One of the key global topics at this time in human history is about the Covid-19 pandemic that for almost two years has held our attention and challenged us to think differently. It has shifted the narrative from being predominantly focussed on the future to the here-and-now experience of how we are coping as a global community. Faith Addicott in collaboration with Staceye Randle continues the series titled: “Our Principles in Action: Appreciative Inquiry for Justice & Belonging” with an exploration of the Narrative principle. I am delighted to introduce our voices from the field for this issue of AI Practitioner.
Faith Addicott | USA
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.
Staceye Randle | USA
Staceye Randle, MPOD is a human resources professional passionate about creating workplaces focused on helping people grow and learn. She is also an advocate for ensuring equity and justice in every aspect of her private and professional life.
Head into any kindergarten class (pre-pandemic) and you would see otherwise notoriously active five-year olds sitting quietly around their teacher. They are quiet, still, concentrating on every word the teacher reads to them. Felicity’s grandmother could never be disturbed on weekdays between eleven in the morning and noon. No phone calls, no conversations. She was focused on her favorite soap opera, The Young and the Restless. No interruptions were allowed during this time.
What do these situations have in common? They show how a story can stop us in our tracks, disrupt habits, or transform our daily lives. Stories are impactful. Stories connect people. Stories can bring about change.
This is the essence of the Narrative principle. Like the principles already discussed (Anticipatory, Constructionist), the Narrative principle acknowledges that “The past, present and future are not separate stages, but rather beginnings, middles and endings of a story in progress. Organizations and human systems are stories-in-progress.” In the equity and justice space, the Narrative principle is a particularly powerful tool, ensuring that the organizational, human story is one that includes all voices.
We need this principle because the truth is that most of the time, marginalized people do not feel heard in the places where they live and work. Their stories are not the stories in the brochures, their experience unreflected in language or messaging. They are often discounted or minimized, pushed far from the center of the collective tale. Applying the Narrative principle gives marginalized people an opportunity to tell their stories.
This opens space for the lives of those historically silenced to occupy the center of the narrative; too often the conversation around equity and justice does not focus on those impacted most, instead centering the feelings/experiences of the majority. Through the wider lens that is created when more people have a place in our shared storytelling, we can move towards real change. Peter Forbes sums up stories very well, saying that “Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others.” When we can see the truth in those claims, we can give the voices of those who have suffered under inequity the power to make a different world.
There is a deeper truth in this principle as well. Stories require a teller – and someone to hear the tale. The most important part of communication isn’t talking. It’s listening. As practitioners, we must focus on listening, on allowing ourselves to be transformed by the stories we hear. Deep learning and opportunities to create change lie in this listening space. If we want to create a more equitable and just society, then the someone who hears must be us. All of us.
Intro by Keith Storace
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.