International Journal of Appreciative Inquiry


Archive for the ‘Voices from the field’ Category

Voices from the field

Featured in this issue of AI Practitioner’s “Voices from the Field”, Åse Fagerlund, Ph.D., highlights the transformative power of positive psychological interventions and Appreciative Inquiry in her insightful short article, “My Appreciative Inquiry Journey: Transforming Psychological Practice through Positive Interventions.” By centring therapy on individuals’ strengths and attributes, Åse’s approach creates a nurturing and empowering environment. Her research and practice are testament to how such positive psychological approaches significantly enhance the ability of young people to develop vital life skills and boost their overall wellbeing. Åse’s collaborative efforts with diverse groups of stakeholders –including students, parents, educators, and community members – foster a robust support network. This interconnection amplifies individual wellness and plays a crucial role in cultivating healthier, more resilient communities. The emphasis on human connection and mutual appreciation underscores its profound impact on psychological practice and community health. It’s my pleasure to introduce Åse Fagerlund and her masterful work in this issue of AI Practitioner.

Download Voices from the Field.

Keith Storace | Australia

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 manages a private practice at Kiku Imagination where he applies the Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) therapy program to assist individuals move toward, strengthen, and enjoy what is meaningful while dealing with the challenges they encounter along the way. 


Åse Fagerlund | Finland 

Åse Fagerlund, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist, psychotherapist and researcher focusing on increasing mental wellbeing in all her work with individual clients, teams and organizations. Åse is also a certified Appreciative Inquiry practitioner trained by David Cooperrider and Ron Fry. 


My Appreciative Inquiry Journey: Transforming Psychological Practice through Positive Interventions 

From deficit-based to strengths-based 

Sam was 12 years old, but by the looks of him you might have guessed he was around 8. He could hardly sit still in my office, constantly fidgeting with something in his hands. He was there to undergo a neuropsychological examination by me, and I could already see it was not going to be an easy task for either of us. Introducing the procedures I told Sam we would look at what he was good at as well as at what was more difficult for him at school. In my role as the neuropsychologist, I had excellent validated tests at hand, but my problem with them was that I knew they would only reveal deficits in Sam’s cognitive behavioural functioning. His biological mother had been a heavy drinker during pregnancy and Sam suffered from vast brain damage caused by fetal alcohol exposure. Regarding Sam’s strengths, I had no tests. I needed to chat with him informally to be able to tell him and his foster parents about him being kind, a good friend or good at soccer. 

Sam would have been a typical client, as my frustration with a deficit-based way of working grew over many years. That was until I stumbled upon an area in psychology that wasn’t really considered “real” psychology among my colleagues: positive psychology. Very soon I realized I had found the very methods and tools I had been looking for a long time. Here were the tools to help young people map their strengths, not just their difficulties. Finally, I had found evidence-based interventions to teach young people life tools to get them through, or help them handle the difficulties life had thrown at them. The heavier the backpack to carry, the more life skills needed to handle the journey. 

The effects of wellbeing training on children, parents and teachers 

I embraced the opportunity to set up a research project and, since 2015, I have led a research group focusing on testing positive psychological methods to help young people build life skills and increase their wellbeing; first at a non-profit research foundation and now at the Department of Education at the University of Helsinki. Over the years we have seen children increase their psychological wellbeing, positive emotions and hope, as well as diminishing symptoms of depression and stress because of the training. We went on to develop and evaluate wellbeing training for both parents and school staff. We have now seen parents increase their abilities to engage mindfully with their children and be more self-compassionate. We have seen the wellbeing of teachers increase as they have learned about how to teach wellbeing skills to their students. Soon teachers were asking for more. How could they integrate all these tools around wellbeing into a whole school approach? 

Whole school wellbeing 

I heard David Cooperrider speak about something called Appreciative Inquiry (AI) at the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) World Congress in Montréal, Canada in 2017, and managed to speak with him: “Oh, you come from Finland,” he said, “do you know Martti Ahtisaari?” 

No, I didn’t know our former president personally, but David apparently did. I realized I had again stumbled upon an important area that might be exactly what I needed to offer the teachers and the schools. I chose to pursue training in AI, but it proved challenging. Despite searching, I found no available courses in Finland or the neighbouring Nordic countries. Finally, in 2019, I travelled to Cleveland USA for training led by David Cooperrider and Ron Fry. 

That training in AI changed my (work)life. Today, I train teachers and parents in applying wellbeing skills, first with themselves, and then with their children or students. And then we go on to build wellbeing plans for entire school communities through AI processes. Wellbeing teams from schools come together and work in collaboration with parents, students and representatives from recreational associations (e.g. the local soccer club or dance group) on mapping what they already do for the wellbeing of young people in their community. 

They dream of what might be and they start planning what will be. As their plans progress, we invite local decision-makers and media to hear about their work to elevate their plans, and the importance of their work. Mostly, I don’t do this alone, but in collaboration with what we call the national home–school association. They can lift the importance of really involving parents and help schools establish local home–school associations for the schools if they don’t already have them. I think many attempts at schools to increase student wellbeing are not as effective as they could be if parents were beneficially involved. It does take a village to raise a child, especially if a child carries that rather heavy backpack. Finally, we try to continue the work with yearly booster gatherings where wellbeing teams from schools come together to share ideas and best practices to move forward. 

Can we narrow the gap between deficit-based and generative-based interventions? 

I am still also the neuropsychologist and psychotherapist, meeting clients with a lot of challenges and often a very negative outlook on life. Meet Lisa and her shame, for example. Lisa was so ashamed of herself she found it awful to attend meetings at work, not to speak of going on work trips. Because what if she slipped and said something embarrassing? What if she didn’t fit in and others found her odd? As a result, she tried her best to be on constant alert and control herself. Apart from being depressed and anxious, she was absolutely exhausted. 

Could work inspired through AI form part of her evidence-based treatment? This is an area where I am learning and trying to find my way forward in my role as a clinician. When a client has a three-hour daily cleaning ritual, or is too anxious to go to work, or is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, I must stick to evidence-based treatments. Anything else would be unethical. 

Taking treatments further 

But still, I keep wanting to take their treatments further, to focus and work on AI questions like: What might have been a time in your life when you thrived or excelled? What did that feel like? What is your vision for your life? What do you most long for? What might be? I must meet clients where they are in all their anxiety and stress, not ignore but validate the heavy backpacks they carry. When they can walk with them, maybe can we then look for new life paths forward. 

As a neuropsychologist I might describe this process from a subcortical perspective. Below the cortex (the human part of our brains) there is a structure called the amygdala. The amygdala functions as the fear centre of our brains, one we have in common with all other mammals. When a rabbit or a dog or a human gets scared the amygdala is firing and flooding the brain with chemicals to help survival. We go into the well-known fight, flight or freeze reactions. 

My clients in psychotherapy are often in high-alert amygdala-activated states, anxious, fearful or defensive. Positive, generative questions as we find in AI might not reach them then, as survival responses overrule everything else. First, we need to find ways to calm the amygdala enough to handle life challenges. This is what many techniques in psychotherapy are about. Only when the amygdala, or the fear reaction, is within manageable realms are we able to take in new perspectives and be positively creative about our future (Corresponding processes might, by the way, be true of malfunctioning organizations and teams with workers on a constant high alert.) 

To conclude, I think the existing gaps between mental health professionals (as with me, the psychotherapist) and coaches (as with me, the Appreciative Inquiry practitioner) are too wide. The two do not really interact and tend to stay a bit suspicious or ignorant of one another. Still, our clients are the same ones. Employees in companies around the world suffer from mental health

issues like anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorders. And, just like psychotherapeutic approaches may benefit from integrating the like of AI-generated frameworks to help clients move forward in their lives, AI processes, whether in the form of summits, teamwork or individual coaching, may also benefit from adapting procedures to the needs of different kinds of individuals. 

For example, imagine my client Lisa participating in an AI summit at her workplace. She might not excel in a typical AI summit format. Instead, she’d be constantly on her guard, afraid of making a fool of herself, afraid of what others might think of her opinions, so she might try to stay as silent as she could and only say things she thinks might please others to hear. Or imagine Lucas, a typical introvert. The VIA strengths assessment might give him top points for prudence, humility and perseverance, but not as much for social skills. In the AI discovery interview he might mumble and stumble some; in small group work, he’d be mostly silent if not prompted to talk. Still Lucas is very bright and creative if given the time to think things through by himself. 

AI summits that help people shine 

How could the procedures at an AI-summit not only accommodate for people like Lisa and Lucas, but help them contribute and shine? They are not uncommon, either. Studies show that around 30% of adults around the globe define themselves as introverted, and 4-5% of adults fulfil diagnoses of anxiety and depression. And I might just as well admit being one of these introverts. I love thinking, learning, listening and teaching. But I don’t thrive in small group discussions dominated by fluent extroverts, where all my energy goes into listening and I easily get overwhelmed. My own creativity and positivity thrive when I can think in peace and quiet. When I write on my own, I get into flow. 

What if we could arrange AI summits where introverts or anxious, unsure ones get to think things through on their own accord, write down their answers or paint them? Not let the extroverts in the room dominate all small group work and lose sight of many great ideas. What if silent energy and joy are just as valuable as loud energy and expressive joy? I would like to end by proposing a challenge: Could we arrange an AI summit about an AI summit where everyone thrives, introverts and extroverts, high self-esteem, and low self-esteem, calm and anxious alike? One size does not fit all. 

Note: For confidentiality, all descriptions of clients in this article have been anonymized, and specific identifying details have been altered. These measures ensure the privacy and protection of individual identities as per ethical research standards. 


Voices from the field

In a world rapidly evolving with life-changing technologies it’s easy to be apprehensive about the future, especially when contemplating the integration of artificial intelligence into our lives and workspaces. However, there is potential for a remarkable synergy between artificial intelligence and Human Flourishing that holds immense promise. Sasha Farley, our Voice from the Field in this issue of AI Practitioner, highlights how Appreciative Inquiry (AI) emerges as a powerful tool in this journey, allowing us to purposefully reimagine these new technologies that can assist in fostering a sense of flourishing and fulfilment. It’s my pleasure to present Sasha’s timely, insightful, and impactful work to our AI Practitioner readership. 

Download Voices from the Field.

Keith Storace | Australia

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 manages a private practice at Kiku Imagination where he applies the Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) therapy program to assist individuals move toward, strengthen, and enjoy what is meaningful while dealing with the challenges they encounter along the way. 


Sasha Farley | Puerto Rico 

Sasha Farley (She/Her) MSOD, is the founder and CEO of Sasha Farley Consulting where she uses Appreciative Inquiry and other techniques with her clients to reimagine how they work to create opportunities for flourishing and fulfillment. She also co-hosts the Transformation Horizon podcast, which highlights stories using Organization Development to make positive societal impacts. 

How can emergent technologies help support human flourishing? 

When thinking about what the future will look like in relation to how we work and what work will mean to us, two concepts keep coming up in my mind: artificial intelligence and human flourishing. On the surface, these seem like competing concepts, but the more I think about their interconnection, the more I see the potential for artificial intelligence and other new technology tools to actually support our ability to realize human flourishing. 

We live in a fast-changing world, where many of us have experienced significant changes in how we work and interact throughout our lives. I only need to think back to the introduction of computers into our work/school life and the impact of social media on how we connect and market businesses to see concrete examples of the consequential impact of new technology. As these technologies integrated into our lives, we faced the same widespread fear and uncertainty that we are experiencing now in response to artificial intelligence and the fully virtual workplace. 

Reframe and reimagine 

If we can recognize the cycles that exist for the human experience within technology evolutions, we can reframe feelings of uncertainty and fear into hope and opportunities. For me, Appreciative Inquiry (AI) emerges as one of the best tools for organization development (OD) practitioners to facilitate this perspective shift. The use of AI techniques can support clients to purposefully reimagine the ways these new technologies can be integrated, not in an extractive way, but to instead create a sense of flourishing and fulfilment. 

How can AI help us achieve this? The challenges coming our way as a result of artificial intelligence and virtual work tools is massive and can easily lead us and our clients to feel overwhelmed, to focus too much on the problems and blockers. But there is a positive side of feeling overwhelmed that AI approaches can leverage to create positive energy. Frequently, when groups experience overwhelm, they let go of preconceived notions and open up to new possibilities. This openness to new ideas can be cultivated through identifying a common, energizing goal to work towards – an “inspiring image” in AI terms. 

A life full of meaning 

A potential inspiring image that keeps coming to mind for me that can encourage openness to new ideas amidst overwhelm is the idea of human flourishing. Human flourishing is the concept of living a life full of meaning, connection and enjoyment, with support for us to realize our human capacities and strengths, a life that holds intrinsic value in having a sense of purpose outside of ourselves. 

The PERMA model by Dr Martin Seligman (2013) captures five key aspects that collectively help define human flourishing: 

  • Positive emotion: Experiencing more positive emotions (happy, hope, interest, joy, love, compassion, pride, amusement, gratitude, etc.) about the past, present and future. 
  • Engagement: Fully using your skills, strengths and attention for a challenging and rewarding task. 
  • Relationships: Having strong connections to others where you feel supported, loved and valued. 
  • Meaning: Feeling a sense of meaning and purpose derived from belonging to or supporting something bigger than oneself. 
  • Accomplishment/Achievement: Working towards and reaching goals. 

There is a shift occurring, largely driven by workers themselves, to start fostering and building structures and resources that recognize people as whole human beings. So the pursuit of enabling human flourishing within organizations can act as a powerful, inspiring image to help focus the openness to new ideas that can stem from feeling overwhelmed by new technological changes. 

Only in recent decades, however, have organizations begun to recognize that happy, fulfilled and supported workers can better tap into their creativity to drive innovation. And organizations have only just begun to truly recognize that innovation that comes from within the company is crucial for maintaining a competitive advantage in the fast-changing world we live in. Given this more recent emergence, leaders are still being pressured to support the more traditional views of business that prioritize increasing productivity and efficiency above all else. So we frequently see leaders who are trying to reconcile these seemingly competing approaches to success. 

Productivity + creativity? 

One eye-opening moment for me was when I stepped back and looked at the possible uses of artificial intelligence and virtual work tools through the lens of these duelling desires of productivity and creativity within organizations. While there are many examples of organizations using these tools to replace workers or increase drain on workers, both tools have the potential, when thoughtfully incorporated into work cultures and organizations, to free workers from mundane, repetitive tasks and purposeless interactions. This decrease in need to spend time on repetitive tasks can in turn provide more time to allow people to tap into their more creative potential. 

Recent early-stage research shows that when workforces are freed from the pressure of constantly needing to produce more, faster, they perform better and are happier in their work. So the opportunity for realizing human flourishing becomes more possible when organizations can purposefully plan and use these technologies to remove the burden on workers to execute the tasks more efficiently handled by computers. 

A perspective shift 

If we can help leaders focus discussions and energy around how to use artificial intelligence and virtual work tools to remove the burden and drain experienced by workers, we can help make these same technologies into tools to help support people’s ability to have the time and space necessary to think creatively and do tasks that bring meaning and fulfilment. OD practitioners using AI are uniquely positioned to help leaders make this perspective shift and help them realize that they can receive the benefits of increased efficiency and production through the use of emergent technologies, while also better leveraging their human talent for open, innovative and creative pursuits. 

One way of steering these discussions is pairing AI’s impactful questions with the inspiring image of supporting human flourishing in the workplace. For example, we can use the PERMA model to develop impactful questions to guide discovery and design efforts, such as 

  • Positive emotion: What activities that we do make us feel the best about our work? What tasks do we do that drain our energy and cause frustration? How can we best use technology to increase our ability to do activities that make us feel good and decrease the need to do tasks that drain us? 
  • Engagement: How can we better organize ourselves and leverage technology to provide more time and space for people to find their flow and best contribute their strengths? 
  • Relationships: How can we create opportunities for people to connect with each other in the amount of time and timing that they want? When have you used technology to connect deeply with others? 
  • Meaning: What positive impact do we bring for our customers? How can we use technology to allow us to focus our work in these areas while still delivering our products/services? 
  • Accomplishment/Achievement: How do we successfully integrate emergent technology into our teams without sacrificing feeling fulfilled and energized by our work? How can we best track our success around technology integration in both productivity and connection? 

By using these types of exploratory questions, AI can help identify possible practices that can be integrated into organizations’ structures and processes to help shape the design and integration of these new technologies. In this way, we can help leaders shift their perspectives and drive their organizations forward through the uncertainty of the upcoming technology transformation by providing tools for them to purposefully shape their own futures. 

In addition, by using our unique skills as OD and AI practitioners, we can help make incremental and transformational progress towards reshaping systems and cultures to support human flourishing instead of focusing entirely on productivity and efficiency. 


Seligman, M. E. (2013). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Atria Paperback. 

Naturalising Appreciative Inquiry

Naturalising Appreciative Inquiry

I hear people talking about what needs to be fixed everywhere. It’s profoundly depressing and lowers everybody’s energy and sense of hope. I’m sure it doesn’t have to be this way.

Download the full article.

Nick Heap | United Kingdom 

Dr Nick Heap was a scientist, then an OD consultant with ICI (Imperial Chemicals Industries), and has been a volunteer for The Samaritans as well as a counsellor for Relate. He is a self-employed coach, counsellor, facilitator and trainer, and works with individuals, teams and organisations in the charity, private and public sectors. Nick has been using Appreciative Inquiry since 2004 

So, I’ve been wondering how we can create an appreciative inquiry where we look at what works, making it the default way we think and interact. How can we spread this revolutionary practice and way of being in the world simply and effectively without using alienating jargon or technical language?

What I’ve done to make AI as natural as breathing

Sharing happy stories

An anecdote: We had friends around for a meal and shared stories about when we were happy. This was an enriching and joyful experience. We learned many ways of being happy, some of which we hadn’t considered. When we talked about a time when we made somebody else happy, our energy went up. So – the simplest way to be happy is to make someone else happy!

I’ve used this exercise in workshops. One was between senior people in organizations that had to work together but with different cultures. When they shared a story about when they were happy, it was very moving. They all talked about their children. One was in near tears as he spoke about his little boy. He loved him so much. The people established a deep human connection and realised that the problems they had at work were trivial compared to what was important, their families.

Sharing happy stories also worked well for greater numbers of people from many different cultures. I put them in small groups, and they had a wonderful time. I can remember the buzz now!

Random acts of listening

A group of us met in a coffee shop and talked about what how we would engage in random acts of listening. It was a scary prospect. We went out individually for an hour into a park and initiated conversations with strangers. The purpose of each interaction was to understand their worlds from their point of view. We had to make a natural connection, not start with, “Are you willing to answer some questions?” So, you might say, “Oh, what a lovely, lively dog!”, which could lead to a conversation where you listened a lot.

It was astonishing how much people we approached enjoyed the exercise and wanted to talk. Sometimes the conversations were deep. One person talked about his sudden, shocking bereavement. We found a fantastic range of skills and experience in the people in the park. I met a man from Israel who was an expert in psycho-acoustics, the way to design a concert hall which people enjoy being in. He spoke about the differences between bringing up a child in the UK versus Israel, which he said was mainly because of the difference in climate.

I met a young Portuguese couple with a seven-day-old baby. The man told me how much he’d been looking forward to being a father and what it had been like so far.

It’s also interesting to notice who we found easy to approach and who we avoided. I’m an elderly man, so I was reluctant to speak to young women as I wondered what they would think of me. I faced my prejudices about tattoos and piercings when I met a sensitive and thoughtful man who was heavily tattooed and a young woman with piercings carrying a violin who was about to play at a concert of baroque music.

I could have taken these conversations further. A young mother told me how much she loved being a mum. I didn’t take the time to ask what she enjoyed about it.

The original group met again after an hour to talk through our experiences and learning. The exercise has had a profound effect on me. My chronic shyness has gone, and I’m reaching out to people who live near me now.

What could you do to spread Appreciative Inquiry ‘in the wild’? What have you already done?

How and where can we explain what Appreciative Inquiry is in a way that people can hear?

A bright ten-year-old could understand it. It is a simple idea. We could say, “When you ask people what’s wrong, they usually feel miserable and overwhelmed. If you ask people what’s working, they feel good. Then, you can ask them how things could be even better and how they could get that to happen. Even when things are terrible, if you ask people how they cope or how they survive, a positive question makes people more confident and willing to see how to make things better. This is what Appreciative Inquiry is about.”

I would like to see this information in magazines, newspapers, on television, and for it to be taught and used in schools. It might also be good to show people. Let’s stop having programmes about “neighbours from hell” and see stories about “neighbours from heaven”.

The media assumes that people are interested only in bad news. It’s worth testing. Bad news all the time depresses people. It suppresses our energy to create positive change. This is in nobody’s long-term interest. We could get together in small groups and write separate letters or call influential people and organisations to suggest a more appreciative approach. Many of us live in countries with a free press where we can express ourselves. Let’s use it positively.

What is your best idea about how to communicate AI simply? What have you already done that has worked?

Where is Appreciative Inquiry thinking and practice most needed now?

It’s needed everywhere. If I had three wishes, I would wish to embed AI in families, in education and in politics. Imagine the effect of paying attention to what’s working in families. Whatever you pay attention to grows. We can choose to grow love, connection, partnership, fun, mutual understanding, creativity and joy. Children raised in this environment will hang on to their natural zest, ability to learn, power and humanity. They will become the remarkable adults we need to lead us to a more sustainable and healthier world.

Education would become more about discovering and developing the unique talents and interests of the individual child. We can’t predict what work will be available or what life will be like for young people in twenty years. We can predict that young people will need to learn new things, so let’s focus education on encouraging them to learn rather than telling them what to think.

The complexity and interconnectedness of the modern world demand cooperation, not competition and conflict. Although politics appears to be broken, there will be examples of outstanding collaboration and creativity. Appreciative Inquiry could help us identify and magnify these.

Where is our practice and thinking most needed now? How do we start? What is already working?

What are simple micro-practices that we can do every day?

I’ll share one. If someone smiles at me, I say, “Thank you for your smile”. What we pay attention to grows. What do you do to “Be AI”?

What micro-practices will you do in the next few weeks to Naturalise AI?

Any comments on any of this are welcome!

Intro by Keith Storace

In her four-part series “A Practitioner’s Journey to Living with Climate Change”, Alex Arnold has advocated for a transformative approach to climate resilience and action grounded in the principles of Appreciative Inquiry. She has emphasised the significance of positive language, values-driven questioning, hopeful focus, and aligning actions with personal strengths as tools to build climate resilience and inspire change from within. Alex’s final article in this series, “Climate Action Starts Within”, focuses on the five core principles of Appreciative Inquiry, emphasising that positive conversations about climate change can foster hope and inspire action. I would like to thank Alex for her depth of knowledge and the inspirational outlook she has shared throughout this valuable and timely series! 

Also, in this issue of AI Practitioner, Dr Nick Heap presents his work and focus on “Naturalising Appreciative Inquiry” where he emphasises that, by shifting our perspective towards positive interactions and shared experiences, we can foster deeper human connections and inspire hope. Contemplating key questions and sharing uplifting stories, such as moments of happiness, can help bridge cultural or organisational divides. Simple daily practices, like acknowledging a smile, can be a step towards embedding AI into our daily lives, cultivating a world with more love, understanding and cooperation. 

It is my pleasure to present Alex Arnold and Dr Nick Heap and their insightful work!

Climate Action Starts Within 

Climate Action Starts Within 

In this four-piece series, A Practitioner’s Journey To Living With Climate Change, we have explored different ways to listen: listening to science, listening inside of us, and listening beyond the human, to the natural world. We have considered the many ways one can start a climate conversation: it can be about the gut microbiome, conscious influence or cosmology, to name just a few. The last article was a personal account of my experience witnessing a climate-related disaster. It makes sense to complete this series with a discussion about what to do. 

In this four-piece series, A Practitioner’s Journey To Living With Climate Change, we have explored different ways to listen: listening to science, listening inside of us, and listening beyond the human, to the natural world. We have considered the many ways one can start a climate conversation: it can be about the gut microbiome, conscious influence or cosmology, to name just a few. The last article was a personal account of my experience witnessing a climate-related disaster. It makes sense to complete this series with a discussion about what to do. 

Download the full article.

Alexandra Arnold | USA 

Alex Arnold (she/her) MSPsy, MSHR/ OD, ACC, is Executive Consultant for The Taos Institute and a climate resilience coach at Alma Coaching, where she uses positive psychology and Appreciative Inquiry to help introverted and highly sensitive people shift from climate anxiety to inspired action.

The timing of this publication is aligned with the 2023 AI Jam (October 19–21), the virtual conference hosted by the Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry. I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion on the topic: AI for Life: Putting Life-Centric Practices at the Heart of All We Do, A Dynamic Dialogue with Global AI Practitioners, in which I spoke about coaching as a tool to manage climate anxiety, build climate resilience and take inspired action. A question the panelists were asked was: “How do you see the work you are doing as a manifestation of the principles of Appreciative Inquiry?”

Rather than listing specific climate actions, let’s look at the core principles of Appreciative Inquiry and how they can guide us, as individuals, and as practitioners with our clients. 

The Constructionist principle 

Words create worlds. The topic of climate change is often associated with conflict, with others or within ourselves. It doesn’t have to be that way. When we open up to different stories, perspectives and conversations, we can create different realities. When we accept that there isn’t one Truth, and that our local truths are the outcome of our unique life trajectories, we can approach climate conversations with curiosity, care and respect. We can inquire into another person’s worldview without feeling the need to judge or convince. Connecting with others over shared life experiences, interests or values will have a much more positive impact than any scientific data we can share. How do we have conversations that connect or inspire rather than divide or deflate? 

This principle also invites us to reconsider the language we use around climate. (For more on the power of appreciative language, check out my co-panelist Claudia Gross’ book: Speak Green). What might happen if we replace statements like “We need to fight the climate crisis before it’s too late” or “We’re headed toward an apocalypse” with questions like “How might we learn to live differently in response to the changing climate so that people and the planet can thrive?” Or “What is the latest innovation, story of resilience or flourishing you’ve heard about?” We talk about the latest climate news story or comment on the unusual weather pattern in mundane small talk every day. Let’s slow down to consider the impact our word or story choices have. The language we use in conversations around climate shapes our future. 

The Simultaneity principle 

Change begins the moment we ask a question. One common experience in response to climate change is to feel powerless. We are stuck because we feel too small or inadequate to make a difference. Asking appreciative questions that bring out the best in people reminds them that they are skilful, capable, that they have resources, influence and control (at least over some things). Inquiring about past successes or peak experiences, even those not related to climate, can help people regain agency. They can start imagining how their skills can be applied in different ways. It also helps them clarify what really matters to them. Indeed, many people are overwhelmed because they don’t know where to start or what to do. We hear that we need to change our diets, electrify our homes, switch cars, move our investments, replace our wardrobes, vote, get involved politically or with environmental organizations and more. It’s just too much and we can’t do it all. 

Knowing one’s personal values can be hugely helpful in choosing a direction for action. One question that is sometimes used in climate coaching conversations is to ask the client to remember a movie, a book, a superhero, a cartoon character or a role model that the client admired as a child. When we inquire deeper into what this person/character/story stood for, we discover topics or causes that the person might feel really passionate about that they may have forgotten. This could lead someone to narrow their focus to social justice, or protecting a certain species or habitat – or maybe the food industry will call them most. A different way questions can be powerful, for example with someone being impacted by weather-related events, is to ask them about something they are grateful for, something they have learned, something that surprised them, or what helped them cope with the situation, instead of focussing only the distressing aspects. Use these questions thoughtfully and without dismissing the gravity of the situation, of course. 

The Poetic principle 

What we focus on grows, or what we appreciate appreciates. If all of our attention is on stories of apocalypse, doomsday, extinction, countdown, catastrophe, disaster and suffering, that is the world that we will be living in. But if we focus on stories of hope, innovation, resilience and thriving, we start to notice more and more of them. This creates a positive spiral, until we are surrounded by solution-focused news rather than what seems like insurmountable problems. One of the simplest things you can do right now is to subscribe to a source of positive news and limit or even stop taking in any traditional news. The impact on our emotional state is significant. By being mindful about what we pay attention to, we can balance despair, anger, sadness and hopelessness with hope, curiosity, interest, optimism, admiration or awe. This is not a linear process or a quick fix. These are coping strategies; they are not meant to replace, end or fix climate anxiety altogether. In fact, experiencing climate distress is not a problem we want to solve: it is what makes us human and what connects us all. We hurt where we care. 

The Anticipatory principle 

Images inspire action. According to this principle, we move in the direction of our vision of the future. What images come to mind when we think of climate change? Most of us only see images of destruction, suffering or death. Can we imagine a bright future for people, animals, ecosystems and all living things when we are taking in so many visuals of desolation and loss? To regain our ability to dream, let’s look at images of beauty, abundance, lush environments, thriving communities – human and non-human. Even looking at images of technological innovation like models of green cities or 3D-printed, eco-friendly, affordable houses can help create a positive vision of what we want to move toward. On a smaller scale, we can practice daily visualizations of small goals, rather than being lost in a blurry picture not knowing where we fit in. How about dreaming of a delicious vegetarian dinner, or imagining shopping at a local store, meeting the owner or the maker of the item you’re purchasing, instead of placing an Amazon order? How vivid an image can you get of the rich, fragrant soil you will harvest from your compost? What is one tiny thing you can see yourself doing to green-up your house today? Visualization can be applied to conversations: how can you prepare for a different exchange when the inevitable topic of the latest weather oddity or disaster comes up today? What we believe is possible will determine what is.

The Positive principle 

Positive images lead to positive action. There are many stereotypes associated with climate action: radical activism, confrontational conversations, public and sometimes violent protests, political involvement, extreme lifestyle changes like giving up meat, air travel, or switching cars: “I should be doing X.” Whatever we are doing, it seems that it’s not enough, or not the right thing. These actions are all great and necessary, but they are not useful if they are such a stretch that we are paralyzed instead. Unfortunately, self-judgment and societal pressure only exacerbate climate distress. 

What would happen if we gave ourselves permission to choose the type of climate action that brings out our best selves? No matter our skills, they are needed. When we build on our positive core, climate action becomes effortless, inspiring; it generates positive emotions that have physical and mental health benefits, and it can even be fun! Jane Goodall says that “whatever you do, do it out of love, not out of guilt”. 

If you love to write, try writing social media posts or a blog, an article, or a newsletter story on a topic you’re passionate about, directly or indirectly related to climate. If waste and pollution are topics that make your blood boil, consider how you might use your passion to model or educate others on Reducing- Reusing-Recycling-Refusing practices or on circular economies (the topic discussed by my second co-panelist, Tojo Thatchenkery, author of Appreciative Intelligence: Seeing the Mighty Oak in the Acorn, who with two colleagues, developed the Appreciative Intelligence instrument). 

If you’re a more private type, climate action can start by being more present next time you go to the grocery store and, rather than filling your cart on autopilot, experimenting with different items – for example, pick the peanut butter in a glass jar instead of a plastic one. You’ll be surprised how different your fridge and your pantry will look in a few months. 

If you’re a foodie, have fun experimenting with new vegetarian recipes and local, organic and sustainably produced ingredients – and tell your friends about it. Climate action no longer requires us to be loud, extroverted, risk-takers, angry or radical. Living in alignment with our natural world can be a life-giving display of strengths. 

Action starts within 

Using life-giving language and asking generative questions about climate change, visualizing the thriving world we want to live in, appreciating climate solutions that already exist and honoring our positive core as our best form of climate action are all tools that AI offers to build climate resilience. With all of these suggestions, let’s remember to ask, “what is the tiniest step you can take right now?” We are not looking for final solutions or big changes all at once. Climate resilience is not about getting rid of our difficult emotions to jump into action. It is about developing coping skills, new mindsets and shifting lifestyles the same way we would to manage a chronic illness. It’s about experimenting, learning, adjusting and being self-compassionate in the process. Climate action starts within. 

Intro by Keith Storace

In her four-part series “A Practitioner’s Journey to Living with Climate Change”, Alex Arnold has advocated for a transformative approach to climate resilience and action grounded in the principles of Appreciative Inquiry. She has emphasised the significance of positive language, values-driven questioning, hopeful focus, and aligning actions with personal strengths as tools to build climate resilience and inspire change from within. Alex’s final article in this series, “Climate Action Starts Within”, focuses on the five core principles of Appreciative Inquiry, emphasising that positive conversations about climate change can foster hope and inspire action. I would like to thank Alex for her depth of knowledge and the inspirational outlook she has shared throughout this valuable and timely series! 

Also, in this issue of AI Practitioner, Dr Nick Heap presents his work and focus on “Naturalising Appreciative Inquiry” where he emphasises that, by shifting our perspective towards positive interactions and shared experiences, we can foster deeper human connections and inspire hope. Contemplating key questions and sharing uplifting stories, such as moments of happiness, can help bridge cultural or organisational divides. Simple daily practices, like acknowledging a smile, can be a step towards embedding AI into our daily lives, cultivating a world with more love, understanding and cooperation. 

It is my pleasure to present Alex Arnold and Dr Nick Heap and their insightful work!

Appreciative Resources

Architect, family therapist, musician, bathed in Italian, French, and American culture, and passionate about social constructionism, Alain has graciously offered the French-speaking public the translation of many books by Kenneth Gergen, as well as many other authors. 





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Meeting Alain Robiolio – Transforming our model 

Social constructionism demonstrates that we are relational beings. When Alain discovered the richness of social constructionism, he saw it as an extraordinary way out of the traditional and unsuccessful model bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment. Appreciative Inquiry, which grew out of it, suggests that it is possible to dialogue to express our dreams and build a shared dream—another revelation. Dialogue is essential to “fill the gaps in a world where everything is separate, to connect for the living”. 

Of course, it is not a straight line, “to draw a straight line in a field is to forget the whole dimension of the field”, it is a tribute to the appreciative approach to underline the singularities and the twists and turns of each experience. 

Referring to Alfred Hitchcock, Alain shows that every story has changing and unforeseen situations, surprises caused by some while others experience them, and suspense that leaves some unaware of what will happen. A lively appreciative process contains, like a good film, these elements. 

It is all the more true in a world where anxieties abound, whether it be the economy or democracy confronted with the rise of totalitarianism, predation, and exploitation of our earth to the point of making it uninhabitable and even music that sometimes becomes inaudible! 

Faced with such anxieties, trying to reduce the catastrophe is futile. Adapting the existing model will not be enough; it will be necessary to transform it. 

To do this, organizations and groups of people must be able to express their dreams while getting to know those of others. It is the only way to overcome the opinions and beliefs that oppose each other, sterilizing thought and making action impossible. 

Discovering what is fundamental in the other person requires detachment from one’s opinions and certainties. It is a question of knowing how to abandon oneself, “by falling back, one rises again”, and of learning to strip oneself of all possessions to open oneself to the other. 

Alain, therefore, emphasizes the demands made on the appreciative practitioner, “being AI” is a lifetime’s work, but what a joy it is to progress along this path! 


Harlene Anderson  

Conversation, Language, And Possibilities: A Postmodern Approach To Therapy

Basic Books, 1997 

Frank Barrett, Ronald Fry 

Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Approach to Building Cooperative Capacity 

The TAOS Institute, 2005 

Robert Cottor, Alan Asher, Judith Levin, Cindy Weiser 

Experiential Learning Exercises in Social Construction: A Field Book for Creating Change 

The TAOS Institute, 2004 

Kenneth Gergen 

The Saturated Self, Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life 

Basic Books, 1991 

An Invitation to Social Construction 

Sage, 1999 

Realities and Relationships 

Harvard University Press, 1994 

Kenneth Gergen, Mary Gergen 

An Invitation to Social Construction 

TAOS 2004 

Marianne Mille Bojer, Heiko Roehl, Marianne Knuth, Colleen Magner 

Mapping Dialogue: Essential Tools for Social Change 

The TAOS Institute, 2008 

Peggy Penn 

Joint Imaginations: Writing and Language in Therapy 

The TAOS Institute, 2009 

Jacqueline Stavros, Cheri Torres 

Dynamic Relationships : Unleashing the Power of Appreciative Inquiry in Daily Living 

The TAOS Institute, 2005 

In the TAOS Institute’s worldsharebooks : 

Kenneth Gergen  

The Relational Imperative : Resources for a World on Edge 





Gitte Haslebo, Maja-Loua Haslebo 

Practicing Relational Ethics in Organizations 

Carina Håkansson 

Experiences from a Collaborative Systemic Practice 

A Practitioner’s Journey to Living With Climate Change

O n July 11, 2023, much of the state of Vermont, USA, including the capital city of Montpelier, my home town, found itself under water after the worst flood since 1927. This event, happening right down the street from my hilltop neighborhood, brought me to a whole new level of understanding of the climate situation – from intellectual to experiential. The area was flooded with water, but also with emotions, information, options, connections and determination. Acknowledging the privileged position I am writing this from, it is with much humility that I share some of the lessons I learned to prepare for the next, inevitable, climate disruption.

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Alexandra Arnold | USA 

Alex Arnold (she/her) MSPsy, MSHR/ OD, ACC, is Executive Consultant for The Taos Institute and a climate resilience coach at Alma Coaching, where she uses positive psychology and Appreciative Inquiry to help introverted and highly sensitive people shift from climate anxiety to inspired action.


Trepidation, denial, shock, fear, anxiety, sadness, anger and restlessness – they’re only a few of the emotions I experienced. For several days, I felt numb, unable to focus or make even the simplest decision. In addition, I felt guilty, selfish, ashamed, weak and inadequate for the way I was handling the situation: the voice of the “inner critic” that we all have.

And there was grief. The realization of all the losses kept coming: property and road damage, trash and pollution, destruction of nature, including farm crops, animal habitats, trails, rivers and lakes. And other losses: of habits, hobbies, lifestyles, plans, many associated with local venues or seasonal weather.

The VT Small Business Administration stated: “local businesses are part of our routines; they anchor our lives in communities – where we shop, stop for coffee, eat, especially in small-town centers that struggle to maintain quaint, quality, personal service. But the landscape will change. Business owners may not want or be able to rebuild exactly as it was. Let’s give them some breathing room and open ourselves to a new normal.”

At a deeper level, there has been a loss of safety, control and identity.

What you can do to prepare: 

Learn to shift out of fight-flight-freeze mode (for example, with breathing techniques) before a crisis hits. Familiarize yourself with the Emotion Wheel so that you can “name it to tame it”. Get used to talking about grief. Know your preferred self-care tools. Practice catching your inner critic. Increase self-compassion. Prioritize regular sleep, healthy nutrition and exercise to approach challenges with a strong mind and body. 

Let go. With so much to lose on the outside, we are better off finding anchors of peace, joy and identity on the inside by shifting from consuming and doing to being. 


As the rain poured, so did the news. Weather updates. Road closures. River levels. Aerial photos. Video clips. News broadcasts. Community forums. Text messages, emails, phone calls from friends and family. Ongoing dings and beeps from notifications. The information overload and compulsive need to browse the web for the latest update added to the feeling of being overwhelmed. Is constant access to the internet helping or harming? What is the experience like for those who are not connected, by choice or not, or for those who have lost connection? 

What you can do to prepare: 

Develop healthy relationships with your electronic devices. Set limits to your information intake. Know when to stop, to preserve your mental energy. Adjust your notifications. Spend time away from your phone and computer. Have a backup plan for staying informed without power or connectivity. 

Learn to recognize information overload and practice zooming in. Bring your attention to very small things you are grateful for. Make a list of what you can control. Go through the day five minutes at a time. 

Focus on the present by developing a mindfulness practice. This can be as simple as focusing on one of your senses (touch, sight, sound, etc.) for a few minutes, several times a day. 


Some say that “action is the antidote to despair”. Indeed, it was tempting to jump into action and help. Instead, Senator Bernie Sanders asked us to wait: “I know many will want to help your fellow Vermonters during this difficult time. We are still in the very early stages of this disaster and responders are focused on evacuations and preventing loss of life. […] Do not self-deploy to affected areas as you could put yourself at risk. This recovery will be long.” 

Rushing into immediate action can be a way to cope with feelings of helplessness in the moment but may not be the most useful or sustainable. In fact, adding to the congestion, crowds and chaos of a disaster scene may interfere with professional first responders. Should I give food, clothing, generators, clean up debris, make a donation, or all of the above? When faced with so many options, it is worth taking the time to ask how we can best contribute with our own unique skills. 

What you can do to prepare: 

Be patient. Follow official guidelines from agencies that are actually trained and equipped to organize relief efforts. It may seem slow, and the system is imperfect, but they know best how to dispatch resources, allocate funds and prioritize tasks. 

Know your values and strengths – no need to jeopardize your safety, health or to aggravate being mentally overwhelmed by working on a disaster site if that is not the best match for you. Know what you care about and what you are good at so that when the time comes, you can have the greatest impact. 

Be creative – think outside the box, not just about the obvious ways to help. What you see in the news may bring attention to a certain population/area, but what about other locations – caring for first responders, animals, the homeless? What about the long-term and indirect impacts? 


Facing a natural disaster can be very isolating. Not just physically, but because our friends and family, even when well-intentioned, can do more harm than good with light-hearted comments such as “after the rain always comes the sunshine!”, “well it’s great for kayaking!” or “I wish I had a power outage so I could get a break!” or overly dramatic responses such as “should I fly over to help?”. 

On the other hand, spending a few hours at a friend’s house, catching up with neighbors when walking the dog, receiving a call from a supervisor who is just checking in, reaching out to a friend who has lived through a similar event for support, or hearing of the huge volunteer turn-out and feeling the community spirit – these connections are invaluable. The VT July Flooding Crowd-Sourced Resource List, a 23-page shared Google document consolidating essential information, is an example of how neighbors mobilized in just a few days. 

What you can do to prepare: 

Learn how to support someone in a crisis: provide practical advice, be a sounding board, offer distraction or humor, give them space. Be curious, listen to what they truly need, not what you want to give. If you are on the receiving end, be clear about what you need and ask for it. 

Spend your time with people who lift you up, not bog you down. Know your friends, know who to reach out to and for what reason when you need it. It is not realistic to keep in touch with everyone. 

This year the US Surgeon General issued a public health advisory about the epidemic of loneliness in the US. Build a relationship with someone who is geographically isolated or not connected online so that they know they have someone to count on when the time comes. 


In the days following the flood, emails from local organizations provided much needed messages of hope: Paul Burns, executive director of Vermont Public Interest Research Group said, “Today, as I grieve the losses we’re suffering in my beautiful small city of Montpelier, I’m also determined. I’m determined to do everything I can today and until my last breath, to hold those who created this climate mess responsible”.

Sue Minter, executive director of Capstone Community Action noted, “We see with heavy hearts the destruction of housing and businesses that are desperately needed to keep our communities strong. We have done this before and we can do it again because we are #VtStrong!” Reverend Joan from the Unitarian Church of Montpelier wrote, “I have been buoyed by the calls, text messages, and emails of support I have received from colleagues and congregations near and far. This community has faced a lot together, including major flooding in 1927, 1992, and 2011. In all those times, we have come together with patience, compassion, and care. Let us do so again now.” 

The Ananda Gardens Family, a local community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm, shared, “We pray for all of us to breathe deeply in this time of fear, loss, and uncertainty. May the songs of the birds remind us that cycles of nature are both beautiful and beyond our control. May the sunshine allow us to see beyond sorrow and despair with hope in our hearts to count the blessings of life, community, and love.” More messages included references to how VT made it through Hurricane Irene, Covid and other challenging times. 

What you can do to prepare: 

Build a repertoire of positive news (for example, Karuna News, BBC Future Planet, The Bright Spot) to be reminded of what’s going right in the world so that, in a time of crisis, you can remember and spread success stories and messages of hope and resilience. 

Sign up for the newsletter of a few organizations you value in your area. Those emails from leaders you trust, rather than random statements found on the web, will feel personal and provide a much-needed sense of belonging to a local community. 

There is no perfect way to navigate the sudden disruptions caused by climate change. Yet there are lessons to be learned in these events. Developing emotional intelligence, designing a life of meaning rather than consumerism, being your true self to make the greatest impact, shifting from individualistic to collective thinking and balancing news of destruction with stories of hope … these are steps we can all take now to be as prepared as possible to face the inevitable next challenge. 

Intro by Keith Storace

In July this year, the Winooski River in Montpelier, Vermont, USA reached a peak of 21.35 feet, leading to significant flooding. In the third instalment of her four-part series titled “A Practitioner’s Journey to Living with Climate Change,” Alex Arnold offers first-hand experience into the flood’s effects on her local community. The article, “We Can’t Predict or Prevent, But We Can Prepare,” delves into the emotional, informational and hands-on struggles she, and those around her, experienced during this disaster, providing insights into how we can ready ourselves emotionally, mentally and practically for impending climate disruptions.

We Are Still on The Road, Talking About Summits

We Are Still on The Road, Talking About Summits

It was the year 2014. I was working with my brothers in their training company, which was quite large, very well established, and well known in the Ecuadorian market. An important multinational organization contacted us to assist them with organizing a worldwide Appreciative Inquiry Summit for its headquarters in all the countries it operated in. It was the first time I heard of an “Appreciative Inquiry Summit”. Though partly due to being a psychologist by profession, trained in many methodologies, including Human Talent, I didn’t know about Appreciative Inquiry. I am curious by nature, so I decided to investigate it further. I would have liked to play an active part in the summit in my country, but they looked for professionals from other countries for support. 

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Lorena Merino Naranjo | Ecuador 

Lorena Merino Naranjo is a dedicated psychologist with fifteen years of experience in a hospital setting, fulfilling her lifelong aspiration. A mother to three wonderful sons, and journeying without time and space with her partner, she is passionate about her profession and consistently seeks to innovate and grow in her role as she continues to discover, dream, design and live appreciatively.


Going back to school: The fundamentals of Appreciative Inquiry 

Once I started to understand more about it, I realised how valuable it would be even to our own company and all agreed I should undertake training. I was lucky to find immediately a course at one of the finest universities in Latin America, the Adolfo Ibañez University in Chile, where I attended “Fundamentals of Appreciative Inquiry”. I’m grateful to the universe that the one I found was the best for me and close to home. Feeling as if I was back in school on that first day, I listened: the words made sense and resonated with every dream created in the training and embedded in the process of individual and community psychotherapeutic intervention. I met Miriam Subirana in person and David Cooperrider in a closing conference online, as well as Chilean academic professionals, Jorge Sanhuenza and Roberto Aristegui, exponents of AI who planted an appreciative seed in the lives of others, including vulnerable Chilean communities. I returned home, first to apply AI to my own life, and then put it into practice working with others, and ultimately to life as a whole. 

One of my brothers, Mauricio, also a crazy dreamer like me, saw how excited I was about the course I explained the ways in which what I had experienced and learned could be used in the work we already did by bringing in the concepts of AI, and that we could use our new understanding to help others find similar paths. Armed with these new ideas, we approached various Ecuadorian groups who we felt might be interested: producers and exporters of roses, public and municipal companies, and those in El Caquetá, a region of great natural beauty in Colombia. 


Our first intervention: Living with guerilla activity 

We received our first invitation in January 2015 to facilitate an intervention and conference about the experiences lived in Ecuador. A group of teachers living with the reality of the guerrilla activity that affected the country for many years, and the social impact this had on families and school structures, initiated a diploma course in the development of equipment and technologies with social implications. Well, there we were, our first extraordinary summit – full of feeling, so much to elaborate upon, so much to discover, so many dreams to bring to life and, above all, the possibility of designing possible solutions around their current reality. This journey was leading us to fulfil and live an appreciative transformation. So began our collective dreaming – the sum of this respectful group of souls, outstanding professionals from different countries: Argentina, Columbia, Ecuador and Mexico, including Andrea Torrecilla, Rosalinda Malagón, Mauricio Merino and María José Barona. 

Our commitment was to life: what we were dreaming of would affect the lives of many and we had to look at the ‘whole life’ situation. I already knew what I wanted my way of life to be. The process of writing also brought about greater understanding of life choices. The dreaming helped me to crystallise my thoughts of how my own journey could be used as a basis to help others by explaining how they could use something that had changed my life to do the same. This meant writing about AI psycho-therapeutically, about the discovering of what exists and what works well, including looking at everything that had left a mark on me and, what I had learned from it. This brought home to me even more clearly just how amazing the effect of the AI approach was having on me as an individual. Using an AI approach, listening to others and listening to myself, let everything begin to make sense – how our experiences could be used in co-designing ways forward. 

Thus began the transformation of how I viewed myself and my immediate environment – and the world. Everything makes sense in its totality, in the appreciative, in listening to my voice, to the voices of all, to co-build from the foundations we discover in ourselves, in dreaming ourselves, designing ourselves, and in living that transformation by choosing appreciatively. 

María José Barona and I worked on the design of a psychotherapeutic methodological proposal which we call “person-oriented, humanistic, appreciative psychotherapy”. 


A humanist, person-centered perspective 

The psychotherapeutic approach we use focuses on the humanistic person-centered perspective in the here-and-now, where we consider the person in a bio-psychosocial-spiritual way, respecting their uniqueness, their unrepeatable, irreplaceable being. We look beyond the symptoms and diagnosis: as our approach focuses on the person’s welfare in which unconditional acceptance, transparency, the principle of free choice and the search for real solutions from a non-directive approach prevail. We connect the outcomes of our summit dreaming, with using AI, to what we have been supporting in private practice and clinical intervention for approximately ten years. We’ve done this in such a way that the view of mental health in our country has now shifted to one that sees the positive aspects of people receiving therapy. 

The patient who turns for help to a consultation does so from a position of crisis or vulnerability, or a driving need for transformation. Most arrive feeling that they are lacking something and, unable to see what to do alone, seek help. The results, which are clear, include: 

  1. Children who have found meaning in living after serious accidents, 
  2. Women who have overcome abandonment, abuse and loneliness to become the protagonists of their dreams, 
  3. Men with diagnoses of diseases that can’t be treated, choosing to take charge of their life history, 
  4. Couples who have reunited from the essence, the very core, of who they are to design stronger families together, 
  5. Young people who can look in the mirror to discover that they can choose to be the makers of their lives with powerful images that move them to change their here-and-now forever. 

The process begins with the idea of the person recognizing the peak moments in their history, knowing themselves to be the author of those moments . This is where resilient resources are awakened, the key and the positive core of the whole process which lets them go beyond the self-doubts to see a positive way forward. 

In undertaking this journey through personal history and the resources present in the person’s four intertwined dimensions, best described as the bio-psychosocial-spiritual self, we begin to see the appreciative path as one that the individual concerned and I take together. However, I strongly believe that this will only be fruitful if I, as the facilitator, have looked at, recognized and valued myself in the same way as I am asking the individual to do. Only then can I dream a new outlook and see myself as if it were already happening, in every detail. I design myself to the measure of what I am, and I dream. Destiny is the moment in which I choose to walk, to live this dream. 

When you look at yourself appreciatively, you admire the world, and the people who come to you are appreciative, so the path also becomes appreciative. 


The continuing path of learning 

The path of learning, application, experience, debate and transformation continues: Chile 2014 Fundamentals of AI; Colombia 2015 Caquetá Summit; Lima 2015 Appreciative Coaching; Ecuador 2015 Appreciative Leadership; Mexico 2016 Contagiando la AI; Buenos Aires 2016 Advanced AI; Ecuador 2017 First Edition Discover yourself MujerIA; Rosario 2018 Second Edition MujerIA. In Nice, in 2019 at WAIC (the World Appreciative Inquiry Congress), we were part of the Latin American group Unity Towards the Common Good. From 2020 to the present, many communities, companies, families and patients in Ecuador and Latin America have benefited from a change of outlook, an appreciative transformation of their lives. 

Thanks to each one of those brilliant professionals, who have accompanied me and continue to do so, in this work that bears fruit, work that builds ideas that become a reality, because they do it with their soul in their hands! The voice of each one of the people we work with is present in each step taken! Thank you, Miriam Subirana, for teaching me and for trusting me. 

Thank you, David Cooperrider, for dreaming, creating and designing an appreciative world, for leaving the written lines and inviting us to keep editing them every day! 

We are still on the road, talking about summits. 

Intro by Keith Storace

In Voices from the Field, Lorena Merino Naranjo recounts her transformative journey with Appreciative Inquiry. In her article titled “We Are Still on The Road, Talking About Summits”, Lorena presents how she collaborated with María José Barona to integrate Appreciative Inquiry into a psychotherapeutic approach that leverages personal strengths, achieving significant positive outcomes for patients and communities across Latin America. Her ongoing commitment to personcentred and strengths-based therapy is reflective of the extent to which people have benefited from such a unique approach to therapy.

Raising the Appreciative Voice

Creative Practices 

In November 2017, I had the privilege of working with Rosemary Bell, Community Development Officer for the City of Toronto Canada and Amanjot Gill, Mental Health and Addictions Clinician originally based in northern British Columbia, Canada. In conjunction with the Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy 2020, Rosemary and Amanjot were focussed on the co-creation of a Leadership Development Training pilot program for higher education students on placement in areas including: social development, finance and administration. In this issue of AI Practitioner, Rosemary and Amanjot provide an overview of their work with these students as well as further application of an appreciative approach in other settings. 

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. 


Rosemary Bell

Rosemary has worked as a community development officer for the City of Toronto since 2003. Since her first exposure to Appreciative Inquiry during a conference in Washington, D.C. she has used it as a facilitative approach integrating it into her community development work. Along with appreciative practice, she also uses asset-based, strength-based, solution-focused and anti-oppressive practices.


Amanjot Gill

From September 2017 to April 2018, Amanjot worked alongside Rosemary Bell in a variety of community-based initiatives including co-creating and co-facilitating placement student workshops while working towards her Masters’ in Social Work. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) has assisted her in developing questions and evaluation sheets and by using the concepts within research. As a newly exposed user of AI she hopes to learn more and integrate AI approaches to evaluation, outcomes and non-profit management.

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Developing Leadership Confidence in Canadian Students

Every fall I get the opportunity to work with new placement students from a variety of educational institutions in the city of Toronto where I work as a Community Development Officer for the municipality. As part of my orientation with them I share the frameworks used in my community development work rolling out the Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy 2020. These frameworks include: anti-oppression, asset-based, strength-based, solution-focused practices and last but definitely not least, appreciative practice frameworks. As a person who has been working for more than thirty-five years in my field, it is always interesting to dialogue with students about why my practice has evolved and expanded over the years; I am exposed to new approaches that have practical applications in both my professional and personal life. 

In the fall of 2017, Amanjot Gill, a Masters of Social Work candidate from the University of Toronto, joined me for her eight-month practicum placement. She came from the Social Work Leadership and Management stream of the Masters’ program. While she was aware of and using many of the practice frameworks previously mentioned, the appreciative practice framework was new to her. 

One of our joint projects was co-creating and then rolling out a Leadership Development Training pilot program for twenty-four students doing their placements in the social development, finance and administration division. These students came from a diverse list of educational institutions (both colleges and universities) and multiple programs (i.e. social service worker, community worker, Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work, Master of Science in Planning, Urban Studies/Geography, Masters of Environmental studies, etc.) 

From 2017 to 2018 placement students met with us once a month for an afternoon to be trained in a variety of topics (i.e. communications, decision-making at city hall, health and safety, using census data to enhance community work, networking, conflict resolution with stakeholders, working with community not for profit organizations, making the transition from placement to work, etc.) 

We noticed that the students were very quiet over the first few months as we got to know them and each other. We realized that many of them were a little hesitant and unsure of themselves. Their lack of confidence was surprising. They had achieved a placement with the city government, yet some of them felt like imposters who were just waiting for someone to realize that they didn’t belong. 

Managing self-doubt 

It was at this time that I saw an article in the August 2017 issue of AI Practitioner by Keith Storace, a registered psychologist in Melbourne Australia entitled “Appreciative Dialogue: Managing Self-doubt Through Inspirational Discourse”. Keith’s work focused on self-doubt in higher education students. A little voice in my head said reach out and ask for help, so we emailed Keith and asked if he would share his expertise with us. Lucky for us, he said yes. Using Skype and with some careful juggling of time zones, he worked with us in November 2017 to craft a series of questions that focussed on past, present, and future along with developing a workshop specifically targeted toward our group of students. 

On 1 December, 2017, having pre-read the questions Keith had developed, students came prepared to share their reflections in a paired exercise. The questions included the following: 


  • What are all the things you can think of that made your study pathway possible?
  • What is one of the best experiences you can think of that involved working on something with a group of people and what was your role?
  • What was a challenge you experienced in the past that had a positive outcome? What did you do and what did you learn? 


  • If you had one desire for the future in relation to work, what would it be? 
  • How will you know that things are moving in the right direction for you in relation to work?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and how could some of the experiences you mentioned in your answers above help you achieve this change?
  • When we debriefed their discussion in pairs we asked them:
  • What are some of the things that came up in your pairs?
  • What have you learned from sharing your story with your partner that came up in terms of self-doubt?
  • What do you feel you have achieved in life with the strengths and desires that you have? 


  • If you had one desire for the future in relation to work, what would it be? 
  • How will you know that things are moving in the right direction for you in relation to work? 
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and how could some of the experiences you mentioned in your answers above help you achieve this change?
  • When we debriefed their discussion in pairs we asked them: 
  • What are some of the things that came up in your pairs? 
  • What have you learned from sharing your story with your partner that came up in terms of self-doubt? 
  • What do you feel you have achieved in life with the strengths and desires that you have? 

(Consultation via Skype with Keith Storace, November 25th 2017) 

We then flip-charted the key themes that came out of this discussion and addressed similarities in their lived experiences. 

Intentional conversation with a positive direction 

Keith describes Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) as an “intentional conversation with a positive direction” and, as he indicated might happen, we found that by using ApDi to explore student values, experiences and key strengths, it motivated and supported students in working through and beyond their self-doubt. We were able to reinforce with them that: 

  • “Successful careers take planning.” 

  • “There is no failure, only frustration” – If you consider your so-called failure as an inconvenience or frustration, rather than a failure, and use it as part of a personally creative and innovative process, you stand to gain more rather than experiencing it as a loss. 

  • “Self-doubt will not stop you, self-denial will.” – Self-doubt will not necessarily stop you from achieving something whereas self-denial is more likely to prevent the successful outcome you are working towards. This is because, in essence, self-doubt is a feeling and self-denial is behaviour. 

  • “Enter the world of work knowing it is okay not to know everything.” 

    (Consultation via Skype with Keith Storace, November 25th 2017) 

The student process worked so well for us that when we started discussions about our next project in the winter of 2018 on resident engagement, we decided again to use the Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) approach. A template for a series of one-on-one interviews and focus groups in the Jane and Finch community in northern Toronto was created using the following premises: 

  • Recognizing residents’ individual and collective successes 
  • Emphasizing their experience of what is working well for them, but changing the narrative in discussions and in questions 
  • Validating individuals’ expert knowledge gained from lived experience of community challenges and the solutions to address them 
  • Supporting them to moving toward to their best future 
  • Encouraging them with an opportunity to be creative and innovative through a neighbourhood grants program for residents 

A youth focus group of seventeen participants and a senior focus group of five participants were conducted from March to April of 2018. As well, nine resident interviews with youth, adults and seniors were held. These interviews took place in a variety of spaces in the community of Jane and Finch. 

Sharing hopes and dreams 

We asked residents to share with us their hopes and dreams for their family and community. This community has been studied often and as a result feels violated by the process. We shifted the dynamic by exploring how their ideas, skills and projects are supported in their community. We also asked them what currently works well in their neighbourhood. 

The information we received from residents has been summarized and will be shared with them, other networks and planning tables. The intent is to follow up on the ideas generated and suggestions for more functional ways to provide services, meet needs and shift the stigmatizing narrative by highlighting their community assets. 

From an overall Appreciative Inquiry perspective, we also decided to use an appreciative framework in the design of a workshop formatted to introduce resident neighbourhood grants on 5 April, 2018. At the local library, thirty residents and other stakeholders met one evening to hear about grant processes. Rather than focusing the whole meeting on the “dos” and “don’ts” of application writing we used the 5D approach for our facilitation: 

Definition of the opportunity 

Residents told the City: 

  • We have expert knowledge, gained through lived experience, of the challenges in our communities and we are have the solutions. 
  • We’ve got ideas to make our neighbourhoods stronger, healthier places to live, help us make them happen. 
  • We want our community to reflect the strengths, assets and creative capacity of its residents. 

The City has responded with neighbourhood grants for resident groups. 

Discovery: Appreciate what is already working 

  • What are your best experiences in your community? 
  • What important local wisdom can you share today? 

Dream: Imagine the best version of your community 

  • Share the creative concept/new idea that you need funding to make happen.
  • How will you focus this new opportunity?
  • How will you use your energy to spark positive change in your community? 

Design: The steps needed for your neighbourhood project 

  • Who do you need to build partnerships with?
  • How will you build your budget?
  • How will you reach out to residents and other community members?
  • Where will you hold your event?
  • Have you thought about insurance and/or permits for space?
  • What other things do you need to do? 

In conclusion, Amanjot shared that she will be moving forward with a strong tool and approach that she can use in future work place settings. She said that the use of Appreciative Dialogue with the placement students resulted in a much deeper and meaningful participation from them in workshops and their placement overall, which was reflected in their evaluation surveys. In turn, she used the appreciative lens during her studies in university, recognizing that this was beneficial to both her personal and professional development. 

Voices from the field

In the final instalment of Our Principles in Action: Appreciative Inquiry for Justice & Belonging, Faith Addicott presents “Bringing It Home – the Positive Principle” and expands on its hidden treasures and power to move us forward. I would like to thank Faith Addicott and Staceye Randle for such a necessary and insightful series that has challenged, inspired and developed our understanding of the AI principles.

Continuing with another transformational series – in her second article of this four-part presentation, A Practitioners Journey to Living with Climate Change – Alex Arnold shares an overview of the Climate Coaching Alliance Global Festival that was held in March this year. “Which Door Are You Going to Choose?” is a compelling essay that considers three ways to spark climate conversations.

I am also pleased to introduce Rolene Pryor. Her article, titled “Growing Towards the Light” reveals her AI journey and how it has transformed her work and her life, leading to the development of Beyond BaselineTM, an approach to planning that embraces the power of the AI principles and processes.

Download Voices from the Field.

Keith Storace | Australia

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 manages a private practice at Kiku Imagination where he applies the Appreciative Dialogue (ApDi) therapy program to assist individuals move toward, strengthen, and enjoy what is meaningful while dealing with the challenges they encounter along the way. 


Bringing It Home: The Positive Principle 

Throughout this series, as we have examined the ways in which our AI principles open the doors to inclusive, equity-centered practices, we have spoken to the unique mindset that each principle invites. For all of them, there is a lens that underlies our day-to-day understanding as it applies to our AI work.

Download the full article.

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, where she has undertaken organizational assessments and strategic planning using AI and other strengths-based processes. She is a champion for inclusive workplace design.

There is a deeper layer.

Beneath the core concepts of our principles – Anticipatory, Constructionist, Simultaneity, Poetic, Wholeness, Awareness, Enactment, Narrative & Free Choice – there is a truth. Simply put, we cannot appreciate where we do not include. The appreciative eye is the eye that holds the whole, in all its awkwardness and splendor.

Likewise, the inquiring mind – inquisitive, full of wonder, never ceasing in the search for truth and beauty – is a space where the kind of false certainties that lead to racist and and oppressive ideologies cannot exist. Because a mind (or a person, or a community) dedicated to asking is always open to discovery, and discovery inevitably unearths the connections and meaning that lie between us all.

The Positive principle is the action principle, the call to move into the pursuit of our questing in full, to ASK QUESTIONS. “Momentum for [small- or] large-scale change requires large amounts of positive affect and social bonding. This momentum is best generated through positive questions that amplify the positive core.”

A single frame of reference

We ask without fear of the answers, in complete acceptance of contradictions and complexities, in the pursuit of wonder, and we explore the fullness of what it means to be human by framing consistently in the positive. We intentionally seek what is best in all of us, in all people. Our exploration brings us into the stories of other cultures, of different ways of knowing. We set the context for

mutual understanding in a single frame of reference: what is BEST in you? What is best in me? What is best in us?

This principle is the one that gets the most negative reactions from people … it’s easy to think positive = Pollyanna, a false shine that silences the very real harms and traumas that make our experiences visceral. As discussed in the work of Gervase Bushe, the real heart of the positive principle is in generativity, not simple positivity. This principle moves us, pulls us, draws us into a best possible future by inviting us into a mindset that demands a positive option, not just dystopian wastelands.

In the context of Justice & Belonging work, the Positive principle looks beyond what we don’t want and asks us what good is possible for a just society. Intentionally, it asks that we pursue these questions not only with an expectation of wonder, but also that we do the work with each other, together.

The dance of ask-and-answer

Because the dance of ask-and-answer always involves more than one person; it also always includes more than one viewpoint. Intrinsically interconnected, our principles again lead us to each other, to amazement in the possibility of it all, and in the child-like glee of asking.

Thank you all for taking this journey with me. I hope these thoughts have informed your own sense of what is possible for justice in our work.


Growing Towards the Light

‘Everything begins with an idea.’
Earl Nightingale

My AI story starts with a big idea from a cherished colleague and friend, Dr Kelly Josephson.

Download the full article.

Rolene Pryor | Canada

Rolene Pryor is a facilitator, planner, trainer and management consultant who loves supporting her clients to get beyond baseline. Rolene uses her background in facilitation and planning to understand client context, needs, goals and strengths, and applies that learning to co-create compelling visions for the future. Rolene holds a master’s degree in Applied Social Psychology and is energized by people and teams.

In 2010, Kelly and I were working together in the Institutional Research and Planning team at a higher education institution in the Middle East. Our institution was a satellite campus of an established Canadian organization and had never been asked to create a strategic plan that was specific to the needs of our campus.

When the call for a strategic plan came, a team was assembled to get the job done. The challenge was that this team didn’t have a lot of experience with strategic planning. Plus, the timeline was short. And the needs were complex.

Enter Kelly. One of her most beautiful strengths is her love of new ideas and models. Kelly had been reading about Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and its potential to bring large groups together to align on vision. She was intrigued by the potential to use AI in our work and suggested that we get trained in AI so that we explore further.

‘Viva, Las Vegas!’ Elvis Presley

The training was in Las Vegas, USA; I was sold! So, we made the long journey from Qatar to Nevada to take our four-day Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) with Company of Experts. In those four days, we were continually inspired and energized with all the ideas that were coming up for us, and the ways we could see the potential to meaningfully use AI in our work. Before our trip, I was excited to see Las Vegas. After our trip, I was excited about what we were about to try.

Kelly and I returned to the Middle East with enthusiasm and energy, and pitched our idea to the strategic planning team. Given the timelines and the other pressures, they agreed to let us run the process with what we had just learned in our time away.

‘You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.’ Martin Luther King, Jr

And we were off! Through our planning process, we did a lot of great stuff. We engaged more than 400 key partners through the planning process in both English and Arabic, we built a culturally appropriate space to hold our events (a majlis), we heard inspiring and energizing stories of institutional excellence, we co-created directions for the future, and we created a compelling multi-year strategic plan.

But the best part of it all was the bonds that were created, the relationships that were deepened, and the shared understanding that was built that cut through the challenges being faced at the institution. Kelly and I saw, firsthand, the power of Appreciative Inquiry. We left our planning sessions each day with tired feet and electrifyingly energized minds – I will always remember that feeling. Together, we had unlocked real magic.

More than a decade later, I look back on our AI-for-strategic-planning process as a peak career experience and something that forever changed how I move through the world, both at work and at home.

‘Unlimited. Together we’re unlimited.’– Stephen Schwartz

I left that institution in 2012 to start a career back in Canada as a management consultant. As I began to work with clients in different industries who were all presenting with unique challenges and needs, it became clear that, despite their uniqueness, AI could have a positive impact for all of them – just as it had for our campus in the Middle East back in 2010.

As I used AI more and more with my clients, I started to realize that the power of focusing on strengths, finding ways to create more of those strengths, and creating an expansive view of the future was allowing my clients to get well beyond where they were now and where they thought they could be in the future. My clients were getting beyond the baseline that they had set for themselves; instead, they were realizing that their future was truly unlimited.

I took what I had learned from years of facilitation, research and planning, combined that with the power of the principles and process of AI, and created an agile planning process called Beyond BaselineTM. This approach meets people, teams and organizations where they are, seeking to understand their context, pain points, fears,and concerns. That, combined with additional research, becomes the starting point for future-state visioning, action planning and implementation. Each client engagement is different, and the specifics of the approach are highly customized and flexible for each clients’ needs, goals and preferred outcomes. One thing remains the same – the process is grounded in finding, appreciating and amplifying the strengths present in every team and organization.

Insomuch as this Beyond BaselineTM model is agile for my clients, it’s agile for me too. As I learn more, try more and explore more, I add to and adjust the model. I recently completed the Appreciative Resilience Facilitator Training (ARFT) course offered by the Center for Appreciative Inquiry and I have folded learnings and insights from that experience into my Dscovery phase flow with my clients, recognizing that hope, despair and forgiveness are normal and fluid in everyone’s lives, at work and at home.

‘If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.’ Henry Ford

I am very thankful to work for an organization that embraces the ideas (like Beyond BaselineTM!) that passionate practitioners bring to the table – and I am passionate about the power of AI in consulting.

In addition to using Beyond BaselineTM for clients, I’ve had the support from our team to turn the lens inward for our organization Our Barrington Consulting team has used Beyond BaselineTM, and its grounding in strengths, to build our own corporate multiyear strategy and to understand and celebrate our corporate culture.

Just like that first strategic planning experience in 2010, our Barrington team has worked together to create powerful and compelling visions of the future which were excellent. But the most powerful outcome of the process was the way that relationships were formed, deepened and solidified. Our team understands the power of AI because they’ve experienced it. We are all excited to bring more clients through the Beyond BaselineTM flow because it’s so uplifting and poignant while also being incredibly effective and powerful.

‘Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.’ Maya Angelou

I feel the power of AI in my own life, every day. Being able to reframe an issue or a gap into a request for what it is that I actually want, framed in the affirmative, has been transformational. As an AI trainer, I often hear the question – “aren’t we ignoring the problems when we reframe?” I strongly believe that the answer to that is no, we aren’t ignoring the problems that exist. Instead, we are asking for what it is that we want, what we want to create, what success looks like, and/or what we want more of.

I believe that more is a small word with incredible power. In my life, more has opened many doors for me – doors to hard conversations, doors to increased clarity in relationships, doors to shared understanding, and doors to vulnerability. These are all doors that, when we walk through them, build more and more authenticity within ourselves and our relationships with others.

‘Wherever there is air and light and open space, things grow.’ Helen Oyeyemi

So, what does the future hold for me and Appreciative Inquiry? It’s more!

I am excited to build more and more AI into my consulting work. Beyond BaselineTM is growing and I am excited to continue to evolve this method as I have more opportunities to serve current and new clients. I continue to be inspired when I see how widely applicable a strengths focus is across so many specific needs, realities and sectors. I’ve had the chance to use these techniques and principles on dozens of different client engagements over the years – each one has worked and each one has been transformational in its own way. I trust the process because it works.

I am excited to breathe in the power of more in my daily life. As AI practitioners, we often talk about the difference between being AI and doing AI. Doing AI is about the process – following steps that work to create a vision based on a specific topic or opportunity. Being AI is about how you move through the world, finding the joy in small things, fanning the flames in others, seeing what is possible.

My goal is to continue to grow AI in everything I do, in every breath I take, and every interaction I have. I’m a work in progress and I’m excited to continue to grow towards the light.


A Practitioner’s Journey to Living With Climate Change 

Which door are you going to choose?

Talking about climate change is not an IF question anymore, it is a HOW question. Thankfully, there are many ways to get started.

Download the full article.

Alexandra Arnold| USA

Alex Arnold (she/her) MSPsy, MSHR/ OD, ACC, is program director at The Taos Institute and a climate resilience coach at Alma Coaching, where she uses positive psychology and Appreciative Inquiry to help introverted and highly sensitive people shift from climate anxiety to inspired action.

Over the course of the month of March 2023, the Climate Coaching Alliance Global Festival featured more than 50 virtual events on the theme: Tools for Transitions – Navigating the Paradoxes, Polarities and Paradigms in Climate Coaching. Sessions were hosted by people from around the globe on topics that go far beyond traditional news headlines, alarmist messages, or the most common calls for action. In this article, we will explore the wide variety of ways one (whether a coach or not) can start climate conversations, at home, at work, and with oneself. Let’s see what happens when we open some of these doors …

(Most gatherings started with a grounding exercise and lighting a candle, which you may want to do before you read on, allowing yourself to slow down and honor your own experience with this topic.)

Door #1: Gut microbiome

When it comes to climate change, the scale of the problem can make us feel very small, as when we stand in a forest surrounded by really tall trees, looking up. Cara Wheatley-McGrain, host of the session Compassionate connection to our inner and outer ecosystems, invited us to look down instead: at the fallen leaves, the earth, the small creatures and plants on the ground, and to consider that, from this perspective, we are standing on the rooftop of a whole world. Indeed, there are more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the earth! It is with this vantage point that Wheatley-McGrain guided her audience through a visualization to visit the garden of their guts, which hosts the largest bacterial ecosystem in the human body. We’ve all heard the term “gut feeling”, and for a good reason.

Recent research on psychobiotics led by Professor John Cryan suggests that our gut health is not only linked to our physical, but to our mental, health. When it comes to microbes and bacteria, our gut thrives on abundance, diversity and balance. Unfortunately, in addition to being the principal cause of habitat loss (in turn contributing to species extinction), the industrialization of our food system has been leading to an invisible extinction of our gut microbiomes. A conservative estimate is that modern city dwellers have lost around 50% of their microbes through urbanization. If it is sometimes hard to relate to larger ecosystem changes taking place due to climate change, looking – or rather feeling – right inside of our guts may be a powerful motivator for positive change.

Door #2: Conscious influence

Many of the ideas brought forth by Stephanie Trager in her session entitled The Art of Conscious Influence for Change Agents will sound familiar to Appreciative

Inquiry practitioners. Rather than taking a “fix it” attitude, she calls for a reverse engineering process by asking “What is the future asking of us? What does that energy feel like?” Visualization, non-linear perception, and using a vocabulary of increase are tools that can replace the current narratives that keep us stuck with the constructs that got us where we are in the first place. By using other tools, we clear ourselves on the inside so that we can emanate conscious influence, or positive energy frequency. Check out Dr. David Hawkins’ map of consciousness to find out what emotions you want to cultivate to create the highest frequencies, life energy or level of enlightenment. Doing so, as Trager said in her session, “in ourselves and others, is the most accelerated path to a thriving and sustainable world … As conscious influencers, we have a deeper ripple impact from the inside out, through power versus force.”

Door #3: Cosmology

Cosmology is the study of the origin and structure of the universe. For Drew Dellinger, host of Planetizing the Movement with the Powers of Dream, Story, Art, and Action, cosmology is also a worldview, a story of separation of humans and nature that has been dominating a large part of the world. “How do we move from a cosmology of exploitation to one of interconnectedness?” he asks.

Or, as cultural historian Thomas Berry puts it, “from viewing the universe as a collection of objects to a communion of subjects”. One way, Drew Dellinger suggested in his session, is to bring the arts back from the fringe to the center, to remember that art is how heart speaks to heart; it is essential to who we are, and we are all artists in our own way. Art has a central place in activism. Art puts pressure with joy and love. Slowing down, being in stillness, spending time alone, and meditation can be ways to activate our innate creativity and perhaps even connect with the wisdom of the universe.

Other topics included: How we can draw on indigenous wisdom for the challenges facing us now; Successfully attract your clients to climate action; The self in a zillion eco-transitions; How to become a resilient and confident female leader for climate change?; Preventing climate burnout; Our traumas hold the key to the more beautiful world; How can the 3Cs of inclusive leadership enhance leading for sustainability?; Glorious 2030 – How to guide topic discussions and the building of desirable futures; How can playfulness help unlock climate action?; and many more.

As you can see, ways to enter conversations about climate change are endless, and sometimes quite surprising. Even so, there are common themes that emerged from all of these sessions. Clover Hogan, activist, entrepreneur, global speaker, and only twenty-three years old, captured them in a powerful opening session:

  • Acknowledging eco-anxiety (a chronic fear of environmental doom) and ecophobia (an ethical undervaluing of the natural environment that can result in cataclysmic environmental change). In a survey of 10,000 young people, 70% reported being eco-anxious. Denial, grief, sadness, hopelessness, loss of faith in institutions, burnout, confusion, a sense of betrayal … all are now part of the dialogue. But they are not problems to be fixed: they are “beautiful evidence of our humanity”. Processing rather than bypassing these emotions is important, with someone who can hold the space and facilitate empowerment and agency rather than allowing despair to set in.
  • Finding community. We can’t do this alone – and we are not alone. We all need to be with others, in a group or an organization, to find validation, motivation, support and accountability. Taking a collective approach also means bringing many voices into the room and genuinely listening to diverse views, especially those that have been largely ignored or suppressed.

Hogan has a special request for the adults who so often instinctively want to remove the pain and suffering for young people. This has to stop, she says, as it only fuels the feeling of betrayal. It’s time to have honest conversations about the reality, the losses and the pain among people of every age. Hold these conversations with tenderness and care to rebuild trust. In her view, “it is intergenerational wisdom and action that will make a difference”.

  • Choosing a focus. Too many are stuck because they feel too small to make a difference, think that the system is too broken, or don’t know where to start. Empowerment comes from finding a unique way to contribute. Rather than trying to fix it all, let’s ask “what is the one thing I can show up to solve, where does my impact come from?” Coaches and AI practitioners can play an important role in helping individuals identify the values, skills, unique gifts – the positive core – that will ignite sustainable action and a sense of agency. Here again, it’s essential to team up with others and not try to go at it alone.
  • Changing the story. Being exposed to constant stories of disasters around the world in the news and social media is too much. Pointing out that consumption is at the heart of the crisis and asking people to sacrifice their habits and lifestyles is not working. Vilifying those in power is too easy. Relying solely on technology to solve it all is spreading false hope.

Instead, Hogan encourages us to create a compelling message, an invitation for people to be part of something bigger, a reminder that true happiness comes from within, and a celebration of the fact that there is already a shift toward increased spirituality and connection with nature. “How do we make climate action irresistible?!”

The message throughout this month-long festival, across 50 virtual sessions hosted by change agents from around the globe, is loud and clear: we won’t solve the climate crisis with the same people and thinking that created it. It’s time to open up new doors, tell new stories, and pick up new tools. It begins at the personal level and requires a “going back to nature”.

This event was made possible by the dedication and generosity of CCA volunteers and has resulted in a fantastic library of resources. Watch the recordings available on each event page at global-festival-2023 and spread the word.

Appreciative Resources

These resources were chosen by Joeri Kabalt, the editor of this issue, to share with practitioners some of resources that she has found to be particularly relevant on the topic of living and working with climate change.

How would nature change leadership? Tedx Talk

by Andres Roberts 

Inspiring talk by AIP contributor Andres Roberts on how we can come to a new narrative of progress by learning from and working with nature. Mjg2NjQ&feature=emb_logo


The Lost Words

by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris 

Beautifully illustrated “spellbook” for conjuring back the words for the natural world around us that have slowly disappeared from our language. 

ISBN-10 : 1487005385; ISBN-13 : 978-1487005382


Braiding Sweetgrass

by Robin Wall Kimmerer 

A book that celebrates our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world by drawing on indigenous wisdom. 

ISBN-10 : 1571313567; ISBN-13 : 978-1571313560 



Hope Free Online Course

by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone 

This course offers tools that help face concerns of our world, as well as find and play our role in the collective transition towards a society and way of being that support the flourishing of life.


The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More- Than-Human World 

by David Abram 

By now a “classic” that evocatively and academically describes and awakens us to our sensuous participation with the more-than-human world. 

ISBN-10 : 0679776397; ISBN-13 : 978-0679776390


Spaceship Earth Podcast 

by Dan Burgess 

Conversations with artists, activists, social entrepreneurs, storytellers and more about co-creating beautiful life-sustaining cultures. 

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