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Did you listen to this song before? Sung by Bonnie Beecham. Come wander with me. Both the lyrics, the music and the serene anguish in this song inspired me to play it from my mobile, after being inquired into my experiences of the day before. And I think I made myself clear, to my fellow participants of the 21st Europe Appreciative Inquiry Network meeting.

It is the morning of Friday 22nd October 2016, a circle of beautiful people in an exercise room at the Laban Dance Centre in Greenwich, London. We are just beyond halfway our meeting, or better said: our highly inclusive appreciative inquiry gathering.
It’s amazing to experience that a group of people, partly new to each other, can create such a container of connection, trust and love in such a short period of time. Of course the organizers (I call them CFO’s – chief facilitating officers) led by Sarah Lewis, played a major role in this achievement. And not to forget: appreciative inquiry itself, as a way of doing and being.Due to tight schedules, Miriam and I arrived on the Thursday morning, just in time to catch the fluffy ball that was passed along, inviting us all to share a drawing about ourselves. The group that arrived earlier on the Wednesday afternoon, had visited London Docklands and experienced how the old and the new, of a beautiful river Thames area, blended into a place reborn.
Following our fluffy and colorful warming up, we created pairs and practised our AI skills, supported by a professionally prepared ‘interview protocol’ called “Regeneration, flow and inspiration: discovering our experiences and hopes for the future”. (Personally, I think we should grab the tens of daily opportunities to practice AI interviewing; an occasional interview with a fellow AI practitioner is simply heaven.) I had the pleasure to interview Sue, who shared her story about how she built strength from the ending of her job as learning and development manager, into the flourishing of a movement that tries to do everything possible to decrease the amount of suicides.
After lunch we gathered around the impressive clipper The Cutty Sark. It was the start of our Metasaga afternoon: continuing our time of Discovery with reflective questions. Again perfectly prepared with handouts, descriptions of the venues to be admired, and inquiries into the relationship between what we saw and who we are (becoming). At some point we found ourselves next to The Tower premises, where Nick and Stewart shared their historical knowledge. Can you imagine elephants, tigers and even a polar bear on a chain in the Tower gardens, in the fifteenth century?
The weather had become typical Londonary, although the temperature was very okay considering the period of year. From the Tower, we split up in small groups. Me being part of the five (Sarah, her husband Stewart, Liz, Miriam and me) that aimed to take the cable transport, over the Thames to the O2 Dome, and from there back to Greenwich. We started climbing the Tower Bridge, which happened to be free of traffic that day. We reached al our objectives, and more. Because of a terrorist threat, there were no buses from the dome to Greenwich, so we had to walk for a couple of hours. We only saw possibilities and we arrived just in time at 7.30 in the Greenwich Bar for our very agreeable evening meal. There’s much more to tell, about appreciation, inclusiveness, bus roads and empty streets. This was the afternoon that inspired me to share Come Wander With Me.
Back to Friday morning. Nick facilitated us in a very uplifting Dream activity, based on yesterday’s discoveries, around the question “What is taking place in the European AI Network when it is fully flourishing?” Three groups prepared creative dream presentations and our love for AI increased again. The afternoon was guided by David, who invited us for an Open Space. A rich variety of questions where posted, and we all had to choose which topic appealed the most. I found myself in a conversation on “how to bring AI into the corporate board room?”, and in the second round I joined the dancing workshop, delivered by a Laban professional. In small groups we created and presented a moving dance.
Miriam gave our closing session the form of an old Aboriginal tradition, bringing us together in a large group hug, sharing our experiences and wishes for the future. The ones that stayed for the “Jedi council” showed that they even had the energy for the ‘formal’ meeting meant to preserve the well-being of the network and scheduling of upcoming events. Spring 2017 will be Denmark.
Do you get the picture? See you at the next European AI Network? What would you like to happen in Denmark? How would you like to contribute? Let’s keep on spreading AI in the world.
Cees Hoogendijk

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