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work histories, I did not deny the economic hardship of the recession but it was part of the
backstory in their reflections since they had been successfully navigating this world for
decades.
This appreciative reflection blended the relational story of how I knew these projects
participants in the form of autoethnography along with their performative work history, while
layering this collage with expert commentary in social construction, appreciative inquiry,
and dialogic practices bridging many disciplines.
“Appreciative Reflection,” a short 6-10-page takeaway on each 30-50-page conversation in
the form of a transcript, was initially inspired by an interest in Appreciative Inquiry
(Cooperrider & Whitney, 1999, 2005) where the conversation shifts to what is working in an
organization as opposed to a problem-focused discourse.
This repositioning has the capacity to generate change. Described in the book Social
Construction: A Reader Appreciative Inquiry is a “constructionist change practice . . .
lodged in the assumption that when we begin to explore people’s positive experiences
within an organization, the conversations begin to change” (Gergen & Gergen, 2008, p.
160).
As a change practice for organizations, there are also adaptations designed for improving
one’s personal life (Kelm, 2005; Stavros & Torres, 2005). I created an appreciative
reflection, as an analytical tool for each conversation. It is constructed to situate the
participants within the story, provide some relational backstory, and highlight the critical
lessons learned from their freelance journey. This positioning allowed me to construct the
value buried within the layers of cynicism and disappointment as revealed in the
freelancers’ stories where they discuss navigating a harsh climate of compressed budgets,
elusive work and intense competition. This reframing is an attempt to examine what’s
working. Perhaps a focus on their adaptive, innate survival instincts, or their importance of
their relational connections, or a regime or spiritual practice that gives them perspective.
What lessons or advice could be shared with individuals who are seeking similar work?
How did it change my own attitude about working a full-time job or remembering past
freelance experiences? This positive stance is not just spin and putting on a happy face
but has value as “an antidote to cynicism and defeatism” (Anderson et al. 2008, p. 48).
Initially, my broad conversational questions were not done with an Appreciative Inquiry
approach in mind. Many of my questions were open-ended, curious and I did not
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