Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wholonomy Consulting Featured in Axiom News Part 1 and 2

Check out a Two Part article written about Wholonomy Consulting and published in Axiom News. www.axiomnews.ca

Consultant Discovers Strengths-Based Approach Creates Sustainable Change
Wholonomy Consulting says positivity linked to higher level thinking skills
Tuesday January 4, 2011 -- Camille Jensen

Even before Cassandra O'Neill was introduced to strengths-based consulting she knew there had to be a better approach to increasing organizational effectiveness.

The veteran consultant recalls being frustrated by traditional consulting practices that had people focus on problems so big they were beyond their control, and stifled new thinking and ideas.

“It got to the point where I realized there had to be a better way than the common practice,” says O'Neill. “It was the way people said you should do it, or expect it to be done”

In the course of one year, O’Neill was introduced to Appreciative Inquiry (AI), Open Space technology, World CafĂ©, and cognitive coaching, which dramatically changed her work.

Founding Wholonomy Consulting around the very same time, the network of consultants blend the above strengths-based approaches to increase their impact on change, evaluation and sustainability in organizations.

Wholonomy Consulting Senior Partner Sarah Griffiths says the approach is based on research that demonstrates focusing on problems stimulates a fight-or-flight response in one’s brain and narrows a person’s creativity.

“Generally people spend a lot of time exploring problems and then they are asked to think outside the box, and this is actually opposite of how our brain works,” says Griffiths.

She says the Tucson, Arizona-based firm made a “purposeful choice” to use only strengths-based approaches that would help connect people to positive emotions which, when activated, generate higher level thinking skills.

“Strengths-based approaches are brain friendly, and they also focus on what people are doing that is making a difference,” she says, adding they ask questions like what is your impact, what impact do you want to make, what is your vision and how are you going to get there.

“They start by looking at success so they are connecting to that positivity and that is scientifically proven as one of the keys to building and broadening your thinking.”

Both Griffiths and O’Neill have seen this first-hand. O’Neill recalls the first time she facilitated a strategic planning process using a strengths-based approach. Instead of people coming up with a unrealistic wish list, or initiatives that required money that was often unattainable, the group focused on the resources they already had that could be mobilized.

“All of the ideas that they came up with they could actually do right then with no extra money, and they got so excited,” says O’Neill.

“I will never forget that because I knew there had to be a better way and I didn’t even know this was it, but this is one way.”

— More to Come

If you have feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 24, or e-mail camille(at)axiomnews.ca.

Wholonomy Consulting Builds Momentum for Strengths-Based Community Collaboration
Community Foundation for Southern Arizona funds four large-scale change initiatives
Thursday January 6, 2011 -- Camille Jensen

A consulting firm and a foundation have been able to inspire strengths-based collaboration between 40 community organizations to achieve shared goals.

Wholonomy Consulting senior partner Cassandra O'Neill offered to facilitate workshops for the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona after participating in its grants selection committee and feeling a new approach could generate better results.

The foundation took her up on the offer and invited the 20 organizations who had received grants to attend the first workshop.

During the event, organizational leaders were asked to talk about successful collaborations they’ve had in the past and what success would look like if they were to collaborate in the future, including questions about what the community could achieve if a number of organizations were working together.

Wholonomy Consulting senior partner Sarah Griffiths says they used Open Space and World Cafe as change models for the meeting that allowed people to create “big goals” and then develop steps to achieve the vision.

The result is the Southern Arizona foundation funding four collaborative teams, involving 40 community organizations, to implement their systems change designs in the community.

Evan Mendelson, vice-president of donor relations and program services at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, says she is very excited about the outcome, which she attributes to using a strengths-based process to convene community organizations around possibility as opposed to problems.

“There is something that sparks a certain level of passion in using this methodology, to identify who do you want to work with and what do you want to work on and what do you think could happen here. And that comes from identifying those assets and those strengths,” says Mendelson.

One collaborative initiated is the Elder Project. Mendelson says Tucson, Arizona has a large retirement community, which is the fastest growing segment of its population.

Involving most of the community organizations serving seniors, some who prior to the event had never met each other, the group realized that while the services they were delivering currently were effective they would not meet the demands or expectations of the baby boomers.

Because baby boomers will be living at home longer, The Elder Project will shift services from the city to people’s neighbourhoods and consolidate the services delivered by many organizations into one easy access point for seniors.

According to Mendelson, the process was able to move people from a very narrow agenda to thinking about important issues at the community level.

“That was the most exciting point because that’s when I saw how a process, this kind of strengths-based process, could just take people in their normal way of working and move them to a whole other level of working,” she says.

“If we can change the paradigm of how senior services are working, that’s major.”

Wholonomy Consulting has volunteered its services for one full year and, with the foundation, is offering workshops to teach capacity building and how to create sustainable collaboration.

Mendelson says the foundation has no expectations of returning back to its former grant process.

“We are not going to back to doing things the old way. Instead, we think this will generate a whole new way for funders to be able to fund these types of community-wide initiatives.”

Related Story:
Consultant Discovers Strengths-Based Approach Creates Sustainable Change

If you have feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 24, or e-mail camille(at)axiomnews.ca.

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