is a constant refrain after people experience an AI workshop or summit.  This is the common experience of all AI practitioners.  This work is called magical because transformation happens.  Appreciative Inquiry truly touches the heart, making it transformation.  There is a lightness and an intensity that shifts people beyond their head space into their hearts, and they want others to have a similar experience.

Many Success Stories

Listen in to a number of success stories that show how the participants bring their inspirations of working together during the workshops or summits back into their own workplaces.  Susan relays a number of touching examples of how summit participants bring the key concepts and their change agendas to life so they will continue to make a difference long after the initial energy of the workshop experience.

A Positive Vision for Program Quality in Education

Susan’ book Inspiring Early Childhood Leadership: Eight Strategies to Ignite Passion and Transform Program Quality (Gryphon House) is out in September 2016 (link below).  Susan’s focus in writing this book is about bringing quality into programs and leadership in education and how both impact the broader community.  Leadership in education is not just about achieving a certain score. It’s about vision and positive actions across the entire system: children and families, staff meetings and the community. The book offers reflective practices and many “how tos” to help leaders step out of their suits of armor of yesteryear into the quality of early childhood leadership required for the 21st century.

Books Mentioned in this Episode


 Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


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If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

Community Strengths and What Makes Us Human, With Jean-Louis Lamboray – PS015

Our guest, Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray, is Co-founder of Constellation, a non-profit global community development organization. Jean-Louis’ passion is to stimulate local responses where people realize their strengths, their collective capacities and begin to take action toward their dreams. It’s a strength-based, positive approach with the emphasis on real experiences, practice and people doing it for themselves.

Episode Overview – Community Strengths and What Makes us Human

Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray in episode 15, "What Makes Us Himan"Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray co-founded a global organization, called Constellation 10 years ago.  It’s a Belgian NGO working around the world to stimulate, empower and connect communities.

Since co-founding Constellation, Jean-Louis has co-created a strengths-based approach to community development called Community Life Competence. The organization is a non-hierarchical network of people and organizations delivering strength-based approaches where learning emerges from within the community and is transferred to others outside.  (Please note, I use the term “community” throughout,  yet this work applies equally to all organizations).

Strength-based Community Development

What Constellation does best is to show that when a community discovers its strengths, it takes ownership, it starts to act and mysterious things happen.  In this episode, I invite Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray to comment on his own beautiful words inserted below. If you want to be inspired, and if you like good stories, you will absolutely enjoy my interview with Jean-Louis.

For some mysterious reason, I have always felt that at their core, people were good, and that they could achieve a lot if they were engulfed with trust. I keep being amazed by the power of a positive outlook on people and situations. That power not only transforms the situation, it has transformed me.

Program Failure Births a Positive Epidemic

Jean-Louis starts with a story when, as a medical doctor, he was working at the World Bank and together with UNAIDS, he co-founded a program to deal with the AIDs epidemic in a region in Thailand.  He considers the failure of that project – after 5 years of success at arresting the epidemic through local responses, there were no changes in the program’s policy at the institutional level to deal with epidemics at the local level – provoked him to change his own actions.

What actually happened is that he learnt so much from the communities who were able to deal with adversity successfully that he eventually founded Constellation in 2004.  Since then, he has worked on most continents co-creating with communities the process that has become the Community Competence Cycle.  The cycle is SALT, and it stands for:

Stimulate, Appreciate, Learn,Transfer

The cycle starts when Constellation facilitators  visit with a community.  They visit to learn through stimulating conversations with the community.  They truly appreciate what is going on.  Dr. Lombray stresses appreciate in the SALT cycle is not an analytical process.  It is not an audit of assets.  Appreciate is a behavior where they stop and let the mind stand still, so they truly notice what is going on in the present moment. Learning emerges from the conversations and the actions that are actually making a difference.  The community members learn themselves into resourceful actions. The transfer occurs when people talk to each other and they pass on their insights and learnings to their neighboring communities and it multiplies over and over.

PPositivity Lens NotebookOSITIVITY LENS for this Episode

Download Jean Louis' suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint- it’s about applying S.A.L.T. to your life.


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Click the button below to open your activity sheet for this episode:

How to Start a Positive Epidemic

With this appreciative disposition, we create neither sinners nor saints. We appreciate that people are good at the core.  We observe their strengths and their competencies.

By looking for what’s working in communities, these three things happen at minimum:

  1. the way we ask ourselves questions and reflect together enables us to learn to recognize our own strengths, allowing us to continue doing what works
  2. by tapping into our own resources to collectively address community concerns, we learn what more is possible
  3. we are transformed by those conversations and learnings which then multiply over and over. An excellent indicator of success is the transfer.  It comes after the community realizes that we can do it by ourselves.

Thereby, a positive epidemic is unleashed. The process is generic. Every group has within the essential resources to carry out action towards a dream.

What Makes Us Human

Dr. Lamboray’s book, What Makes Us Human is available in French and Spanish and will be available English by the end of 2014.   It’s a book that tells the story of Constellation and the SALT cycle.  It verifies that, as humans co-existing on this plant we are all in this together.  The most appropriate metaphor for organizational life comes from nature, not from machines.  Our organizations are evolving.  That’s a beautiful thing.

What makes us human is our connection with others, with nature, with our innate gifts; and, as humans, our aspirations are similar the world over: we want to be free to have dreams; we want to find ways to work together, to be truly happy at work, and most of us are in service of a higher purpose.

This is a longish podcast.  If you’re interested in life-centric change, community engagement, positivity, empowerment, how to unlearn and move out of the cage of rigid constructs, you will truly enjoy listening to Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Books Mentioned In This Episode:

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.

Listen to Stitcher


Subscribe Via RSS

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

The NICE Reboot – Entrepreneurial Know-How, with Penina Rybak – PS013

Penina Rybak Image

The NICE Reboot – Episode Summary

Women, entrepreneurs, passion, courage, mentors, positivity are topics covered in this episode with Penina Rybak, speaker and author of “The NICE Reboot.”  This digital age is such a gift to women who live true to the feminine values of transparency, collaboration, and care. Access to thought leaders who can be virtual mentors and whose experiences and expertise is readily available on-line opens up unprecedented opportunities.  Penina outlines how, despite personal health issues and the tragic loss of her own mentor and best friend, rebooted her life to be the bootstrapped entrepreneur she is today.

Entrepreneurial Know-How

What it takes to be a female entrepreneur is the topic of my conversation with Penina Rybak. Penina is a speaker, author, speech therapist and entrepreneur.  She is CEO of Socially Speaking LLC and Director of The NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship.

My observation is that Penina is tirelessly committed to her mission:

“To embed social entrepreneurship into the DNA of all entrepreneurship and to provide strategies, forums, seminars, coaching, and opportunities, to help more women successfully partake of both the Entrepreneurial and Tech Revolutions in the iEra which have intersected.”

I met Penina at a eWomensNetworking lunch recently.  We found resonance in our shared passion for spreading awareness about all the opportunities that exist in the world today in this social age especially for women in business. We’re both speakers, authors, workshop facilitators, have a good presence on all the social networks, and enjoy engaging in this space; we’re both app developers and mission-driven.  No wonder we clicked!

Personal Setbacks and a Reboot

Penina switched careers from a speech therapist to an entrepreneur in two short years.  Her story comes from her unraveling,  understanding and acting on the patterns that precipitated big changes in her life.

A series of personal setbacks, including her own near death experience and losing her best friend and mentor to cancer had Penina rebooting her life and renewing herself through a deep search into her own inner and outer worlds in order to re-engage with the world.

Change is like fireworks

Penina beautifully describes how change happens like fireworks, a series of events firing one after another, propelling us into and lining up new directions.  She promised her dying friend, she would step out onto the bigger stage to share what she herself was learning, launching Socially Speaking LLC to be a beacon in her profession as a speech therapist.

Then a few years later, she realized there was an even bigger stage. Her message was to be expanded. She founded The NICE Reboot and NICE initiative to be a guide for those who are embarking on their own change journey.

The NICE Reboot: A Guide to Becoming a Better Female Entrepreneur
In preparation for the bigger stage and stepping into the role of entrepreneur, Penina did was she does best. She read; and read; and researched; and networked; and connected.  As a result, within six months she turned this highly productive effort into a highly practical book to help all women reboot their lives.

All her learnings are now published as a resource she herself would have valued – a guidebook to entrepreneurship. The book: The NICE Reboot: A guide to becoming a better female entrepreneur.

NICE works for women & there’s so much more

Penina chose the acronym N.I.C.E. because of the play on words.

N – is for being NICE

Women especially are socialized to be nice; and it is a positive attribute:  it’s an acknowledgment of the strength of women’s soft skills and our nurture gene.  We are expected to be nice and most of us are.

I – is for being INFORMED

In this digital age, it’s essential we stay informed and all the tools and technologies are there to help us and make it far easier than ever before.

C – is for being COMPETENT

Today, if we can read and have access to the internet, we have no excuse.  We can become entrepreneurs, should we desire that road,  more readily with all the resources available than at any other time.

E – is for being ENTREPRENEURIAL

To have an entrepreneurial mindset is to think globally and appreciate the impact we can have.  The growth in social entrepreneurship is especially exciting and calling to many of us who have a desire to leave a positive imprint on the world.

Highlights of Penina’s episode

  • A painful time can become a most productive time
  • Women are extremely versatile and can reboot and are ready to reboot
  • Tools are so readily available; we are globally connected in unprecedented ways
  • The patterns can be found all around us.  Pay attention. Nothing is random.
  • Learn from those who cross our path to discover things about ourselves.
  • Live in the moment and worry less about outcomes.
  • Pay attention and find the connections.
  • Avail yourself of all the thought leadership and virtual mentors out there writing on blogs and engaging in social networks.
  • Go for diversity of experiences; meet and develop relationships with people different from you.
  • Pay attention to who crosses your path, as they inform the trajectory of your life.

The attributes of the woman entrepreneur

Listen to how Penina addresses the issues of how much, and how little we know, and the relevance of demographics.  She also talks about her attributes as a woman and what she values about herself and her most teachable moments.

The role of culture, generational values and capital

The millennials are doing their part expecting cultures of transparency, collaboration, participation, authenticity and teamwork in workplaces.  Many are more turned on by mission driven organizations and social entrepreneurship than big bucks.  They are here to serve. Reverse mentorship in some organizations is providing great value where young people bring seniors up to date with technology and leadership is shared.

Humor and Positivity

A sense of humor and a positive attitude can take you a long way.  Being optimistic to say “Yes” is to open up possibilities, opportunities, and diverse experiences.  Focusing on what will be your legacy and how you want to be remembered expands your horizons, provides a sense of purpose, offers clarity and helps you find your peace.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Penina's Social Media Profiles

Books Mentioned In This Episode: