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IDEAS, NEWS AND RESOURCES  | August 2016    
We hope you enjoy receiving our newsletter which includes constructionist ideas and practices as well as news and resources from the Taos Institute.
Brief Encounters with The Taos Institute
This month we welcome Dan Saint as he shares a story of Relational and Appreciative Leadership...

Relational and Appreciative Leadership 

By Dan Saint

Leading takes courage: to confidently trust in yourself and others and to embrace ambiguity. The promise of social constructionism provides that courage. In social construction, there is an awareness that we as humans are in relationship through language and this creates our future. In relationship we exist and as we deepen our relationships and our belief in others, so we deepen our belief in ourselves. 
Melody Bianchetto is the CFO of the University of Virginia. As is common in higher education, structural reorganizations aligned new departments under her. Following reorganization was the predictable chaos, confusion and agony of organizational change.
As a leader, Melody needed to unite the new UVAFinance team to work toward a collective, positive future. In this modern high-service environment, not only subordinate leaders, but every person needed to understand how their behavior led to serving their clients. They needed to share a vision that could inspire the action of much of the administrative and financial infrastructure supporting the students, faculty and staff of UVA. This included establishing the learning, control and compliance framework needed for this organization that housed departments responsible for disparate functions from student financial services to procurement for the university founded by Thomas Jefferson with an operating budget over $1.5 billion. Simply, UVAFinance needed a strategic plan.
Here is where the trust of oneself, others and embracing ambiguity enters the story. Instead of pulling together a small team of smart people and strategy consultants to develop a top-down strategic plan to be cascaded down through some change management process, Melody and her team boldly chose to tap into the collective brilliance, commitment and passion of the entire organization using Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Paradoxically, choosing the traditional route of advice of experts seems safer: it gives a built in excuse when failure occurs. Unfortunately, it is also the least likely path to success.
Melody began with a planning session including chief of staff Disha Venkatesen and Dan Saint from the Center for Appreciative Practice at UVA. They discussed possibilities and sketched out an inclusive, high-level ambitious design to cover the following three months. The process was to involve the whole system and proceed in three phases of Appreciating, Imagining and Realizing (AIR).  The work began with pulling together a project team of about 12 employees representing the different groups in the organization and sending an invitation to about 250 employees and stakeholders to initiate the AI process in early January of 2016.
Melody's invitation set out a surprising goal for the strategic planning process--to build new or deepen existing relationships in the organization. This was an insightful and courageous act for a CFO, but logical. If we co-create our future in relationship, that seems a higher leverage area of focus than starting with the numbers. This awareness was maintained throughout the next three months as the plan was written. Over 20 communications went to the employees and stakeholders guiding them through the process and maintaining close connection.
The phases of AIR proceeded over the next few months and engaged all employees and stakeholders in various configurations. The AI process moved from completing the strategic plan to executing. Four engaged teams emerged and are working actively to transform the organization. The teams have taken the initiative to improve collaboration, service excellence and employee engagement.
Not everything went smoothly. Some employees expressed resistance suggesting it was the job of the leader to develop strategy. Melody calmly took these concerns in stride, continuously communicating and extending the invitation to work relationally. It did help also to do some benchmarking with a generous Carnegie-Melon University who had undergone a similar process about a year earlier.  
Using AI did lead to some exciting stories of relationship. Two people who had worked in the same building on the same floor in different departments for over 25 years, met for the first time. Many members of UVAFinance have been in the organization for quite a few years, some even over 40 years and one over 50 years. Many said this was the first time they had been asked to contribute. By literally engaging these long-term employees the organization creates a deeper sense of connection and benefits from the wisdom and energy previously untapped.
Melody displayed courage and wisdom in leading her team. She showed that no matter how brilliant or energetic any one leader may be, the leader who can engage the collective wisdom and energy of her whole team increases potential positive outcomes exponentially. Instead of a more traditional path of strategic planning and vision setting by the leader and a small group, she invited the entire organization to participate. She focused on the relational not the financial. With AI, the whole system contributed to the development with the execution being nearly simultaneous. But in retrospect, why would a leader act any differently?


Recently Joep de Jong and Dan Saint finished co-editing the August Issue of the AI Practitioner with the subject of Leadership in the Appreciative Paradigm. The process of writing together was very much an act of relational leading; it was very much a dance. For Joep and Dan, the dance is a good metaphor for leading with social constructionist principles. The dance is an act of connecting and trusting. It requires both dancers to listen - to pay real attention to the other - and to pay attention to the rhythm, even before the first step was taken. The dance and the dancers only exist in the moment of relationship. Neither follow nor lead is privileged. Both are equally necessary.

Although geographically one was writing from a lake in Amsterdam and the other from a lake in North Carolina, there was little separation between them. They invite you to read the August Issue of AIP at  and they also invite you view Joep's series of short film portraits of leaders at
Taos Institute Events and Gatherings  - The Many Ways to Get Involved.....
Registration now open!        

November 10-12, 2016
Pre-conference workshops - Nov. 9-10, 2016

Cleveland, Ohio  (Home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!) 

At The Global Center for Health Innovation (

A Taos Institute Conference in collaboration with the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology (

This conference will bring together scholars and practitioners to explore, share and develop ideas and practices around health and effective healthcare through relational, appreciative, and collaborative initiatives. We will explore how this fundamentally depends on a vast matrix of relationships. Relationships between and among patients, families, physicians, nurses, administrators, educators, insurance adjustors, attorneys, social workers, mental health practitioners, and clergy, are all included.
Conference themes will include Innovations in Relational, Collaborative, and Appreciative Practices in:
  • Patient, Family, and Professional Relationships
  • Healthcare Organizations, Policies, Practices and Whole System Change
  • Healthcare Education
  • Connecting Community and Healthcare
Who should attend:
  • Healthcare providers and practitioners - All those involved with care giving at all levels of care
  • Healthcare and medical educators
  • Consultants to healthcare organizations
  • Students from all healthcare professions
  • Healthcare Executives, Senior Managers and other Leaders
  • Insurance companies, lawyers and policy makers
  • Patients and community members
Keynote Speakers 
We are thrilled with the speakers who will be joining us in November and invite you to take a look at them on our website:   Plenary Session Speaker


3rd International Conference of Collaborative 
and Dialogic Practices 
Conversations with and among Education, Research, Health, Social Practices, Psychotherapy...

March 30 - April 2, sponsored by ICCP and TI, 
in the Canary Islands, Tenerife. 



Taos Institute Workshops
  • NEW Online - Relational Leading: Do we know what it means in practice?  |
    Sept. 28 - Nov. 23, An Online Workshop, with Ginny Belden-Charles and Keith Kinsella
  • Collaborative Inquiry: A Methodological Exploration | Sept. 29-30, with Celiane Camargo-Borges, and Jasmina Sermijn, Belgium
  • Social Construction: Relational Theory and Transformative Practices | October 27-29, with Harlene Anderson and Sheila McNamee, Durham, NH
  • Social Construction: Premises and Practices | Oct. 31 - Dec. 12, An Online Workshop, with Celiane Camargo-Borges and Dawn Dole 
For details about these workshops and to register visit:



A Week in Dialogue with the Authors

September 12-16, 2016          
on Family Therapy as Socially Transformative Practice
This Week in Dialogue with the Authors is based on the book entitled Family Therapy as Socially Transformative Practice. Taos Board Members, Sally St. George, Dan Wulff, and Ron Chenail, along with TI Associates, Lynda Snyder and Lynda Ashbourne will share and discuss their ideas about transformative practice in family therapy and how these ideas apply in other professional contexts as well.

Join in the online dialogue at: 

Read the book before the week in dialogue.
Book available from:

Join us September 12 - 16, 2016 for a week in dialogue with the authors  Sally St. George, Dan Wulff, Ron Chenail, Lynda Snyder and Lynda Ashbourne as they share and discuss their ideas about transformative practice in family therapy and how these ideas apply in other professional contexts as well.
The book: Family Therapy as Socially Transformative Practice

This book  offers practical suggestions for infusing social justice into daily family therapy practice.

Monday - Thursday of this week, join the online, virtual, asynchronous conversation - join when you can, and as often as you can all week long. The authors will respond to questions and comments, stories and examples throughout the week. This can be a lively online discussion.   And then on Friday join the live webinar at 12:00 noon US Eastern Time. All free and open to the public.


Social Construction: Relational Theory and Transformative Practices

October 27-29, with Sheila McNamee and Harlene Anderson in Durham, New Hampshire

This workshop will introduce social construction and relational practices for those new to it and will help those familiar with it deepen their understandings and practices. Additionally, focus will be on the practical application of constructionist ideas in organizations, therapy, education, and community development. We will focus on relational constructionist understandings of language and meaning making, polyvocality, transformative dialogue, and appreciative and future oriented perspectives. Participants will learn how social reality is constructed in language and the implications of this for our understandings, knowledge, and everyday practice. Participants with a background in social construction will have an opportunity to explore issues of special relevance to their projects and practices. Taos Ph.D. students are encouraged to attend, as are other interested students and professionals.


FREE Downloadable Books 
We are thrilled to bring you all the WorldShare Books and we hope you will  take a few minutes to download your free copies today.  

New Book: 
See all the WorldShare Books >
Donate to the Peggy Penn WorldShare Books Fund 
This fund helps to cover the expenses of offering these online books free of charge to anyone in the world. 
Relational Research Network Webinar and Global Dialogue - a free event

September 14, 2016 
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM US Eastern Time

Hosted by: The Taos Institute Relational Research Network Core Planning Team
(Kristin Bodiford, Rocio Chaveste, Dawn Dole, Marco Gemignani, Papusa Molina, Edgardo Morales, Paloma Torres)

What: We invite you to join with us in conversation to begin to create a space for an international network to generate conversations and collaborations around Relational Research.
    1. Explore
    2. Engage
    3. Dialogue
    4. Share
    5. Create
  • What is relational research?
  • What can a network for relational research become?
  • How might we meet/join people who would like to study around particular research topics (couples, addiction, leadership etc.)?
  • Are there projects on which we could collaborate together - transdisciplinary, multi-voice that we could design together?
  • What's next? What are the opportunities for collaboration and learning?
To register for this free webinar and dialogue - go to: 

by Emerson F. Rasera
Taos Institute Publications, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-938552-31-1

For more information
70Candles! Women Thriving in their 8th Decade

Recently featured in the 
New York Times and the 
by Jane Giddan and Ellen Cole
Taos Institute Publications, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-938552-35-9

by Glenn E. Boyd
Taos Institute Publications, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-938552-22-9

For more information

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By focusing on the positive aspects of aging, and the availability of resources, skills, and resiliencies, research not only brings useful insights into the realm of practice but creates hope and empowers action among older people. By moving beyond practices of repair and prevention, to emphasize growth-enhancing activities, practitioners also contribute more effectively to the societal reconstruction of aging. 
Join the Taos Institute NING Online Community website
Participate in online conversations, share resources, ask questions, connect with others doing similar work. Also, we feature special events on this community website.

Join in many different forums, groups and conversations:

1. Taos Institute Europe
2. Collaborative Governance
3. Relational Learning
4. Relational Research
5. Taos Latin America
6. Intergenerativity and Innovation

and many more at:


Welcome (Bienvenidos) to the International Journal of Collaborative Practices. The Journal brings together members of a growing international community of practitioners, scholars, educators, researchers, and consultants interested in postmodern collaborative practices.

Sponsored by Taos Institute and Houston Galveston Institute

I ssue 6- Available Now in English and Spanish - 
International Journal of Collaborative-Dialogic Practice now available!

Issue 6

Relationships and Conversations that Make a Difference

by Harlene Anderson

  The International Journal of Collaborative-Dialogic Practice
brings together members of a growing international community of practitioners, scholars, educators, researchers, and consultants from diverse disciplines who are interested in collaborative-dialogic practice based in postmodern-social construction assumptions. This community responds to important questions in social and human sciences such as:
  • How can our practices have relevance for the people we meet in our fast changing world?
  • What will this relevance accomplish? For whom? And, who determines it?
The Journal provides a bilingual forum for the exchange of ideas and practices from diverse practitioners and scholars around the world. This forum aims to help produce and promote relationally responsive-dialogic processes which generate new opportunities and new futures in our working and living together locally and globally. 

This new Issue 6, available now, features contributions from practitioners and scholars in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Mexico, Sweden and the United States.

John Shotter leads the issues with his exploration of orienting ourselves to the 'other' and the 'otherness' in our surroundings, suggesting a perspective of so-named mental disturbances out in the world of everyday life, rather than as a dysfunction solely within an individual. Newbury and Hoskins discuss the challenges of teaching/learning that invites learners to experience the transformational potential of collaborative approaches to change. The importance of reflection is also explicated in the article by Losantos and colleagues as they reflect on their research inspired by social construction. premises. Talavera's shares how literature enhances her therapy practice, though what she shares can be applicable to any disciplinary practice. Alcocer and colleagues highlight the importance of reflecting on our practices as they pause to explore an often posed question: what do people from different countries think about the meaning of family.


 The International Journal of Collaborative Practices is available for free, online, in both English and Spanish. Visit:

Donate to the Jane Magruder Watkins Scholarship Fund 

The Taos Institute's mission is to bring together scholars and practitioners concerned with the social processes essential for the construction of reason, knowledge, and human value.

We are committed to exploring, developing and disseminating ideas and practices that promote creative, appreciative and collaborative processes in families, communities and organizations around the world through a social constructionist lens.

We look forward to your participation in the dialogue.  Keep up with our updates!

Dawn Dole, Executive Director
The Taos Institute
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