2019 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference

We’ve just returned from a beautifully sunny Nice, where we spent four days at the 2019 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference (WAC2019).

The conference – which took place across four days, and saw over 400 people from all over the world attend to learn all about Appreciative Inquiry, and how to work collaboratively with AI in the workplace.

This is our 4th WAIC – the first we attended was in Nepal in 2009 – so now we have many friends in this community and meeting up with them again, and making new friends was one of the highlights of the week.

It was wonderfully organised by the Institut Français d’Appréciative Inquiry with the support of the David L. Cooperrider Center for AI in Champlain.  We were proud to be part of a whole host of AI practitioners on the advisory committee who have had regular zoom meetings for a year.

There was a lot of curiosity about Safety II at WAIC2019, and interest in the way it can be supported by AI; so, we have added some explanations and links to books and articles into our downloadable resources. Head over to our resources page to have a browse

We shared the process and some highlights from our work building safety and enriched care environments for everyone in the National Health Service and in care homes for older people. How noticing and sharing through caring conversations can become infectious and woven into the everyday fabric of our interactions, and possibilities for the future.

Learning from Excellence is supporting a Safety II culture in over 123 hospitals worldwide – 114 of them are UK hospitals.

“If Safety I is defined to be “as few things as possible go wrong”, Safety II’s definition can be “as many things as possible go right (under varying conditions).” – Professor Erik Hollnagel.

In our work we have found there to be a powerful synergy between AI and Safety II – so we have added some very brief information about Safety II into our downloadable resources section – click here to access them.

The programme was rich and generative, and the event was captured beautifully by a visual minuter… A few examples are below – including the one summarising our keynote!



During the event, Appreciating People’s Suzanne was privileged to give a keynote presentation: Prospecting for the Positive – What matters and what gives life; Finding Everyday Excellence, with Emma Plunkett, Helen Hunt, and Belinda Dewar

It was great to weave together our story – of how she started to develop an appreciative approach to safety, and then found out about the LfE process. Suzanne spoke about how she was invited by Helen Hunt and her colleagues at WMAHSN, to provide the AI training, to support the spread of LfE, and the adoption of AI within it. Because the feedback on how people were using AI (in other areas of work, as well as LfE) was so positive, Suzanne provided some training for care home staff as well.

Suzanne found that in her search for other examples of AI in care homes, she discovered the wonderful work of MyHomeLife and Belinda Dewar, and began to share some of the great resources they have developed, and invited her to contribute to the training programme.

Conference participants were really appreciative of our co-created presentation – and this poem by Jan was created in response to what he heard from us:

Being courageous is precious
Wholeness eliminates
the loneliness.
The mind cannot
grasp it all alone.
It needs the heart
to make you feel at home.
– Jan Somers, inspired by WAIC2019

Suzanne also took part in a LfE workshop during the conference, which was supported by the WMAHSN. Trained in AI by AP’s Suzanne, the two NHS staff, Daniel Hodgkiss and Julie Romano’s talk was entitled: An integrated approach of changing cultures in Clinical Governance/ Patient Safety using AI approaches and drew upon both of their experience of putting AI into practice in a busy NHS environment.


Dan and Julie discussed how the Patient Safety Teams in medical and surgical divisions in Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust set out to change negative mindsets and move the trust towards a safety synthesis (Hollnagel, 2018). Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust has used a multitude of initiatives to posit a cultural change to be receptive to Safety II thinking when looking at clinical governance, focusing on three key fundamentals:

  1. Maximised positive staff engagement in Clinical Governance and Risk Management
  2. Developed an embedded open and positive patient safety culture across Medicine and Surgical divisions
  3. Engaged in quality improvement as a response to triangulation with adverse events, risk aversion and corporate projects.

As well as attending the LfE talk from Dan and Julie Suzanne caught up with two other NHS staff members employing AI in their workplace, Sally-Anne Shiels and Amanda Mohabir’s talk was entitled: Appreciating clinical excellence: Acting together to improve healthcare. While learning from mistakes is important in ensuring patient safety, the concept of learning from excellence is starting to gain strength in the United Kingdom. Embracing this method, five hospitals based in the Thames Valley region of the UK have formed a network to embed excellent practice as the standard across the region. They specifically employ Appreciative Inquiry as the foundation for achieving excellence. The network is multidisciplinary incorporating doctors, nurses, psychologists and communication managers. It aims to improve standards by sharing data – not by setting targets. Its strength as a network is its collaboration, and this workshop centred on cross-disciplinary sharing.

(AP gave a presentation at the first meeting of this network, read more about it here)


AP’s Tim Slack was also invited to be part of the events, hosting a workshop alongside partners Southern Hampshire University, Vermont Campus, Mosaic Learning Centre, Burlington, Essex County Council, Special Needs Support. The aim of the workshop was to share stories about collaborative learning, and 30 people attended to hear us talk.

Our relationships on the panel emerged from a conversation at the WAIC2015 conference in South Africa, and these have now led to projects and teacher exchanges. Take a look at our blog to find out more

The latest generative outcome is the Mosaic Learning Centre sharing their learning experience with Essex County Council.