I am pleased to introduce Faith Addicott as our Voice from the Field in this issue of the AI Practitioner. Faith will be presenting each of the 10 AI principles in the context of justice and belonging as a key feature of Voices from the Field. Along with Faith’s introduction to the series, the Anticipatory principle will feature in this Issue. Future issues will include the remaining principles presented by Faith, along with our regular articles from global contributors.
Faith Addicott, MPA, MPOD is working to improve the intersection of work and life through innovative and human-centered process design. Her consulting work has centered on nonprofits and local government using Appreciative Inquiry and other strengths-based processes. She is a champion for inclusive workplace design.
We live in extraordinary times. For the last year, our lives have been disrupted in ways that have challenged us, but that have also given us space to grow through the new cracks, towards the light. Over and over, I have heard many in our community speak to the ways in which they feel called, through their practice of Appreciative Inquiry, to lean into these new possibilities. Particularly, our community is being called to apply the principles of our practice to the liberation of organizational systems from racial oppression, and to be an active part of ameliorating trauma for Black and brown bodies.
Luckily for us, AI is already particularly well suited for this work. Our tool is facile, able to fit into any space we can imagine, because it calls on us to imagine something better. AI calls on us to dream of a future in which Justice is a given, and it asks us to lead with our words and our intention and our commitment to pull that future ever closer today.
In this series, I will look at 10 core principles of Appreciative Inquiry and explore how they bring life to our pursuit of justice and belonging within our organizations. While I recognize that the principles normally flow in a certain order, for this work there is a slightly new logic. Form follows function….so first up – The Anticipatory principle.
The power of the Anticipatory principle
The Anticipatory principle says to us that images inspire action. More deeply, it speaks to the interconnected nature of the present and the future. This principle tells us that “human systems move in the direction of their images of the future. The more positive and hopeful the image of the future, the more positive the present-day action.” What is implied, and what leads us to the ways that this principle functions in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) space, is that the more positive the present-day action, the more positive hope we have for the future. (This ties back in a cyclical loop with the Constructionist principle, which we will discuss in our next issue!)
For a handful of decades, our organizations and communities have been aware of the deep racial inequity that exists, particularly in America, but also around the world. We have, collectively, been trying to move away from that. But our efforts have been only minimally successful. The truth is that it isn’t enough to only know what we don’t want – we have to be able to envision and create a future that we DO want.
The power of the Anticipatory principle and its fundamental centering in the Dream work of AI is in this – we are allowed to imagine, encouraged to dream, to peer behind the veils of what is next and begin to create an expectation of a future that is just, where all people are safe, where racism no longer exists. By doing this, particularly with whole systems in the room, we build something to move towards, not just away from.
Towards is a pull, a beacon, a guiding line of vision into something new, something good. As Andy Smith at Coaching Leaders (UK) so rightly points out, “If we know where we want to get to, we can correct our aim if circumstances knock us off course.”
Away from is not a direction and does not give us that “inner rudder”. If our motivation for acting is to escape unfavorable situations, we may end up further from where we would really like to be.
Where do we want to get to?
AI is the best tool we know of to help groups of people, in organizations and in communities, figure out where we want to get to. Is it still important to dismantle the systems of oppression and exclusion that exist today? Of course! AND we can do that while helping people to flex the muscle of their creative capacity for change, for imagining.
Dismantling (which is different from smashing) these systems, with a clearly envisioned future state allows us to become reclamation specialists, choosing the pieces of our deconstructed paradigms that we want to keep, that serve us well, while discarding those that cause harm. We reduce (the structures that have held us), we reuse (those ideas whose power has not yet been well-harnessed), and we recycle (the bits and pieces that belong truly to us, and through which we create belonging). AI and our clear anticipation of the future allow us to be sustainable, and not just burn the house down.
We are all futurists
This work is vitally important, especially now. We must all be futurists when the present is already loosening the joints and joists of our reality for us. Racism is not some thing that exists only in the past – “It is forward-looking, laying claim to our capacity to imagine the future. This is why imagining an anti-racist future is so challenging. It does not just entail imagining the eradication of past forms of racism… [it] requires challenging the progress of racism as it proliferates and transforms our very capacity to imagine the future.”
The attitudes of casual racial discrimination – of othering – have inertia and are rolling into the future every minute that they are not confronted with a vision of the future that is free of them. AI and our inherent anticipation/creation of a new future is the active intervention, the redirection, that is needed.
In parallel with rich questioning of our current systems, with making spaces for uncomfortable and brave conversations, and with challenging the precepts of racism at every opportunity, our community has a mighty set of tools in AI to combat racism. We do this, in part, by helping people to understand their own creative agency, their capacity to name an anti-racist reality as their own and to collectively move towards it.
By Keith Storace
Keith is a registered psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and associate fellow with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM). He has designed and implemented health and wellbeing frameworks across the community, health and education sectors. Keith’s current focus is on developing his work in Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) to assist individuals in moving from self-doubt to inspired positive action.