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New Belgian AI Learning Network Launches

De Werf, a partnership of 10 professionals, is launching a third Appreciative Inquiry learning network in Belgium this fall. Pictured above, left to right: René Bouwen, Luc Verheijen, Arno Vansichen, Bert Verleysen, Griet Bouwen, Erwin De bruyn, Luk Dewulf, Lut Brenard, Wim Croonen and Ronald Fry.


Time is ripe to elevate collaboration practices inspired and shaped by an AI orientation

An Appreciative Inquiry (AI) learning network of about 50 professionals launching in Belgium this fall answers a growing need for elevated collaboration across organizations and sectors that is inspired and shaped by an AI orientation, says an initiator, René Bouwen. The network consists of people active in business, social profit organizations, public life, education, action groups, citizens' initiatives and media.

René, professor emeritus in organizational psychology at the University of Leuven, proposed the AI Learning Network 2014 theme: multi-party and multi-stakeholder co-operation — connecting differences for a new future.

Organized by de Werf, a partnership of 10 professionals engaged in various forms of organizational development work, the network is the third of its kind since 2008. The first, which involved about 100 people, focused on coaching and guidance practices in a work consultation context. The second ran 2011 to 2012, engaged about 80 people across various sectors and concentrated on the organizational change practices of the participants.

This third effort includes the focus of the previous two but emphasizes the multi-stakeholder character that is so integral in all change efforts, says René.

“Each stakeholder has a particular, issue-framing perspective and action perspective,” he says.

“Recognizing the interdependencies of actors and perspectives and the interactivity among all actors as the essential ingredients of a joint new social creation becomes the core focus of multi-actor collaboration.”

René says his special interest in this third version of the learning network is the realization that sustainable change and continuous social learning is only possible when unlikely partners start to dialogue with each other in a “future generating way.”

AI seems to be a “proper dialogical practice to orchestrate those communicative platforms for new collaborative aligned practices,” he says.

The time is ripe now for such an approach, René adds, noting that in many contexts there is a growing awareness that fundamental new social patterns have to emerge to deal with the enormous challenges of our present society. “Government, business and social/civilian groups are mostly the three main actors that have to start to collaborate.”

While these multi-actor projects are usually seen as highly political, the appreciative approach holds fresh promise for a new quality to emerge.

“The appreciative approach has a strong potential to have each actor engage from his/her strongest and most contributive side and to recognize the differences and alignment opportunities when a mutual appreciative stance can be taken,” René says.

While such dialogue and effort can be demanding and time consuming, it is increasingly imperative, René continues, “if we want to move towards a socially and physically sustainable society and business world, on the local community scale as well as on the level of social aggregates and institutions.”

To learn more about the AI Network 2014, click here.