Appreciative Inquiry Presentation & Activity

The State Advisory Council (SAC) had the pleasure of hearing from Pru Sullivan, an ambassador of Champlain College’s David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry (AI) on May 22nd at Building Bright Futures’ (BBF) latest SAC meeting.

Pru’s presentation aligns with BBF’s charge received from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care (BRC) in order to engage a diverse group of stakeholders in a design process to develop a comprehensive, high-quality, affordable system of early care and learning for all Vermont children ages birth to five.

This will be done using an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) framework that focuses on positive systems change, growth, and transformation using a strengths-based framework. This initiative, called “Build Our Future”, will launch in June of 2017.

Pru facilitated an Appreciative Inquiry exercise and familiarized the SAC with this unique way of thinking in preparation for the work BBF, The Permanent Fund, and a steering committee will be doing over the next year.

Pru Sullivan Appreciative Inquiry Exercise

Each member of the SAC was instructed to partner with someone they don’t ordinarily converse with in the room. They then spent the next ten minutes interviewing one another about a time in which they felt appreciated for a task in which they performed well. At the end, the SAC members felt invigorated, energized, open to conversation and supportive of collaborative work.

Pru explained that when we’re solution-focused, and take the time to appreciate one another’s’ successes, we’re more willing to collaborate. Having an appreciative philosophy will allow BBF to act as both a nurturing authority and as positive change agents for Vermont’s young children and families.

Pru recounted her experience with Green Mountain Coffee (GMC)–once just a Waterbury-based organization with a dream to become a $1 billion international company. Her job was to embed AI into the very fabric of GMC and her efforts proved fruitful when GMC saw 60% growth in one year (when most businesses are happy to see just 5%). AI fueled this success, and if BBF remains solution-focused, we will be more willing to collaborate, leading to positive systems change.

There was also discussion around the highlights we can expect to come out of the Appreciative Inquiry Design Summit, set for the first week of October 2017. Benefits include: Creating common ground and engagement, leaving agendas at the door, sparking new ideas, accomplishing lots of work in a short time frame, and shared accountability as participants feel connected to solutions.

Hearing about Pru’s professional experience and feeling the effects of a hands-on AI exercise was invigorating for the SAC. Shifting to an appreciative mindset is a process, but Pru presented many of its benefits that will, in turn, support BBF’s charge.

The next step for Build Our Future, is to host a Q&A conference call on June 1st from 12:00 -1:00 p.m. and again from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Sarah Squirrell, Executive Director of BBF, will lead this conversation for anyone who is interested in learning more. You can call in at 802.231.1385 (no pin needed).

To learn more about the Build Our Future initiative, Visit the Build Our Future web page. You can also Click Here to review Pru’s presentation on Appreciative Inquiry.

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