Appreciative Inquiry is a well honed, and long used methodology for guiding communities and organization through changing times. It works on the principle of "what we give our attention to grows." The idea is that we find a positive topic choice around which we initiate a process of Discovering what is working, Dreaming about what might be possible, Designing strategies to move that direction and Doing it. With our upcoming Open Space on January 2, I'm interested in using Appreciative Inquiry to initiate a community wide conversation on moving forward in a green way.
For me this does not mean starting with a list of things we don't have, but rather looking at what we do have on the island that provides the starting place for being a "green" place. Yes there are many challenges, but the AI approach is an asset based approach to meeting challenges, and so we start with a series of interviews and conversations about what we have and we build in from there. It is much easier for example to change behaviours in a system if you work with what people are already doing rather than introducing radical departures from their current ways of doing things. For example, most people on Bowen currently recycle at BIRD. It is easier to get start community composting at BIRD therefore then it would be elsewhere. If we were to introduce a second place that folks would need to take compost on a weekly basis, that leap might be too much to get started. So it makes sense in the community planning process that some zoning happen around BIRD that would provide for community composting.
I think if we can come to some common understanding about the nature of the green culture already on Bowen - even if some declare it to be nascent - then we have a better chance of bringing many different people and skills into the fold to create pathways forward for many futures. I think we don't need to negotiate values or positions with one another either, but rather co-discover these values. That is a proven way to create ownership over the direction of the future and to amass momentum especially for the tough challenges that lie ahead.
It's not the wish list of things that actually binds us together. Wish lists are negotiable. I'm interested in exploring what we have already that defines us as green, without even thinking about it.
Using a quadrant model, I want to pose four questions, that result in stories:
- What is important to you about ecology, sustainability or green thinking? Tell a story about how you cultivated that value. Where did it come from?
- Tell me a story of how deeply the culture of ecology and environmental consciousness runs in the community?
- What are some of the things that we do or have as a community that makes us green?
- What are personal actions you undertake that are environmental, sustainable, ecological or green?
My goal with the session at the community Open Space is to pilot these questions, practice using them with participants and then have folks spread out into the community to collect some results over the next couple of months. From there we can compile a collection of interesting stories from which we can move to the Dream phase, which is a visioning phase based on what we already have and what we already do, rather then what we don't have and what we think we need.
Here is one of many examples of this work being done, with the Skownan First Nation, who looked at doing a community land use planning process using Aboriginal values. This is very similar in scope to what I am wanting to initiate.
Leave a comment if you are interested in taking a role with this initiative, or show up on January 2 to engage in the pilot.
(And here is a powerpoint deck my friend Peggy Holman and I have used for training people in AI)