Reflections on the ISW 2017 Spring Institute – Doug Kerr and Jeanie Cockell

Lac La Jeune Resort & Nature Centre
May 31 – June 4, 2017
Theme: Building Resilience in Times of Change


What follows is a brief account of our shared reflections on what was most memorable about the 2017 ISW Spring Institute

and why we come back to ISW institutes again and again…

We started our conversation with this question:

What was most memorable about the 2017 ISW Spring Institute?

Doug – there were 3 key highlights for me:

  1. The whole day pre-conference with Joan and Jeanie, experiencing their appreciative resilience model: Using appreciative inquiry through hope, despair and forgiveness.
  2. The risk I took to offer a workshop on the effects of facilitators saying, “I don’t know.” I had worked with the notion in a few groups, but I didn’t know if this group would be captured by it. They were. I lived the “I don’t know” experience by offering this session and allowing everyone to engage in their creativity around their facilitation experiences of “I don’t know.”
  3. Working and learning with the four facilitators from Beijing – they worked hard at using English – we wondered how to include them. They engaged fully and were included by being who they were – another dimension of the ISW community who brought the exceptional gifts of current Chinese culture and ancient Chinese wisdom.

Jeanie – my highlights include:

  1. I was the lead facilitator, so my highlights began when working with the planning group (Christine Cederlof, Dian Henderson, Jacquie Conway, Leslie Robinson, Joan McArthur-Blair) and others who made it all happen (Jan Johnson, Paula Gaube). We worked collaboratively together to draft the agenda based on participant’s offerings when they registered.
  2. The institute itself was co-led by everyone there. ISW institutes are about everyone contributing to what happens, the emerging agenda, activities. You’re never leading alone in the ISW. The power is in the people – in co-creating – their humour, presence.
  3. Joan McArthur-Blair and I so loved co-facilitating the Appreciative Resilience pre-conference workshop with ISW facilitators, who are such key educational leaders. And it inspired us to keep writing our book – Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry: A Leadership Journey through Hope, Despair, and Forgiveness (out May 2018).
  4. Everyone there and in particular, the 4 participants from Beijing who each offered so much to our ISW circle.


Why do we come back to ISW institutes?

Doug – I’ve been a private training consultant for 37 years. ISW is a community that functions with a rare degree of openness and acceptance of each other. It is ever-evolving and changing, and is a wonderful intermingling of people who are younger and older, less and more experienced – a unique blend of people, different from any other group in my life. We explore and experiment. I always learn new and different things from others in the group. People bring pieces that are shared, like appreciative resilience. It’s a place to experiment and take risks that I might not take when I’m working with a paying group. It’s an experience of genuinely being in community. It’s a place where I’ve made new friends and deepened existing friendships.


Jeanie – I come back to share and learn with others. ISW institutes have been transformational experiences. I value the ISW traditions of the Agreements; Circle Practice; the Gift-Giving Circle; music and song; people always wanting to play; and I like the fact that the Institute doesn’t stick to the rules – the design evolves continually throughout