Creating Hope in a Hopeless Situation

Presentation at the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference


In the summer of 2015 Sarah presented a workshop at the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference. Hot from seeing David Cooperrider at the World Positive Psychology Congress in Orlando, she started by introducing his positive power equation:

The experience of elevation =

Willpower + waypower + wholepower

divided by

Experience of Deficit


Elevation is the emotion that empowers us to reach for, and bring to the world, the best in ourselves. It is the process by which we are inspired by others displaying exceptional virtue. It is a process released by the Appreciative Inquiry processes, particularly the discovery process which releases stories of people, teams, and organisations at their best in a shared space where they can impact on the consciousness of others.


This emotion is released, this state is enacted when hope (made up of willpower and waypower – a desire to do something and a way of doing it) is experienced by a whole system in a way that overwhelms the experience of deficit, that is, the experience of problems, fatalism, isolation and a lack of hope.


It explains how it is possible to create pro-activity, hope and optimism in seemingly hopeless situations.


Sarah went on to illuminate this by sharing a case study, involving the audience at points to ask them to consider how they might frame the situation and how they might intervene. Drawing on her notes, emails and other raw material, she illuminated in an ‘as it happened’ way the unfolding process of creating hope in this seemingly hopeless situation in a way that engaged and motivated staff at all levels to remain committed to providing great service whilst also looking out for their own futures. Throughout she related her actions back to Appreciative Inquiry principles and practice and demonstrated how she called on positive psychology to help create and recreate positivity, optimism and hopefulness.


The workshop attracted a lively and engaged audience and was very well received.