Appreciative Inquiry: The Afternoon

Since lunch, 170+ women have been working hard at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Appreciative Inquiry Summit.  We’re imagining the community we want to see and how to get there.  It’s not easy to herd so many minds and bodies but we’re managing.

Similar themes of a future are emerging with just enough panache to spark laughs and awed silence.  Through mock-ups of Facebook pages, newspaper headlines and other visuals (rainbows, growth, umbrellas), expectations affirm a confidence that we will reach a pinnacle, that we can reach a pinnacle – and stay there. My favorite slogan/headline to foreshadow the future is a future tweet that says, “No more money needed – all needs met.”

The effort, however, is not without its challenges. One I see is making sure that in every idea we consider, we consider how to be sure that we neither overshoot and be so ambitious that achievement is illusive, nor underestimate the challenges. For example, some well-known concepts (mentoring, conferences, mission trips) appear repeatedly, but why? Have they not been effective in the past – if not, how can we make them more effective when we implement them?  Or should we be thinking more out of the box?

Two action ideas that stick with me so far are engagement ambassadors, charged with making sure that at events, no attendees sit idle, and Pajewma parties, an idea which I’m not sure would attract me as an attendee, but as an idea, it’s simple, familiar (as in comfortable and easy to understand and open-ended), potentially a lot of fun and something for adults that is not tried enough (injecting youth and silliness into otherwise serious pursuits to connect and get things done).

As I sit here with an hour to go before we wrap up, there’s an enormous “opportunity map” in the front of the room.  In the center, it reads “strengthening our Jewish community by empowering our women.”  From that center cloud radiate many lines with the ideas to be implemented written on them.  The ideas that will move to an implementation stage will be those with the most “dots” – each participant was given five dots to place on the ideas they most want to see become implemented. I cannot see which ones are emerging yet, but what’s a wrap-up blog post for?

6 thoughts on “Appreciative Inquiry: The Afternoon

  1. Hedy, thanks for that affirmation. With nearly 180 of us in the room, and more than a few good ideas from each, some had to rise and some stay in the bubble for now but having been through this one time now, I can’t imagine letting go of all that was communicated between us.

  2. Mary Ellen – I totally agree w/you re: it was good to come to be heard (that’s part of what attracted many of us, I’m sure), but what we heard from others…very special too. Thanks for your work.

  3. I am appreciative of the summit I participated in yesterday. I came because it offered an opportunity to be heard, but I benefited by what I heard from others.
    We need to continue the dialogue. I have always advocated for collaboration in my non-profit involvements and would like everyone to know that Treasures Gift Shop and Mandel JCC and Siegal College is open to cooperative ventures with organizations that share our appreciation of Israeli jewelry and Judaica.
    Mary Ellen Saltzman, Volunteer-in-charge
    P.S. We are also always looking for more volunteers.

  4. Wendy and Jill, I’m so glad that you wrote what you did. I talked to a number of women while we were waiting to put up our dots and each had a similar story of ideas that came up at their tables but didn’t make the list of what was on the board. I think we need to make sure that those other ideas are brought to light and discussed as things always look different after you’ve had a chance to step back and reflect on the whole experience.

  5. Wendy, thanks so much for reading and leaving this great comment. That is a really great observation re: what makes it out of group after discussion and working on building a consensus. I think you hit the nail on the head re: maybe – not necessarily, but maybe, that process tends to favor (but not always I’m sure!) slightly more generic ideas. I will say that I wrote this BEFORE the final seven or eight groups convened to flesh out the ideas we’d like to see come to fruition and do I believe that those discussions offered more of a chance to expand and expound.

    I was talking with a couple of the conveners just after we ended the day and I they too pointed out to me that this is all a starting point and lots more fleshing out is to be done.

    Makes a good case for staying involved, don’t you think!?

  6. I participated in today’s event and no matter what happens in the future, I had a great time and loved every minute of it. It was very special to be in a room with so many friends and then to begin to form new friendships with the women at my table. Very cool.

    I was struck by your comment about a lot of the ideas not being new ones. My thoughts are–we really have a great community, so we’re trying to turn something already great into extraordinary (yeah us!). But also I want to add that because of the format of the processed, individual ideas were NOT expressed. Each group had to come to consensus. I know that some of the out of the box ideas never made it out of my group and into the room. The more generic ones were the agreed upon ones and that’s what made it . . . maybe that’s not such a great thing.

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