shape the future - black and white mixture of people

Connecting the Collective: Dynamics, Dialogue, Decisions – PS102

Connecting Hearts and Minds

Connecting the collective is the work of hearts and minds.  This literacy focuses us on living into the “we.” Connecting and belonging are the life-blood of human organizing and relationships. Starting conversations that are real and inclusive lifts up our appreciative voice. When we acknowledge the wisdom available to us and put greater value on that which the collective offers us, we open up to new insights about dynamics, dialogue, and decisions.

In terms of Appreciative Voice, we’re studying the power of dialogue, the engaging voice.  It’s one thing to talk to one another. It’s another thing to really connect and engage, to have intentional dialogue on something important.

The Appreciative Inquiry principle we most associate with Connecting the Collective is social constructionism, the Constructionist Principle, which tells us that groups create their own social realities which can be reconstructed through conversation. The Simultaneity Principle also plays a role here—we move in the direction of what we focus on—and that applies to the collective. There’s huge power in deciding what a group will focus on to harvest their collective intelligence. With a large group, it can be like turning a great ship in the water.

Connecting the Collective

the collective - literacies graphicHow we manage ourselves in groups may be of more importance than practically anything else in our human experience.

Connecting the Collective encompasses a huge school of thought on the nature and practice of dialogue, facilitation, planning, and group work, all seeking to tap the wisdom of the collective. When issues and challenges are very big or very new, no one person has the whole solution or the whole picture for that matter.  We need the intelligence of the collective, the tapping of everyone’s brain and heart.

Cathy Davidson, Director of the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center of City University of New York [CUNY], has come up with a list of 17 literacies essential for the 21st century, noted in her 2012 book Now You See It:  How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century [link below]. All of them relate to connecting and collecting.  Here are a few:  Attention, Participation, Collaboration, Global Consciousness, Narrative/Storytelling, Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning, Digital Participation.

What Matters Most

There are so many factors.  We could start anywhere, but connecting up the collection begins with shared stakes in an outcome, that the theme or topic a group has come together around is important to everyone there, sometimes even urgent.  It’s an attractor.

It has to be set up for maximum participation, with participants invited [or inviting one another] to relate experiences and share stories and interests. They have to hear from each other and get their best ideas out in the room in ways that add up to full voice. Everyone plays. Everyone contributes. Everyone matters. You can feel that in a room when the process has been designed for that.

All that connection won’t happen unless there’s a sense of psychological safety.  This requires more than opening up with a few icebreakers. In most large gatherings of people, a fear of participating can easily be set off and the outcomes suffer.  Most of us haven’t been particularly well trained in creating connection, engagement, and dialogue. We know more about debate, and that can set up dynamics of ‘me against you’ in the collective. Some participants may feel their opinions or points of view are not really welcome, and they shut down. It can kill off well-intended efforts.

The Appreciative Voice Literacies Guide

Seven Literacies to living and leading in these times

The 7 Literacies of Appreciative Voice

A summary and infographics of all the literacies, offering a definition, a description and daily practices to amplify your appreciative voice, plus the articles and podcast episodes to explain each.

Creating Dialogue

There are so many varied ways and means to create dialogue.   Most require a fair amount of pre-planning and some guidance or facilitation to get started, but the participants are the stars.

We have both worked with Appreciative Inquiry 4-D process that is pretty wonderful in connecting people up and providing opportunities for conversations that collect intelligence and grow alignments. There’s also Open Space Technology and World Cafes where people have opportunities for choosing and engaging in conversations. There’s the Art of Hosting approach that emphasizes the importance of extending welcome and providing conditions where great conversations can occur. And so many more.


It’s easy to practice Connecting the Collective– we’re almost always in groups. Try thinking about these when you’re working with others on something important:

  1. Topic:  What is this work/gathering in service of? What are we curious about? What question needs answering?
  2. Stakeholders: Who should be included? Who will be impacted?
  3. Promises: What are we each committed to accomplishing, together? What promises might we make in terms of participation?
  4. Dialogue: What ways of thinking together might we want to use?
  5. Decisions: What do we need to make decisions about? How might we make them easy to agree on?
  6. Collecting: How might we harvest the collective intelligence that emerges so it doesn’t get lost?


Connecting the Collective is the sixth literacy for Appreciative Voice and Choice.  Throughout this Season 2 of Positivity Strategist Podcast, we have invited you to place yourself on a continuum of where you'd position yourself with regards to level of skill or competency with this literacy.

Think: How good am I at Connecting the Collective in the moment?   Then place yourself from 1–10 along the line. We’d love to hear what you’re thinking.

LIteracies continuum

Next Time

Next time, on Appreciative Voice and Choice, we’ll focus on our 7th and final literacy of Finding the Future, the visioning voice that helps us explore positive paths opening before us.  It’s the power of a shared future.

Remember:   It’s your choice. To find and express your Appreciative Voice.

Participatory Methodologies for Connecting the Collective

Open Space World

The World Cafe

The Art of Hosting

Future Search Conferencing


Book Mentioned in this Episode

Cathy Davidson (2011), Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century

Connect with Sallie and Robyn

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Robyn on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +Positivity Strategist 

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