Author Archives: Melissa Robaina

About Melissa Robaina

Melissa Robaina, MBA is an Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator and Consultant for the Company of Experts. For the last few years, Melissa has worked for the Company as a content creator and has collaborated with numerous subject matter experts around the world researching, organizing, and writing material that nurtures discussion and is applicable to today’s rapidly changing environment. Melissa has an interest in adult learning theory and is passionate about coordinating, developing, and facilitating transformation solutions in all human systems. Melissa has also co-facilitated Company of Experts offerings related to Change, Paradigm Shifts and Online offerings.

Are You an Entreptreneur or a Leader?

Source: CBS News
January 9, 2012 at 7:22 AM

Entrepreneurs and business leaders each have their place in the business world. It’s the entrepreneur that forges the path and the leader that turns it into a highway. Even more rare, is the entrepreneurial leader that changes our world. Think Steve Jobs (Apple), Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Henry Ford (Ford Motor Co.), Sam Walton (Walmart), and dozens of others. Those entrepreneurs not only changed our lives but changed life as we know it. Read Full Article>>

Are We Living in a Post-CEO World?

Source: CNN Money
January 10, 2012, 11:17 AM

In a complex business environment, innovative companies must move from a guru model to one based on team leadership. Are we living in a post-CEO world? This is a particularly timely question, and not just because I pose it not long after the loss of tech pioneer and visionary Steve Jobs. Read Full Story >

Logo Contest

Utilizing artistic creativity to mark a new beginning!

Company of Experts has the privilege to meet extraordinary people and organizations who genuinely value people and live to make a difference in the lives of those around them. Nebraska Advocacy Services (NAS) is no exception.

Nebraska Advocacy Services is going to be changing its name! Starting July of 2012, Nebraska Advocacy Services, The Center for Disability Rights, Law, and Advocacy, will become Disability Rights Nebraska.

Nebraska Advocacy Services wants your help in designing its new logo for its new name! The Contest is open to individuals, disability organizations, companies, and educational institutions. You do not need to have a disability to participate, but people with disabilities are encouraged to enter a design. See below for the full contest rules.

To learn more about contest rules and prizes, please click here.

Save the Dates…

October 17-19, 2012 ~ NCSPOD 2012 Annual Conference

Think it’s too early to consider next year’s North American Council for Staff, Program, and Organizational Development (NCSPOD) annual conference? Think again! NCSPOD will be in Rockville, MD, at the Rockville Hilton Hotel, which is a mere 8 miles from the White House. NCSPOD conferences are family-friendly, offering meal tickets for guests so that they can share meals and special events and excursions with you during the conference. While you are in programs and meetings, guests can enjoy the sights and attractions of Washington and, with some advance planning, so can you. Use this opportunity to extend your stay and see DC.

The November Blast! included a top-ten list of things to do in DC. Transportation to and from DC sights will be easy to arrange. The Twinbrook Metro Station is located adjacent to the hotel and is readily accessible to the museums, monuments, and other places of interest in Washington, DC.

More information and registration link will be released soon. Stay tuned!

Don’t Miss the 2012 International Professional Development Workshop!

Sponsored by NCSPOD and presented by the Center for Appreciative Inquiry

This year’s International Professional Development Workshop (IPDW) will feature two one-hour virtual sessions on the topic of Appreciative Inquiry for colleagues and students and is FREE TO NCSPOD MEMBERS.

Appreciative Inquiry for Colleagues
March 1, 2012, 2:00 – 3:00 PM EST

Appreciative Inquiry for Students
March 8, 2012, 2:00 – 3:00 PM EST

Additional workshop details and registration information will be sent out this month, so keep an eye on your inbox. If you are not currently receiving our FREE newsletters, you can sign up here.

Success: A Breeding Ground for Complacency?

Source: Forbes
January 11, 2012, 9:23am

More often than not, great accomplishments cause individuals and organizations to become comfortable with their way of doing things. Businesses turn static. Workers turn their focus inward. Even the most dynamic of organizations can turn complacent, thinking that what they are doing is right, that there is no need to change, regardless of what’s happening outside…Read Full Story.

‘No Child Left Behind’ Celebrates its 10th Birthday. Good? Bad? Indifferent?

Earlier this week I came across an article written by Sol Stern, an author for The Daily Beast, titled, “Still ‘Lying to Children’: How No Child Left Behind Corrupted Education”. In the article, Stern discusses the “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) – enacted 10 years ago this week. He states that, “Expecting all students to be college ready is a hopeless utopian goal that inevitably produces test-score inflation and bad results”.

Jim Pulliam, the Vice President of Company of Experts and a former community college president, is passionate about student learning – which inspired him to establish Distance Edu Learning, the software company responsible for developing Fintelo, a content management system. When developing Fintelo, Jim ensured that the software would engage students by allowing the learner to construct their own learning based on their individual learning styles. In addition, the software has included intended learning outcomes within each lesson of a course – providing learners an increased awareness of what is required of them and allows teachers to evaluate and enhance their own teaching and curriculum. As I read the article, I was curious what Jim’s thoughts on the issue would be. In an email, I sent him a link to the online article I found and wrote, “This week celebrated the 10th anniversary of No Child Left behind. Sol Stern writes that the landmark law has corrupted education. What do you think?” His reply is as follows:

“No Child Left Behind is a deficit based model thus discouraging those that are struggling learners. The NCLB initiative requirements that were implemented measured all students by one test. Thus, if you did poorly on the first test in lower grades you were already identified as a poor learner – kids knew this – thus either quit or used as an excuse I cannot do the work. In addition when one considers the billions of dollars spent on a segment of the school population we had a tendency to forget the students the systems define as gifted. The only benefit it elevated the discussion of the importance of education, although there is a better way than penalizing kids in addition to spending billions of dollars. This does not even address the profession of teaching where as we defined teachers as either good or bad based on their students performance.

I visited classrooms ,K-12, where students were taking the exam. I observed that many filled in the bubbles without reading the questions. They were either bored, did not care, wanted to get to recess or “what the heck” they had learned that they were incapable of doing good work.

Every child has special skills and needs. We visit our existence here on earth with basically with the same intelligence benchmarks. The trouble is we try to measure the results with the money spent while at the same time not including the different ways we learn or respond to school work. If a being is told often enough or included /excluded from “special groups” other students identify with this early on- those that cannot do the work.

It all is a self fulfilling prophesy. If we “BELIEVE WE CAN” chances are we will perform.

Corrupted Public Education – I do not believe the act has corrupted education. I do believe we have lost some good teachers, hurt learners (possibility for life) and made this great nation less competitive for the short or intermediate term.

We will be back – count on it.

I have other thoughts but this is enough rambling. If you really want to know how I feel lets have coffee.”

I am curious to learn what others think of the “No Child Left Behind” Act. I invite anyone to submit their comments to begin the discussion.

Call for Articles for AI Practitioner

Editors: Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair
Working Title: Inclusive Spaces: Using Appreciative Processes to Transform Social Structures
For AI Practitioner ~ August 2012 Issue

Focus of the Issue:
The August 2012 issue of the AI Practitioner will focus on how the practice of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) fosters and opens inclusive spaces in organizations of all kinds. We invite Appreciative Inquiry practitioners to share articles, stories, case studies, reflections, art, images, poetry, research, models and theory regarding creating inclusive spaces. We are particularly interested in how Appreciative Inquiry has generated those inclusive spaces with emancipatory and social justice frameworks such as transformative education or critical theory.

Challenging and Transforming Social Structures:
Jeanie Cockell used AI as a research methodology for her doctoral dissertation (2005), ‘Making Magic Facilitating Collaborative Processes’ (available on the AI Commons). One of the primary findings of that research was the notion of ‘Critical Appreciative Processes.’ These processes combine Appreciative Inquiry, transformative education and critical theory. The critical element recognizes and challenges oppressive social structures and the appreciative element is the means for dialogue to transform those structures.

As both Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair have worked with Critical Appreciative Processes they have renamed it ‘Critical Appreciative Inquiry’ (CAI) to more clearly focus on the power of the inquiry. CAI attempts to blend the powerful work of AI with a deep understanding of the issues ofpower, privilege and diversity.

Seeking Inclusion and Understanding Difference:
These concepts from transformative education and critical theory which seek inclusion and an understanding of difference can deepen our practice of AI. Transformative education suggests the need for a critical lens that surfaces the impact of social structural differences on people’s ability to participate and be included. Transformative education and critical theory recognize that we come from different social constructions based on race, gender, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, ability, religion and class; and Appreciative Inquiry lends itself to creating inclusive spaces where people feel respected and connected to each other.

Creating Inclusive Spaces
The editors have a passion for creating inclusive organizations and seek to engage AI practitioners to share their passions for working with AI through social justice and emancipatory lenses. One brief example of using Critical Appreciative Inquiry was facilitating ‘team building’ for all of the staff in an aboriginal community school. The critical piece was acknowledging the power differentials due to race. The people with positional power, the teachers, were 75% non-aboriginal and all the teaching assistants were aboriginal. After two days of Appreciative Inquiry in early September with a follow-up day in January, the teaching assistants moved from hiding in the back of the room to full engagement, speaking confidently about their views of team work at the school. All voices were now contributing to how to the school could be a more inclusive space.

Preparing Your Proposed Contribution:
Here are some questions that may be useful to reflect upon as you think about your contribution to the issue.

  • How and where do you practice awareness of and respect for the diversity of others?
  • How do you positively address the issues of who has power?
  • Who gets included in AI processes and what processes facilitate that?
  • How do you create spaces that foster transformation?
  • How do you use re-framing and dialogue to move from a problem focus to a possibility focus when working with the profound issues of exclusion?
  • What have you considered, as an AI practitioner, as you have blended critical theory and AI?
  • How do you reflect on or find space for your own differences and worldviews?

Some possible topics:

  1. AI and creating inclusive spaces
  2. AI across differences – culture, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, religion, class
  3. AI and power and privilege
  4. AI in highly diverse organizations
  5. AI and conflict transformation
  6. AI and social justice
  7. AI and holistic organizations
  8. Critical theory, AI and organizational change
  9. Personal reflections on diversity and being an AI practitioner
  10. Others related topics

Proposals for the August 2012 AI Practitioner issue are due by December 1, 2011. Full proposal details can be found here.

Thousands Develop Bibb County’s Strategic Plan

On Monday, October 10, the Bibb County School District hosted its second Strategic Planning session involving more than 4,000 people, including parents and community members and every employee.

“We must believe in our children and in ourselves if we are going to be successful,” says Superintendent Dr. Romain Dallemand. “We must think outside of the box to generate the revolutionary ideas that will help us move our community forward and make sure our children are successful. We must think radically and consider things like year-round school and school choice for the entire District, and our children must be fluent in English, Mandarin Chinese, and technology.

Working with the Center for Appreciative Inquiry, large and small group sessions were used to facilitate discussions about the future of the District and community, as well as to begin identifying the goals, ideas, and strategies that will define “The Macon Miracle.” After the first session on September 19, feedback about areas that could be improved in the District was used to identify commonalities and themes. At the second session on October 10, the community attended themed breakout sessions to generate ideas about how the District could improve student achievement.

“Our District and community must decide where it wants to be 20 and 50 years from now, and that journey begins with building a new education system that meets the need of all children,” says Dr. Dallemand. “The new system will be built with the engagement of our entire community because that is the only way in which it will be successful.”

This process is a new method by which a school district defines its work and goals. Instead of a small group of educators and community leaders developing a plan that is handed down to the employees, Dr. Dallemand invited this larger group to join the process. Additionally, a survey was made available to every middle and high school student to provide similar feedback since they are at the core of the District; the survey was also available to parents and community members that did not attend the sessions.

To view complete information about “The Macon Miracle,” Bibb County’s Strategic Plan. Featured on the page are stories, videos, photographs, and media coverage from these momentous events.

To stay connected with the District throughout “The Macon Miracle,” check the site above regularly and visit Dr. Dallemand’s blog and our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages.

Written By: Chris Floore, Director of Public Relationships for Bibb County School District
Chris invites you to contact him if you wish to learn more about the changes being made in Bibb County. You can email him at or call 478-390-8258.

The Macon Miracle

Loud cheers and unbridled excitement are not unfamiliar sounds for any sports arena; however, the noise generated at the Macon Centreplex Arena on September 19th reverberated far beyond the arena walls.

The voices and enthusiasm of 4,500 Bibb County Schools stakeholders quickly rose as they began discovering the best of ‘what is’ in order to construct a positive future for their students.  The stakeholders included bus drivers, teachers, custodians, secretaries, administrators, elected officials (City and state) as well as parents.

This is the largest Appreciative Inquiry Summit that we have ever been involved in. The visionary Superintendent of Bibb County Schools, Dr. Romain Dallemand, sees a new dawning of education for the 21st century. From the beginning of his tenure, Dr. Dallemand has sought input from teachers, community members, and other decision makers – posing the question, “What can Bibb School District do to redesign education and create an example that ensures all students have the opportunity to learn?”

After a powerful opening message by Dr. Dallemand and keynote speaker Dr. Anthony Mohammed, participants were divided amongst six breakout rooms, including the arena floor of the Centreplex. Chairs in each of the rooms were assembled into circles of eight. No tables were present – providing participants with the opportunity to get closer to the individuals in their circle as they conducted their paired interviews. As participants began their appreciative interview, the energy in each of the rooms quickly ignited. Conversations consisted of laughter and tears and as time progressed, people moved closer to one another as their stories unfolded.

Through the use of technology, the positive core and the word image for the entire group of 4,500 was able to be electronically captured. The information collected was sorted and common themes began to emerge. These themes will be used to design and create a new destiny for Bibb County Schools. The Design and Destiny phase, of what is being called the Macon Miracle, has been scheduled for October 10th in the Macon Centreplex Arena. As the day concluded, participants were excited about the future – of what ‘can be’ for Bibb County Schools; they realized change starts with them. You could see, feel, and sense hope in the room. It was powerful for all in attendance.

We will keep you posted as the Macon Miracle blossoms…