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A Learner’s View on Global Appreciative Inquiry Gathering

Are you looking for an approach to change that moves beyond incremental steps of change? Do you recall bringing opposites together in a fruitful conversation?

Crafting questions, active listening, looking for “lived” experiences that help to explore the future. These are just some of the learning dimensions that emerged for me from the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference held April 25-28 in Ghent, Belgium.

For several days, practitioners and learners of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) rubbed shoulders with founding elders of this positive approach to change.

My highlights: AI is firmly grounded in how we construct our daily life and reality. Enactment of key concepts, such as dialogue; generative design and connections and the AI summit were woven into the conference program. There was a rallying call for working towards the beckoning horizon of what is possible and not to get bogged down by reverting to past history of mistakes, failures, and pessimism. 

AI is about using curiosity and the art of questions to actively explore what needs to change. Inspiring sessions on crafting questions, and enacting co-creation and dialogue showed the emergent strength of the approach and are building blocks for a future that we want to realize. Take-home questions for me included: How can I apply an AI approach in my professional and personal life? In raising my children? Inspirational stories of using AI for change at the system, organizational, team, family and individual levels illustrate the richness of AI practices.

Although founding fathers and acknowledged practitioners took the central stage, they shared their experiences and discoveries by inviting us to draw on own experience and to think beyond self-imposed boundaries to change. Positivity attracts and can fuel inquiry.

My favourite quote for active citizenship: "Pessimists are not in the majority, they just happen to make more noise!" So we need to “pump up” our volume!


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Russell Kerkhoven was born in South Africa, and raised in Africa and in the Netherlands. Later he worked his way through university as a sociologist, then lived and worked out his boyhood dream of returning to Africa, where he worked for the UN. Disappointed with the bureaucracy, he joined the startup of a non-governmental organization on HIV/AIDS. After returning to the Netherlands he worked as an international health consultant and used an appreciative approach in refocusing a knowledge centre for Dutch civil society organizations to become a proactive knowledge and learning centre. Fuelled by a drive to become more proficient in Appreciative Inquiry, he recently enrolled in the Flemish Appreciative Inquiry Network and re-established his private inquiry and facilitation company. Blue Leaf.  Amongst other activities, he is exploring the use of questions and how to foster curiosity.