My 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)
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@example.com
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
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