Fowler Center for Sustainable Value
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November 21, 2009
KATHMANDU—Exactly three years ago, November 21, 2006, the world watched as the King of Nepal stepped down from his monarchy and the Maoists laid down their guns. It was one of the most peaceful transfers of authoritarian power ever recorded. Nepal's peace pact signaled an historic end to a decade of civil war, kidnappings, murders, and fear. It was the last chapter in 237 years of royal rule in the Himalayan state—assuming that the twenty or more political parties making up the 160 person constitutional assembly can now complete their work in writing Nepal’s new constitution.
“The key question is not about change per se,” said David Cooperrider, PhD, as he addressed the Constitutional Assembly in Nepal on the third anniversary of the peace accord, “but it is about the question of change at the scale of the whole.”
Together with Chief Justice Albie Sachs, one of the leading architects of South Africa’s historic post-apartheid constitution, Cooperrider brought together two major resources in a day-long summit to help advance the vision of a new Nepal.
Following his meeting with Nepal’s President, Cooperrider said, “It’s time to assume that the constitution, while hotly contested right now, will be completed—and so it is not too early to begin collectively envisioning the post- constitution scenario of the desired future economy. It’s time to turn from a concept of peace as the absence of violence, to a concept of positive peace as the creation of a flourishing and sustainable society.”
Cooperrider, a pioneering thought-leader and co-creator of Appreciative Inquiry, was invited to Nepal to keynote the fourth World Conference on Appreciative Inquiry (AI). AI investigates the strengths and virtues that make individuals, institutions, and communities thrive. With an audience of more than 500 people from forty-one countries, the conference featured breakthroughs in research and practice in the arena of “strengths-based leadership.” Dozens of stories told during the event showed how companies are using AI to turn social and global challenges—such as extreme poverty, climate change and issues of the environment, and the call for peace—into business opportunities.
“We chose Nepal for the conference site because they have some of the most advanced examples of Appreciative Inquiry in the economic development domain,” said Cooperrider.
In one project, for example, more than 100,000 women have been trained in AI to create micro-enterprise banks and new businesses—many of these were started before the Maoist rebellion but still thrive.
The project, known as WORTH, has achieved remarkable results since its commencement three years ago: the women’s savings has doubled from US$720,000 to US$1,800,000; the number of women who can read and write has tripled; and the number of women in business has quadrupled from 19,000 to 86,000.
The effort, envisioned by Marcia Odell, created 6,000 cooperatives and 1,500 Village Banks. In 2007, a VB held an average of more than US$3,100, triple its holdings in 2001. In 1999, a woman may have struggled to amass her required savings of around 15 cents per week, but in 2007 she had an equity stake averaging nearly $116.
Odell commented, “The Appreciative Inquiry method elevated strengths and opportunities no one felt were possible. Nobel Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus showed the world that the payback rate for micro-finance for women would be near 98%. What this project showed is how women together can create their own banks.”
Nepal’s President inaugurated the conference by saying that Appreciative Inquiry in the political sphere can “create the conditions for new politics, not the politics of negativity, but the politics of respect, inclusion, and hope.”
The conference was co-chaired by two Weatherehead grads, Dhruba Acharya from Executive Education's AI Certificate Program, and Lindsesy Godwin, a PhD from the Department of Organizational Behavior.
View recent coverage:
Appreciative Inquiry for a Better World - Nepal Republic Media
A South African Story of Reconciliation - Nepal Republic Media
World Appreciative Inquiry university in development - Axiom News