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Appreciating David Cooperrider

Appreciative Inquiry has left its mark at Axiom News — and so has David Cooperrider personally

The first time I met David Cooperrider I shared how Appreciative Inquiry helped us understand why Generative Journalism was creating constructive change for our clients, and how it deepened our practice. We’ve been framing our inquires and stories with the help of AI for over 10 years. In that moment he invited me to write a chapter in an upcoming book. His readiness to expand the circle and be inclusive was inspiring.

In years since David has supported ongoing storytelling as an element of post-summit infrastructure. In Cincinnati I was stunned by his ability to allow a design team of 50 or so people to completely stall and stay in their inquiry. I thought I was watching a disaster. I asked David if a change of strategy might be in order: rather than coming up with a system-changing calling question, maybe we ought to start with enlivening the independent strengths in the room. While pensively watching the room struggle he shared with me how a community needs a point outside of its current reality to bring those strengths into motion and collaboration. We’ve been conscious of the use of ‘points outside the system’ in our inquiries ever since.

Over lunch one day, a day in which David was incredibly generous with his time, we were discussing the work of discovering strengths in people, organizations and systems as an approach to constructive journalism. He said, it’s about even more than discovering strengths these days, it’s about discovering where the energy is in a system. Another clinker. Where is the energy in the system? In this story? In our inquiries and questions?

We’re no United Nations, we are a small firm focussed on grassroots stories. David has made his mark even in the small places like this one and he’s done so directly.

When I heard that Champlain College was opening a centre for Appreciative Inquiry I couldn’t help but be appreciative.

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Peter is the Founder of Axiom News. He has also founded and led a community newspaper and a corporate communications agency. He has served as a member and chairperson on the boards and committees of children's services, schools, municipal grants, arts, and local exchange organizations.

Peter led the discovery, founding, and practice of Generative Journalism as a healing and community art.

He has been invited to host workshops in Canada, Europe, and the United States on the practice of Generative Journalism, an open communications approach for emergent and constructive change in organizations, networks, and communities.

To bring dialogic and narrative arts together Peter and Axiom News initiated the Peterborough Dialogues in 2015. Over 150 deep dialogues, circles of trust, working circles, and summits have been held in Peterborough, Ontario to cultivate citizen-led community co-creation with beautiful results. The Peterborough Dialogues continues to be a rich practice field delivering up daily insights into the power of community convening.

Peter continues to integrate convening, journalism, and narrative arts practices to hold space for community to heal and for citizens to take the lead in creating the community of their dreams.

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There are two recurring complaints addressed in this letter:

  • Generative journalism just publishes “nice” and “positive” stories and doesn’t face reality
  • The phrase, “emerging narrative of gifts” is a string of buzzwords that are ultimately meaningless.

The stories we tell shape our culture. Journalism as a civic art, to be of real assistance to democracy, has a few things to overcome.

I have come to see capitalism as the ideology or worship of capital, of money. Absentee investment is the root of so much in the way of dissociation. Money for money’s sake, and not for what it can do. Instead, we should look at intimate and engaged investment, that puts the power of money to good use.

One of the challenges we face in realizing a reimagined democracy is the force of narrative. The dominant narrative, the one purveyed by mainstream media, corporate communications, and political campaigns, is for the most part an institutional narrative. It isn’t really for or by the grassroots at all.

During election time, we can easily get lost in the notion that voting and politicians are at the centre of democracy. And yet, democracy is so much more.

Today, democracy’s detractors point to the US experiment to denigrate the idea. In Canada, our politics have to a degree followed suit.

“The future of journalism is to play a fundamental and important role in an ecology of community development works and capacities and professions,” says Peter Pula, founder of Axiom News and pioneer of Generative Journalism.

Peter is now co-leading a local initiative to bring citizen-led dialogue and community development in direct partnership with the media.

Awakening to healing and becoming whole In community

In 2015, the year Axiom News gave birth to the Peterborough Dialogues, over 100 gatherings were hosted. I was asked by an astounded colleague in Europe, why would anyone do that? Well, to know and to serve. That’s why.