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Bill Patrie

In Cooperation – Appreciative Inquiry

By Bill Patrie

Special to the MHA Times

Ed Hall from Parshall, ND, and I took training in Appreciative Inquiry in 2008. We learned that “words create worlds.”  The training was on campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.  The day-long seminar was part of Weatherhead School of Management’s training program for business and nonprofit executives.  As participants introduced themselves I noticed there were a number of Fortune 100 companies represented.  Ed and I introduced ourselves, he as an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes and retired federal employee where he had served as an engineer, and I as the director of cooperative strategies for Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund.

Ed and I have used Appreciative Inquiry numerous times since 2008.  We have found power in that system of asking positive questions.  I have come to understand that words do create worlds.  The premise of Appreciative Inquiry is that what you talk about grows.  If you talk about what is right—what is right gets bigger.  If you talk about what is wrong, the things that are wrong get bigger.  So for the next few paragraphs test this theory on what you talk and think about and see for yourself if it is true.

Immigrants like my grandparents built this country.  Immigrants are smuggling drugs.  Love your enemy and do good to those who hate you.  We need to bomb them until the desert glows.  I wouldn’t trade my childhood experiences in rural North Dakota for anything, I think the best plan for me is to get an education and get out.  That man is a good farmer, he smells like manure.  That kid sure has artistic talent, you can’t make a living with art.  That was a delicious meal, thank you, we sure don’t have time to slave over a hot stove, let’s eat out.  The Old Red Trail is a fun road to travel, I 94 is way faster.  The Missouri River is fun to canoe, we need another bridge.  Local food is the way to build community, those small farmers are a nuisance.  Farming is a way of life, farming is a business.  She is a kind woman, she is too nice.   He is generous with his money, he is foolish with his money.  Hogs sleeping in the sunshine, hogs raised over slated floors.  My spouse is a wonderful companion, my spouse could use some changing.  I sure like the people I worship with at church, church is boring and full of hypocrites.  

Do you get the picture?  What we talk about grows-whether it is positive or negative.  So if words create worlds, here are some words from the world I want:   Love, courage, roses, rhubarb, juneberries, forgiveness, bison, teamwork, music, free flowing rivers, contented cows, chickens, blooming flax, tall corn, fruit trees, good trucks, safety, kindness, intelligence, patience, humor, neighbors, canoes, tents, meadow larks, kittens, warm blankets, ski slopes, soccer, health, kindness, new potatoes, homemade bread, town hall meetings, poems, love stories, track meets, pep rallies, tree ripened apples, old people swimming, children laughing, parades, clean windows, gardens, swings, cold well water, choke cherry jelly, watermelon, pumpkin pie, campfires, lambs, summer sausage, cheese, sweet grapes, cool aid with ice cubes, a good night’s rest, hot chocolate with marshmallows, redwing black birds, a nursing fawn, the smell of fresh mown hay, comfortable shoes, clean sheets, sunshine, gentle rain, grandparents at school events, class B basketball, meaningful work, pleasant tiredness, patience, appreciation, excitement and joy. 

 These are words for the world I would like to create—what are yours?

Bill Patrie is the Director of Cooperative Strategies for Common Enterprise Development Corporation (CEDC).  CEDC assists individuals and communities organize community or cooperatively owned enterprises.  CEDC is active in value-added agriculture, housing, employee owned businesses, local food, community health care and community development.

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