PART THREE: MY EXPERIENCE WITH APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY METHODOLOGY

This is the third post in a four part blog series, "Peacebuilding and Spirituality in El Salvador: Exploring Appreciative Inquiry methodology".

During the peacebuilding and spirituality course with Chencho I had the opportunity to see how Appreciative Inquiry methodology is used in the peace movement. I had expected the methodology to be part of the workshops but I was surprised to discover that it was also incorporated throughout our activities.

AI in a formal workshop setting

Our course included a practical workshop based on Earth and Ecology, one of the peace movement themes. I was dealing with a stomach bug so missed the first part of the Discovery stage where participants shared stories of personal vivencias. However, we had engaged in this activity at various times throughout the week so I had an opportunity to experience this part of the process, which I will share later.

I joined the workshop in time for the second part of the Discovery step, where we read a Miskito legend, The Invisible Hunters, and discussed the values and principles we saw in the legend related to the theme of earth and ecology. Our list included: solidarity, peace, mutuality, generosity, integration, equality and fairness. [1] (If you are not familiar with this legend, I highly recommend you check it out by clicking on the title above.)

Larry reading to the class

We broke into small groups for the final three steps: Vision, Design and Destiny. Our task was to use the values and principles identified in the Discovery step to create a vision and strategic plan for Emmanuel College. My group found it challenging to engage in strategic planning with limited input from other stakeholders. However, we recognized this was more of a theoretical exercise to expose us to the full AI cycle. It was interesting to see how personal values and principles can be used to shape a vision and plan for the future.

My group: Nicole, myself and Karen (Greg is taking the picture)

AI woven throughout the course

What was most compelling to me was how Chencho wove AI methodology into our studies, our worship and our reflections.

Chencho often reminded us to think about the methodology; to identify the vivencia, the values and principles that were the catalyst for change in stories that people related to us. For example, after a guest artist shared his experience of finding art after he become blind Chencho reminded us to think about the methodology, to identify the values and principles that were present in his experience and led him to discover a beautiful skill.

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Chencho speaking after a presentation by local artists

Throughout the course we engaged in reflective sessions where a few people would share their personal vivencia related to the activity we were doing such as the morning spiritual reflection, our tour to San Salvador or lecture sessions. When we were planning an activity or worship service Chencho encouraged us to use an experience that had moved us as the basis for our work. It was important that we were aware of the values and principles at the core of personal experiences and that we saw how these values and principles could be the catalyst for change.

My vivencia

While I missed the opportunity to share a vivencia during the workshop, I had an opportunity early in the week. A vivencia is a personal experience that is deeply moving, that may change us in some way. For me, a vivencia happened following one of our morning spiritual reflections. This particular reflection was held on the beach and was based on elements found in nature. During the reflection I experienced strong emotions when a leaf was used to represent life. It brought tears to my eyes, which I must say, was quite surprising.

When I shared my story with the group someone suggested my reaction showed an openness to being surprised by a symbol being used in a new way - the leaf is a symbol we don’t usually use in worship; it connected me to the earth as a symbol of creation. Our group discussion also generated affirmative themes of respect for life, open mindedness, the mystery of nature and education in nature. I found doing this step in community helped me to see things that I may not have identified on my own, particularly the idea of openness to being surprised.

In my next post I will reflect on what I learned from Chencho’s use of AI methodology.

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[1] Medienpädagogisches Zentrum, “The Invisible Hunters in HTML”, http://www.invisible-hunters.de/index-hunters.htm (accessed July 24, 2013).

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