International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry

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Appreciative Inquiry: RaisingHuman•Kind

Andrea Kane Frank is a licensed mental health therapist in Maryland, USA who has worked in private practice, on police-based teams, in homes, schools, hospitals and corporations. She is the founder of RaisingHuman•Kind (andreakanefrank.com).

RaisingHuman•Kind is a platform I’ve created to design systems with a kindness lens. In essence, it’s a way of approaching the energy we bring to any situation so that we can maximise the amount of kindness we bring forward in our families, at school, at work and at play. It’s a micro and macro approach. The more self-compassion we have and the more open we are to receiving from others, the more we will want to share from a place of equilibrium from within, focusing on our internal climate to maximise what we can bring forward externally. My goal is to educate people using Appreciative Inquiry tools to realise we have every possibility to bring more kindness forward for ourselves and for others with simple questions for our maximum impact.

Discovering

In my own exploration of the topic I have learned that people have preferences on how they like to incorporate kindness into their everyday experiences. Some view it as an effort in inclusion, others see it as being of service to others, some feel it best expressed through random acts of kindness. All kinds of personalities have preferences including direct interaction, informal interaction or anonymity.

Inspiring

As a child I always leaned more toward the spiritual side and, as the youngest of six, I carved my own path that didn’t reflect the tracks of my older siblings. I relied heavily on my spiritual and intuitive instincts to guide me and they have never let me down. Kindness was a natural way of being until it wasn’t.

Six years ago I suffered many losses of significant front line people in my life in one year’s time. My work in the crisis and trauma field combined with caregiving for my young family and my parents simultaneously led to a breakdown in my health and to my own inquiry. It wasn’t until I was completely sidelined by this health challenge and overwhelming grief that I started asking questions to lead me to the right healing professionals who could restore me to good health.

I met with many doctors and was blessed to be cared for in the most loving of environments. My Lyme disease doctor thankfully was able to diagnose the problem. He had also done research about how to curate environments for maximum healing. He selectively hires patient-centred, loving staff and pays special heed to environmental factors. He and his staff were a huge part of my inquiry and recovery. I could feel the loving atmosphere he took such care in creating. My weekly treatments and visits to the office became a resting place.

My spiritual side led me to Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY where I studied for four days with Pema Chodrin and to Washington, DC to learn with Tara Brach. I cultivated the importance of self-compassion, allowing all parts of me to be acknowledged and integrated into my being.

More Dreaming and Discovering

Further questions allowed me to just let the path unfold. I participated in a business immersion program focused on creating a good life, pursued a certification in positive psychology, studied with the world’s leading expert on trauma healing, and attended my first Canadian Positive Psychology Conference where I heard David Cooperrider speak for the first time. I knew he would be part of what was next for me but I didn’t know how.

Through further exploration I realised that while I was still sidelined by my health challenge, there were things I could do. I could continue to rest, read, and to discover and identify my gifts and how to use them while I was healing. I also pursued body-based therapies to help move trauma from grief and losses of my own and those that I witnessed in my work. I meditated and still do. I learned how much it takes to care for yourself so that you can be present and kind to others. I had a lot of catching up to do. I learned that trauma creates an environment for disease to develop and thrive, and the importance of caring for my body on a soulful level.

Like so many others, I was focused on my output rather than my input, which isn’t sustainable for any system. My vision for RaisingHuman•Kind followed the inquiry into my own health recovery and how I was using these tools with my children and family to create upward spirals of experiences as soon as any one of us stepped out the front door. I wanted everyone’s first touch of the day to be a good one, knowing we came from a rested place, caring for one another and ourselves. I envisioned the first encounters we each had after having left home on a positive note and knew that if we were intentional, our first encounters could be positive and inspire more of the same. When I notice we need a “start over” if our morning isn’t measuring up to this intention, we state that and start again, giving ourselves permission to be human.

We continue to experiment. I asked my sons how they liked to share kindness. We put a large vase in the centre of the table and at dinner in the evenings we’d share a story of how we brought kindness forward and we’d add a bean to the jar to see our kindness growing.

We also did our own family summit, which led to a change in their school and gave them a voice in their educational needs. It was all coming together.

I’ve conducted SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) sessions at aviation and athletic companies while also assisting with implementation from the data derived from those sessions. I am grateful for Jackie Stavros’ work in this area. Kindness as a lens allowed for the whole system to have a voice in systemic change.

Designing and Delivering what’s to come

Right now, the platform is in its infancy, with a podcast launch planned, speaking, online learning and in-person training being developed. Again, I am allowing the universe to lead me as I continue to explore the constant of change and transition.

Imagining

I can imagine organisations and families making kindness practices the cornerstone for their wellbeing creating a positive contagion. I can see more compassionate systems and a kinder, more connected world.

Collaborating

So far my appreciative beginnings and journey have lead me to meeting amazing humans and to present for the first time internationally in Nice at WAIC 2019. Together with Marge Schiller and Allen Keitz we created a workshop entitled Amplifying Kindness in the Family Using Appreciative Inquiry. It’s been a springboard for me to know that people were interested and wanted topics and explorations in this area. I was able to become an AI-certified practitioner and serve on the global steering committee for Positive Education.

Listening to the nudges

Just like the words in the Cat Stevens song, “I listen to the wind of my soul”, all of these experiences unfolded from allowing the quiet to bring me answers and direction and to gently ask my spirit what it most needed in the moment. I’ve learned that kindness can’t be sustainable unless we’ve taken good care to continuously prime our internal environment and it needs to be freely given and received for it to be genuine.

I’m ready to use what I am learning to be of service to the world. Something touched me deeply hearing David Cooperridder’s journey of global service. I want to be a part of that and hope you will join me in RaisingHuman•Kind together, in caring so deeply for one another and ourselves that the result is a global rising by lifting one another. Our world is calling out for it and I’m thankful to have found this amazing community of soulful people to share the journey with me.

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