In the August 2021 of AI Practitioner we have three enlightening articles for Voices from the Field, each one providing a unique window into Appreciative Inquiry. Faith Addicott presents the Constructionist principle as part of her ongoing series titled ‘Our Principles in Action: Appreciative Inquiry for Justice & Belonging’. We are then introduced to Vera A. Hofmann and her work, which considers the shifting narrative across business and society as it continues to move us toward a new paradigm. The third article, by Jan Driesen, examines four key factors that impact the successful application of AI throughout the organisational change process. It is my pleasure to present all three authors to our AI Practitioner readership.
Faith Addicott, MPA, MPOD is working to improve the intersection of work and life through innovative and humancentered 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.
Words make worlds. At the core of being human is our creative capacity to name the world around us, to describe it and know it through language. Because the ways that we do this are both individual and collective, both for ourselves and in agreement with our society, the impacts of these definitions give shape to our past and our future.
In this context, as we strive for a future that is more just and where all people can thrive and belong, we step into the Constructionist principle to acknowledge that our society’s choices of perspective have historically negated the contributions of Black and brown people. The voices of a significant segment of people in our cultures have not been included in the creation of a world view that holds meaning for them. If our reality holds no place for people to share in the creation of the world, there is no way to have that reality include meaningful justice.
“The good news is that since we construct our reality, we have a choice to construct it the way we want it. We are active players in our life stories.” Developing our understanding of the Constructionist principle and using it to guide how we create processes and policies in our organizations is a powerful lever for moving us towards equitable futures. It encourages us to co-create, to engage in intentionally inclusive practices, especially when we are choosing what we want reality to be. Opening ourselves to another person’s reality and lived experience, folding that reality into the creation of possibilities, is fundamental to building anti-racist practices into action.
There is a tension for many in embracing the Constructionist principle. This power to create can be scary … we long for certainty, for solid truths that are immutableand beyond us. But, even in physics, we are discovering that reality is infinitely changeable, shaped by our perceptions and expectations. As Peter Block says, “… when we take uncertainty out, it is no longer the future. It is the present projected forward. Nothing new can come from the desire for a predictable tomorrow.”
Through the way we define our shared experiences, positive or negative, we explicitly create the container for all understanding of the world.
Though it may feel risky to go to groups and challenge them to re-create their organizations with a wider aperture, this is what we are called to do. As practitioners, we are in a position to use Appreciative Inquiry to deepen and shift not just what we talk about, but also what we understand about the nature of our ongoing conversation with reality. And with each other. It is the richness of inclusive creation and truly shared ownership of the collective narrative that allows us to build towards justice.
Intro 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.