Multiple Realities

Multi-direction signpostOne of the assumptions made in Appreciative Inquiry is that “reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities“.

The meaning of this assumption is sometimes a little obscure for folk when they first encounter it.

But there are many practical examples of this in daily life that help to illustrate what it means.

For example, have you ever tried to intervene in a quarrel between two children or teenagers? If so, you’ll know exactly what ‘multiple realities’ can look like. :) Those two kids have obviously been in the same place at the same time and experienced the same event when their quarrel started. But sometimes when you listen to their stories, you’d swear they’d been on different planets!

And in my experience as a family mediator some years ago, this phenomenon was equally apparent. When participants in a mediation session shared what had brought them to this point and their perceptions about what had happened, “multiple realities” were always at play.

Finally, here is a wonderful (and very thought-provoking)  TED talk from Elizabeth Pisani called “Sex, Drugs and HIV – Let’s Get Rational“. With clear logic, sharp wit and warmth, she shows us how different groups in our community have very different perspectives on what actually contributes to or helps to prevent the spread of HIV.

Multiple realities indeed! :)


An Online Hosting Team

I have been immersed in arranging the “hosting team” and schedule for the online component of the 2009 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference, coming up in November.

There was an overwhelming response to our call for volunteer hosts – over 60 people contacted me altogether. Some did not pursue that original expression of interest and others had to withdraw for various reasons. But a large number of folk remained to join the hosting team.

Global Hosting TeamPutting together a hosting schedule was a complex logistical task .. I won’t say ‘nightmare’ :)  Our generous spirited volunteers came from all around the world and were all available at different times of the day or night in their own time zones.  And the ‘spread’ of those time zones covered UTC (GMT) -8 to UTC +11!

I used an Excel spreadsheet to work all this out. And I am sure anyone watching me could have been concerned enough to call for medical help.  Many sighs, lots of running my fingers through my hair and constant muttering at the computer screen. :)

Given the restrictions of folks’ availability, moving a single person from one spot to another produced a  ‘domino effect’ where others had to be moved as well. Only a small number wanted to be (or could be) scheduled for more than one shift per day. I also wanted, wherever possible, to mix up those who would be ‘on duty’ at the same time so team members would have the delight of meeting and getting to know more of their fellow team members.

By the end I was cross-eyed, brain-fried and seeing Excel cells in my sleep! :)

2009AIHostScheduleI am sure there is probably a software program ‘out there’ somewhere that would have done the job. But I find myself wondering …By the time I’d entered all the data and variables, would it have saved me any time in the end?

We now have a draft schedule and a team of 48 people who will be working in pairs (or threes) and ‘passing the baton’ from one to the other in two hour ‘shifts’ for 24 hours a day during the entire four days of the conference.  Whew!

Our hosts are an amazing group of folk from all around the world. They will be joining the conference from Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatamala, Jamaica, Kenya, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, Uganda, the UK and the USA!

So if you would like to know more about Appreciative Inquiry or become more involved with the worldwide AI community and can’t get to Nepal, do register for the online conference!

welcomeThroughout the conference, there will always be at least two of our hosts online who share your interest in Appreciative Inquiry. And our hosting team, like good hosts anywhere, will:

  • Help you feel welcome;
  • Assist you to find your way around, highlighting any items of particular interest;
  • Invite you to participate in particular activities or events;
  • Answer any questions that arise for you during your stay;
  • Help with introductions to others online; and
  • Generally make sure you have a great time!

So please join us and raise your voice with ours as we focus on “creating a positive revolution for sustainable change“!


One Picture, Two Stories

bootsonwiresLook at the picture to the right.

What does this represent for you? What do you think about when you look at it? What story does it tell you?

In the workshops we facilitate for clients, we often use images to help people come together around different issues. Last week in a workshop I was facilitating, two women shared their stories about this particular image.

For one, it held a story of youth, of gangs and of the potential for violence.

The second woman originally came from a part of the world where electricity cables were often falling or damaged and there were many deaths from electrocution. For her this picture told a story of safety – the boots over the wire were potentially a protection from dangerous currents and from possible death! She said that, without the boots, the image would have been far more frightening for her.

By sharing their stories, these two women moved the group into a rich conversation about how the same experience can hold very different meaning for different people. Something we all know, but sometimes forget in our day-to-day dealings with others.

I can’t really understand how you experience what is happening or the meaning you make of it unless I ask you. Unless I take the time to listen deeply to your story and appreciate how you see the world and your place in it.

Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities
(Sue Annis Hammond,  The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry)

Note: The image here is one card from a beautiful set called Picture This.  These cards are published by Innovative Resources, which is one of the best sources we know for obtaining a wide range of excellent strength-focused resources.