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Conversations With David Cooperrider Go a Long Way

Axiom News mission reframed, what gives life is sought, and points beyond defined

This year I had the good fortune of two conversations with David Cooperrider. The first was while walking the grounds of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland this spring. That conversation gave plenty to ponder.

Having learned from our interactions with the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) movement, we at Axiom News were already acting on whole system engagement. Engaging people from across the system is a story-gathering hallmark of our services. We daily see what happens when you connect with people throughout a system and weave their stories into a broader narrative. Change happens, innovation spreads, and a culture of sharing develops.

We have also always focused client coverage on strengths and what’s working. That’s one of our value promises.

One of the new-to-me thoughts coming out of that spring walk was to move beyond strengths and start looking for what gives a system life. Where is the energy in a social ecology and how can you appreciate it, increase its value?

I now wonder during our daily news direction meetings, where is the energy in this client’s community? That’s where the news and the opportunity for growth and change reside.

As I recounted my conversation with David to my colleagues at Axiom, this and other ideas of his wove into and gave new shape to our work. A few phrases kept sparking energy: Co-create, life giving, renew, thriving.

Before long our team settled on a task for our next work: To Co-Create a Life-Giving News Network for a Renewed and Thriving World. This was a new beginning.

So, how about this co-creating narratives bit anyway? Sure we’ve been doing this for years. We go out to stakeholders, ask appreciative questions and share stories. That co-creates narrative.

With new focus on the question of how to co-create narrative we now reach further.

Curating is a new service we’re offering and its meeting with wonderful, fun success. By connecting like-minded people who are creating content in line with the values we and our customers wish to express we take co-creation another step. By asking others to allow us to share their content, tweets, blogs, flickr-found photographs, videos, sometimes with a bit of set up and introduction, each community grows in energy and connections. Often these ‘others’ are people who are not currently connected with our client’s organization. As such they open up new things to explore. Turns out there are so many ways to co-create narrative and therefore shape the direction an organization takes – all by searching for the energy. It’s awesome.

This idea of co-creating has thus spun itself from conversation into generative activity.

In Cincinnati this summer the design team for the upcoming CoreChange Summit gathered. David was facilitating. I’ve come to understand the importance of having a task for co-creative, whole system gatherings to focus on. I was sure the group was stalled on task definition.  Maybe the design team should think about narrowing its approach exclusively to the strengths of individuals if we couldn’t come up with a broader task. I interrupted David and suggested it.

It seems the opposite is the thing to do.

David, in our second and short chat of the year, answered before moving back into the room to facilitate.

I was left with the clear notion that for a community to transform and for people to engage their own strengths, a point outside the current system to which people can move and aspire is the thing.

This idea of a ‘point outside’ has since added to our approach at Axiom News.

Now, in our daily news discussions we often ask, what point outside this particular customer’s system, yet embedded in its being, might catalyze and transform?

While we at Axiom News work to co-create a news network (which inspires us to look beyond our own walls and partner with others) for a renewed and thriving world (well into the aspirational) we have points outside our system to ponder regularly. Sharing these intentions with some of our customers we find they feel the pull of something beyond themselves too. The response is often an expressed desire to be involved.

And now, as the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference nears, I read and hear more about this idea of connectedness. Has a key to AI’s success been connectedness? Have we appreciated that enough? Generating an economy of connecting strengths, as the conference material suggests, is a point outside all of our organizations that might pull us into a new movement.

I have since heard, and I cannot remember where, that conversation is the operating system of your organization. With conversations like these, well . . . no kidding.

Thanks David for such catalytic conversations. They have been very much appreciated.

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Peter Pula's picture

Peter is the Founder and CEO of Axiom News. During his 22 years in business he has also founded and led a community newspaper and a corporate communications agency. He has served as a member and chairperson on the boards and committees of children's services, schools, municipal grants, arts, and local exchange organizations.

Peter has been invited to host workshops in Canada, Europe, and the United States on the practice of Generative Journalism, an open communications approach for emergent and constructive change in organizations, networks, and communities.

He has been integrating lessons from the Asset-based Community Development, Appreciative Inquiry Gifts and Possibilities communities with the journalistic arts as practiced at Axiom News.

To bring dialogic and narrative arts together Peter has hosted dozens of conversations shaped by Appreciative Inquiry, A Small Group, Open Spaces, and Rapid Prototyping. Most recently, he has been exploring the wisdom in the Art of Hosting community.

Alongside international colleagues, Peter is bringing complementary practices and business models together to support ongoing community-building, new narratives.

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