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Ideas, News and Resources

November 2014  
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 from the Taos Institute

As a way of sharing constructionist ideas, the Taos Institute shares each month an idea or experience that might be an inspiration for you and others.  


This month we invite Ronald Chenail to share thoughts on.....  


The Social Construction of Jewelry


by Ron Chenail
Last month I went to a local jewelry store I have frequented quite often over the years. As I was browsing the different display cases the owner came over and started a conversation with me. He said I was quite unusual when it came to men buying jewelry. I said, "Unusual?" and he responded, "Yes, ninety to ninety-five percent of men who come into the store either buy exactly what their wives have instructed them to buy or the wives come in with their husbands themselves and pick out the piece they want. In contrast, you actually seem to understand what the person would like. I've seen the positive results, so how do you do it?"

I had to think about this a bit. I know a lot of people buy jewelry especially diamonds in very traditional terms by sticking to the 4 C's of color, clarity, cut, and carat; others use the 1 C approach - you know, "cost." I knew these categories of quality and quantity, but they didn't seem to be the distinctions that I commonly used to pick out a ring, necklace, or earrings (you'll notice no one seems to make broaches anymore by the way.) There seemed to be something more particular, more personal, more relational, and more contextual to my method.

Then it came to me and I said, "Every piece of jewelry is really a series of stories. There is the story of your relationship with the person, the story of choosing the piece, the story of giving the gift, and the story continues to evolve every time the wearer tells someone about the piece, the receiving of the piece, and the person who gave the jewelry." I went on to say, "Everyone knows this when it comes to things such as engagement and wedding rings, but really all jewelry are stories. We continually add value to the jewelry as we narrate the meaning they come to take on in our lives."

He smiled as I told him my little story and then asked, "Yes, but how do you know you're getting the story right in the first place?"

I smiled, too, and said, "Being curious and recognizing that only she knows if the piece of jewelry was 'right' for her."

"Curious," he repeated.

"Yes, in every conversation I have with her, I am curious as to how we create meaning. She loves the water, kayaking, taking pictures of jellyfish and other critters on her trips. She likes silver and the only necklace I had seen her wear often was one she bought on a kayaking expedition. I've seen the pictures she's taken, listened to her stories of these times, and sensed the strong feelings she has for the ocean. It's a time of solitude for her as she can be who she wants to be on the water so when I saw you had a silver necklace with a beautifully rendered fish hanging from the chain, then I had a good feeling about the piece being right for her - it just seemed fitting when I realized there was another "C" at play here with her - the "Sea!" I wasn't out looking for a fish necklace, but given the other pieces of our conversations, this piece just felt coherent with all the other parts of our story; it was about her sea. Now when I see her wearing it all the time, it has become a part of our ongoing story"

We talked some more and he suggested I could come into the store any time I was ready to "add more chapters to this story" and I said I would.

As I thought about this conversation with the shopkeeper I was struck by the similarities between giving gifts and providing the types of services all of us in the Taos Institute community do. Whether it's our time, talent, or treasure we endeavor to do so in concert with the ongoing conversations we have with our colleagues, students, customers, and clients. Jewelry like our work are all figures of speech in that we all try to figure out meaning in our conversations. Our work is our stories, the help we bring are jewels we gift those we help, and they in turn gift us with the feedback they provide allowing us to better customize the assistance we provide. Whether it's a piece of jewelry or a consultation, we strive to socially construct meaningful stories with the help of the other members of our conversations. Our encounters are our stories and if we can relate our stories to our actions, then we all configure the kinds of gems that will generate new evolving stories beyond our own lifetimes. They become conversational heirlooms helping to construct creative alternatives with anyone who appreciates these works of art and craft - like a piece of socially constructed jewelry. 
  • Social Construction and Research Practices | March 27-29, 2015, with Sheila McNamee and Marco Gemignani, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

For information visit: 


More workshops will be listed soon.

Taos Institute Europe Workshops and Events:


        For details visit:  

      - Contact the presenters to register for these workshops:

    •  Collaborative-Dialogue Coaching: A Workshop for Mental Health Professionals who want to Expand and Revitalize their Practice and Income  in Houston, TX | Feb. 5-6, 2015,  with Harlene Anderson and Diana Carleton 


    Workshops sponsored by the Evanston Family Therapy Center 

    •  Introduction to Narrative Therapy in Evanston, Illinois | Jan. 16, with Jill Freedman
    • Level 1 Narrative Therapy Intensive in Evanston, Illinois | Feb. 18-22, with Jill Freedman and Gene Combs
    • Level 2 Narrative Therapy Intensive in Evanston, Illinois | May 9-13, with Jill Freedman and Gene Combs
    • Advanced Narrative Therapy Intensive in Tuscany, Italy | May 25-29, with Jill Freedman and Gene Combs


    Workshops sponsored by the Corporation for Positive Change


    The Power of Appreciative Inquiry: Theory and Practice

    • March/April, 2015 - West Coast Center for Positive Change, Orange County, CA, with Ralph Weickel and Tenny Poole
    • May, 2015 - European Center for Positive Change, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with Ralph Weickel
    • June 8-12, 2015 - Rocky Mountain Center for Positive Change, Golden, CO, with Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Barbara Lewis
    • August, 2015 - Hong Kong Center for Positive Change, Hong Kong, with Dorothy Tsui


    Applications of Appreciative Inquiry

    • January 26, 2015 - West Coast Center for Positive Change, Orange County, CO, with Tenny Poole and Ralph Weickel


    Appreciative Inquiry Summit (On-line) 

    • September 24, 2015 through November 12, 2015 (8:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m. MDT) - Rocky Mountain Center for Positive Change, with Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Barbara Lewis


    Appreciative Leadership Development Program 

    • April 21-24, 2015 - Rocky Mountain Center for Positive Change, Golden, CO, with Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Barbara Lewis
    • July, 2015 - West Coast Center for Positive Change, Orange County, CA, with Tenny Poole and Ralph Weickel
    • September, 2015 - Hong Kong Center for Positive Change, Hong Kong, with Dorothy Tsui

    For details and registration information see:  



    Sponsored by the International Certificate Program in Collaborative Practices, TI is a co-sponsor:



    Taos Institute is a co-sponsor of this event:
    •   2015 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference - Building Flourishing Societies Together: Elevating, Aligning and Reflecting our Best to Create a Prosperous World for All, South Africa, July 6-10, 2015. 

    For details, registration and more workshop listings, visit our website.

WorldShare Books WorldShare Books 
Free Download Books - Check it out - More free books are available all the time!


Sharing Ideas and Practices From Around the World


The Taos Institute offers free-of-charge books for downloading to your computer or favorite reader. Our ultimate aim is to offer books in all languages. Like all the Taos Institute Publications, WorldShare Books represent significant contributions relevant to social constructionist theory and practice. More books are being added all the time.   

 Check them all out! 

NEW Books available now:   


Our first book in Chinese is now available:  


Postmodern Education and Development  



Our first book in Farsi is now available:


Social Construction: Entering the Dialogue






All books are available in PDF format. Visit WorldShare Books

International Certificate Collaborative Practices is an international learning community and network. 


Sponsored by Taos Institute and Houston Galveston Institute


To find a program in your part of the world, take a look at:


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.


Dawn Dole, Executive Director
The Taos Institute

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