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IDEAS, NEWS AND RESOURCES  | February 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 Lenka Formankova and Hen Wilkinson as they share reflections on the Taos Institute Europe meetings in January...

The Spanish night fever...a story of TIE annual meeting and conference...  

by Lenka Formankova and
Hen Wilkinson

Memories and reflections on Taos Institute Europe (TIE) Annual Meeting & Conference on Social Construction and Design, Madrid, January 22-24, 2016. 

Hen: We stood in an atelier, looking at large canvases stacked against a wall. "Turn it sideways" suggested one of our group members at the conference, visiting this artist in his studio thanks to Nordine Lahlou another TIE participant. I felt myself agitate, wondering if this was really ok for the artist. "Ask him," someone said - so we did. Did he (the artist) feel concerned that his work, his vision, had been appropriated, messed with, turned on its head? No, he did not. For him, what we made of the work was our business - he had offered his view, and his ownership of it ended there. And between us, in conversation with the artist and ourselves, a new sense of the work and ourselves was born.

Lenka: What a lovely moment! To me, this was the moment when the meaning (of the piece of art) is negotiated and co-created together (between the piece of art, the artist and us, the audience). The artist has his own vision, own explanation of his artifact, but is in the same time open to other visions and explanations. He does not 'own' the meaning of his own work as we, the audience, do not "own" the meaning of the words we have already said. In a way, in this moment, we switch our roles - we are artists creating a meaning and the painter is 'audience' for our ideas. The task is then not to create a dead-end explanation, consensus not to be questioned, but the piece of art is the reason to open a dialog. The same is true of the conference for me - a whiteboard to reflect on ideas, a space to open endless dialogs. A possibility to create and change the common understanding of what social constructionism is, what is design, what are the burning issues in current Europe, what is our practice about, what last but not least, what is and should be Taos Institute Europe and our position within it?

Hen: Over the days of the conference, there were moments of elation, fun, exhaustion and despair. At times I thought we had all wandered way out of our comfort zones and into a space of - what? Constant talk? Endless small sandwiches? Not enough water? But by the end, I was interested to see that despite its fuzziness and inconsistencies, we (and by that I mean mostly conference coordinator Maria Munoz-Grandez) had managed to provide a beautiful venue in the heart of Madrid and a space for people from across Europe to gather and regroup, while thinking about the mind-boggling subject of challenges for 21st century Europe. Connections were made, ideas were sparked, and fun was had - although, as people pointed out, these were often in the 'down times', rather than more formal, structured sessions.

Lenka: The atmosphere of the event was indeed very open and informal. I learned how much one can get to know about social constructionism not only during the workshops and conference panels but during talks one gets engaged in at the coffee breaks, dinners and pub crawls! And the cultural differences - this conference made me aware how strongly they shape our potential being together. This presents one of the main challenges of 21st century Europe ... but is also such a source, such a potential. For example to learn something. Also to learn something about oneself when put in an out-of-norm(al) context ... as I was. I did not know I can have five course dinners at ten at night and closing a  bar at four in the morning and still be all fresh the next day in the morning (without coffee, which comes at eleven in Spain) to attend the amazing sessions about research, practice and design. 

Hen: The theme of the conference was design thinking - and some wondered out loud why the shape of the conference hadn't been more carefully designed. My impression was that on the whole, they were thinking about consciously applying appreciative inquiry approaches to one of the tasks of the conference - to envision the future shape and purpose of Taos Institute Europe - and were frustrated that a clear action plan wasn't reached.  But for me, what was (perhaps unintentionally) 'designed' about the conference was the space it left for emergence. The more organised we are, the less room for spontaneity, messing with the rules, seeing what arrived in the room and going with that. On a personal level, unexpected connections and synergies meant that I returned from Madrid with enormous clarity about my own Ph.D. work. I also brought back to the Netherlands a sense of urgency about finding ways to share the basic but vital understanding that social constructionism highlights: that life is there for us to make of it what we will, moment by moment, whether we are 5 or 95.

Lenka: Friday evening we saw a flamenco performance. Spanish traditional dance. First, the guitar player comes to the stage, alone. Plays a song or two. Then a singer comes and they perform together a bit. Later three dancers come - one man and two women. Each gives his/her own performances while the others sitting and clapping their hands, cheering and applauding. The conference streams remind me of flamenco dance performances. We all do our part in respect and in constant relating to and positioning to others. The floor is ours for dancing the best we can ... hoping the others will cheer for us or join us. To me, what I learned is how nice it is when we can co-exist - or as Sheila McNamee mentioned in her speech - dialogically dance together.

Hen Wilkinson -
Lenka Formánková -

Taos Institute Events and Gatherings - The Many Ways to Get Involved.....

Virtual International Relational Research Symposium Conversations About Relational Research for Social Transformation
Virtual Host Location: University of Puerto Rico

Virtual Connections: Join in from anywhere in the World. Get a group together and join us virtually for the 2-day symposium.Or join as an individual and connect with people around the world. We will explore the ways in which research can be used as a resource to produce social and personal changes that expand spaces for dialogue and participation to improve human beings' quality of life. Thinking of research from a relational perspective invites us to consider the importance of collaboration and joint inquiry as core concepts to constructing knowledge and new possibilities. It also emphasizes the way in which its practice transforms all those who participate in it.

For details>


Inspiring Learning Life   
April 13 - 15,  2016
Oslo, Norway

The overall purpose of this movement: 
*To increase the motivation - and indeed the joy - of learning and teaching.
*To bring education into synchrony with emerging world conditions.
*To ensure education for all, regardless of ability or need. 
*To increase the opportunities for everyone to make use of their full potential.
The Taos

The Taos Institute and Taos Institute Europe join several European organizations in setting the context for creating forms of education that move beyond the mechanistic, top-down orientation of the past and foster the kinds of collaborative practices of tomorrow that can increase the motivation - and indeed the joy - of learning and teaching. The aim of these organizers is to encourage an inclusive education enabling everyone to make use of their full potential. Such innovation, adaptation, and global cooperation are increasingly required in today's world.

For details> 


Mark your Calendars to Save the Date!

November 10-12, 2016
Pre-conference workshops - Nov. 9-10, 2016
Cleveland, Ohio
At The Global Center for Health Innovation (

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

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 Caregiver Connections
  • Healthcare Organizations
  • Healthcare Education
  • Connecting Community and Healthcare
For details>



Taos Institute Seminars and Workshops
For details and to register visit:


  • Appreciative Inquiry: Past, Present and Future - Celebrating with Jane Watkins| February 19-21, Williamsburg, VA 
  • Social Therapeutics & The Practice of Method - A certificate program at East Side Institute  |  February 5 - May 26, New York, NY, with Lois Holzman 
  • Getting Comfortable with Conversations about Aging and Dying: Healing Conversations to Enhance Relationships with Elders and Dying Loved Ones (An Online/Virtual workshop with a live conference call each week)  | April 28 - June 9, with Tony Silbert and Mary Vargas
  • Discover Development: Study and Train at the Eastside Institute | May 20 - 22, with Lois Holzman  and staff
  • Dialogue and the Arts of Transformative Change Work | June 14 - 17, England, UK, with Dian Marie Hosking and Maggie Shelton
  • Performing the World | Sept. 23 - 25, NY, with the Eastside Institute
  • International Class: Study and Train at Eastside Institute | 10-month class begins Sept 23
For details and more workshops visit:

Taos Institute PhD Program

Applications for the Fall 2016 semester are due Feb. 15th

The Taos PhD program is designed for mature professionals who wish to pursue a line of inquiry that will enrich their endeavors and speak to the concerns of a broader audience of scholars and practitioners. The grounding orientation of the program has its roots in social constructionist theory and practice. The relationship between the Taos Institute and several Dutch and Belgian universities provides the opportunity for students, whose work is approved by the matriculating university, to receive a Ph.D. The Taos Institute provides advisory and supportive services, including focused research and theory workshops where students can explore their dissertation topic in detail with Taos faculty and other students. The Ph.D. is ultimately conferred by the related university.

For information:

Master of Science Program in Relational Leading

Applications for the Fall 2016 semester are due June 30th.

This masters program introduces ideas and practices at the forefront of organizational studies, and integrates workplace experience into class discussions. The courses focus on:
  • The social construction of realities, values, and reason
  • Systemic and relational process
  • Collaborative practices in the workplace and society
  • Relational and appreciative leading
  • Relevant research practices

FREE Downloadable Books 

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NEW Positive Aging Website

Positive Aging in Action
Website host: Samuel Mahaffy
Contributors: Ken and Mary Gergen

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

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

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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. 
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Sponsored by Taos Institute and Houston Galveston Institute

Issue 5 - Available Now in English and Spanish - 
Week in Dialogue with the Author
with Lois Holzman

The Overweight Brain: How Our Obsession with Knowing Keeps Us from Getting Smart Enough to Change the World

Dates: February 8-12, 2016 (Live webinar on Friday, Feb. 12, at 10:00 AM US eastern time)

Join the conversation online at
- Sign up for the Taos Institute's Online Community Space. Once you 'sign up', you can go to this page where the online conversation will be taking place:

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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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