Appreciative Inquiry

In 2004, director John Robinson ran a two-part workshop to introduce Seeds Creatives to the theory and practical application of Appreciative Inquiry, a systematic approach that highlights an organisation’s ‘positive core’ by investigating an ‘affirmative topic’ (a favourable aspect of the organisation) in four sequential yet cross-referential stages:

  • Discovery: to identify and appreciate the best of ‘what is’
  • Dream: to imagine and envision ‘what might be’ in the future
  • Design: to co-create collective aspirations of ‘what might be’ in an ideal future
  • Destiny: to sustain an ‘appreciative learning culture’ by nurturing a collective sense of purpose

We held two Appreciative Inquiry sessions in May and June 2004 to examine, discover and learn about the best aspects of Seeds Creatives

Programme agenda

Delegates were invited to participate in exercises to explore the ‘positive core’ of Seeds Creatives with the following objectives:

  • Discovery: Contribute to discovering what is distinctive about Seeds Creatives that – at its best – is so amazing
  • Share stories of personal and/or professional breakthrough (during Seeds Creatives’ events) that brought new meaning, insight and life
  • Dream: Use these stories to dream – to envision the future – and to prayerfully develop ‘provocative propositions
  • Design: Design and co-create the Seeds Creatives organisation of the future

Themes emerging from Appreciative Inquiry discovery

All these themes are experiential, with ‘creative action’ soaked through with heightened emotions that include surprise, tears, galvanised motivation, psychological movement, a sense of ‘lives being changed’, release, rapture, being ‘caught up in the moment’, catharsis and exhilaration.

Stories of experiencing God at work in our creative action during workshops

The Death of Lazarus: In the silence that followed his death, tears became profound and real. The power of the experience still wells up in my today.’

Play tour: ‘The play brought God into people’s lives. People were connecting with the Bible in a new way and were galvanised by it. There was a freshness in this that made me want to regain my first love of the Bible and the challenge to follow Christ.

Peter’s Denial: ‘During a Greenbelt forum-theatre performance of Peter’s Denial with an audience of 500 spectators, the improvisation explored whether Peter could avoid denying Jesus. Someone in the audience – a vicar – thought Peter was far too holy to get angry. When he took Peter’s place in the scene, the other actors provoked him [the vicar] until he became angry, too. The vicar had the grace to admit he had learned from this and the applause from the audience was genuine as he discovered release. There was a sense of occasion as he was transported to a new place.

The Prodigal Son: ‘The highlight in this forum theatre performance came when a black woman – who at first would only watch – became involved: she volunteered to play the role of the father in the return of the prodigal. She greeted her white son with a warm embrace of reconciliation that changed everywhere; she burst into tears … and spent the rest of the time smiling broadly.’

The Crucifixion: ‘It was very moving to see a Jewish woman in the group recreating the Easter story, speaking as Mary, the mother of Jesus. It touched her – we saw her creativity released – and it changed the relationships within the group.

The Parable of the Talents: ‘In 1984, I attended an all-day workshop led by Reggie Oliver that applied the parable of the talents to our current situations to build something new. Reggie chose to showcase my script: he was positive and encouraging at a time when I was ready to give up writing. It seemed that God was saying “Don’t give up”.’

Celebration days: ‘Seeds Creatives’ celebration days introduced a new sense of freedom: slowing down to ‘just be’, enjoying creativity and connection with the environment.’

Workshops for all age groups: ‘The children really enjoyed the workshop. They were enraptured, enthralled and wide-eyed – on the edge of their seats.’

Pentecost: ‘I was initially hesitant at a dance workshop. At the fluttering of flags to symbolise the flames of Pentecost, I was suddenly no longer aware of self and inhibitions. I was caught up in the moment – everything changed in that magical moment. It  seemed cathartic: I felt valued – exhilarated – with hope and possibility.’

The Gospel according to John: ‘I experienced new surprise at the power of the artistic process in Paul Alexander’s workshop. I gained new insights into Christ from performing John’s Gospel.’

General: ‘There is always a sense of occasion – something special happens, even in the smallest events. New release always brings new memories.’

Personal release through creative action

‘I de-bug dancing for people, so they are less afraid. I enable freedom and spiritual release; I remove “preciousness”.’

‘Seeds Creatives is an organisation that unlocks – it helps to release people. It unlocks people’s creativity’

‘Seeds Creatives sets the captives free throughout the creative arts.’

‘I noticed how relaxed and responsive workshop facilitators were in leading; they felt free to change their plans.’

‘I learned that I could accept my own mistakes and that I could cope with change whilst having fun.’

Valuing and nurturing creativity in all people

‘Seeds Creatives sees the importance of being universal.’

‘Skills and creativity are valued and welcomed – and they can be expressed.’

‘Seeds Creatives works well with all ages, professions and abilities.’

‘Seeds Creatives is professional: the organisation values and respects the people it employs.’

‘The “On Track” programme was terrific – it worked with undervalued children.’

‘Seeds Creatives treats everyone as valuable, as having gifts.’

‘Seeds Creatives encourages people to grow, to pass on things learned via mentoring.’

‘The education work with disadvantaged children in the “On Track” programme releases people’s creativity, enabling them to value themselves.’

‘Seeds Creatives responds to individual needs in a tailor-made fashion.’

‘There is a deep commitment to bringing the Gospel into people’s lives in a fun and creative way, particularly in schools.’

‘In an arts workshop, Reggie Oliver spent time with people individually, tailored to our needs. This gave me the confidence to publish two books.’

‘When I first joined Seeds Creatives I was excited by the release of creativity. Reggie Oliver led an exciting workshop about the story of Jesus walking on water. Putting yourself into that story made the Bible more real to me.’

‘Seeds Creatives is open to all – it’s like a family, welcoming guests, enabling networking and new connections.’

‘I love the practicality of the question, “So, how is this going the work?” Seeds Creatives challenges me with this question and brings out my creativity.’

‘Seeds Creatives connects with people where they are. Creativity is core.’

‘Seeds Creatives nurtures my creative spirit and fills me with enthusiasm.’

Seeds Creatives’ adventuring spirit

‘I love how Seeds Creatives enables me to co-create with God, because we are made in His image.’

‘Seeds Creatives is always open to the right project at the right time.’

‘Not being closed, Seeds Creatives fits our God-given shapes.’

‘Seeds Creatives retains a sense of curiosity about the world, linked with a background in education.’

‘I love responding creatively, to find new ways to approach life when challenged to think by Seeds Creatives.’

‘Seeds Creatives takes interest in different approaches and creates opportunities.’

‘The organisation does unexpected things, like “On Track”: Seeds Creatives is not entrenched in its ideas.’

‘I loved the impact Seeds Creatives generated through the JC2000 Millennium Arts Festival.’

‘Seeds Creatives backed Café Credo, the storytelling group.’

‘Seeds Creatives is good at being open to projects – such as the Sanctuary programme, in association with the Claybury Trust – and at pursuing vision.’

‘We have always been faithful to the vision – seeing, hearing and reflecting God.’

‘In places where the organisation has engaged with real need, such as the “On Track” programme, Seeds Creatives’ processes make a difference at the sharp end.’

‘Seeds Creatives is willing to take risks to create by working intuitively.’

Focus on process, rather than product

‘Seeds Creatives has become expert in the process of continually reinventing itself.’

‘There is always an adaptable, flexible process – there is not always a definable product.’

‘Seeds Creatives provides an environment that releases people to share their personal gifts and talents with the network (e.g. forum theatre workshops led to improvisions of Biblical stories, perhaps never before explored in this way). Seeds Creatives can connect in a full-circle way with our previous experience.’

‘Seeds Creatives is concerned with process as opposed to product.’

Unpinning the value of prayer

‘Artists in prayer feel something of the brooding sense of the Holy Spirit.’

‘Seeds Creatives believes that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is at work in every life, with the expectation that this aura will manifest itself in human interactions and creativity.’

‘We are open to doing the right thing, prayerfully put before God.’

‘The projects taken on by Seeds Creatives evolve as a response to reactions from  prayer, which lead to pro-active work.’

Wishes for the future

‘Seeds Creatives always needs to be on a journey to becoming a changed organisation, evolving into exactly the organisation required by God.’

‘Seeds Creatives should never rest on past achievements; it needs to continually look for new vision.’

‘There needs to be a clear vision for the future; we need to have confidence in the directions we take.’

‘Seeds Creatives always needs to be open to God’s leading. We need to remain open to what God wants us to do.’

‘We need to work in collaboration with churches and Christian organisations, backed by an increase in prayer partners.’

‘God will provide time, resources and people to take the vision forward.’

‘The right resources will be provided to come up the right ideas.’

‘We need to continually create new affirmative and unthinkably wonderful ideas to meet real needs in our world as an expression of our faith in God and recognition of His presence in our midst.’

‘We need to develop new ways of drawing on Seeds Creatives’ strength, visionary prayer and use of new technology.’

‘We need to grow the Seeds Creatives’ family, more in depth than in numbers.’

‘We need to develop mentoring schemes and our programme growth capability.’

‘We need to discover and engage additional people whom God is calling to work as part of Seeds Creatives’ core group.’

‘We need to support the Seeds Creatives’ leadership to relieve some of the burden.’

‘We need resources to find an administrator for the organisation.’

‘We need to identify creative ways of restructuring the organisation and management whilst seeing the leadership team fully engaged in Seeds Creatives’ ongoing and future work.’

‘Explore the potential of Seeds Creatives’ having a home – perhaps on the internet – where ideas can be shared along with mutual support and encouragement.’

‘Finding and making creative partnerships with like-minded groups and networks, which would express a greater presence in the wider community of Seeds Creatives’ ways of doing faith, church and mission.’

‘We need to build contact and connection with influential people.’

‘We need funding – we need to receive financial resources to expand our work (e.g. to produce another project with the reach and penetration of JC2000 to schools across the UK).’

‘We need more advertising and promotion of Seeds Creatives in churches, perhaps via underground word of mouth.’

‘We need greater recognition for Seeds Creatives – for what the organisation offers to people.’

‘We hope that secular companies would see Seeds Creatives as a resource for incubating creative ideas.’

Our destiny

One evocative concept that emerged from these Appreciative Inquiry sessions was the phrase ‘spiritual midwives’, which described the role Seeds Creatives can play in providing contexts and environments where ideas can birth, projects hatch and schemes be delivered. Often, approaching a challenge obliquely can release connections and creative energy that leads to inspiration and breakthrough.

Seeds Creatives continues to claim the concept of spiritual midwifery, as we expand our Artist in Your Own Residence scheme. By working with a shared, proactive vision, we can fulfil our destiny.

Please consider making financial contributions to Seeds Creatives via our Stewardship account and/or our various crowdfunding campaigns.
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