Chicago Peace Fellows Practice Appreciative Inquiry at Breakthrough Ministries

By Burrell Poe
Chicago Peace Fellows Coordinator

On Wednesday, May 1, the Chicago Peace Fellows met at Breakthrough Ministries in East Garfield Park for our fifth workshop focused on the concept of Appreciative Inquiry. We started the workshop with a tour of the building where Breakthrough Ministries delivers services for residents of Garfield Park on the city’s West Side.

Breakthrough Ministries has been working in the community since 1992, when it opened a men’s shelter. They provide groups, job training and other services to aid their population. The Chicago Peace Fellows asked questions about their services and how they came to be. They were able to ask employees about their ambitions and learned how the organization empowers employees to lead initiatives meant to serve their population.


After the tour of the facilities, we sat down to learn more about Appreciative Inquiry and the principles that underlie the skill. Goldin Institute Executive Director Travis Rejman gave a crash course on how Appreciative Inquiry is about genuinely listening to people that you speak with to hear their ideas, confront your own assumptions and invite others to share their goals, ambitions and vision for the future.

We then broke into pairs to practice asking and answering appreciative questions. There was a lot of laughter and authentic interaction. One of the fellows expressed how this framework helped them learn how to better interact with people that are facing social emotional challenges such as depression. By learning how to ask questions and focus on what works while truly appreciating their responses, we can interact in more constructive ways.


After the workshop on Appreciative Inquiry, the Peace Fellows toured the entire Breakthrough Ministries campus, which includes several buildings in the neighborhood, a women’s shelter, food pantry, facility for outreach workers and the Family Plex, which houses a coffee shop, gym and meeting rooms.

While on that tour, the Peace Fellows witnessed a large-scale police operation in progress at an apartment building that was not part of Breakthrough Ministries’ campus. The incident was a reminder to the Peace Fellows of the urgency and relevance of their work.

Peace Fellow Jamila Trimuel, founder of Ladies of Virtue, an award-winning mentoring and leadership program that has empowered over 1,000 girls, ages 9 to 18, on the South Side commented:

“It was a great tour. I really enjoyed it. I’m still decompressing and reflecting on the fact that we literally saw armored trucks and all those police officers along with helicopter hovering around. That was crazy! But I also enjoyed seeing the children laugh and play inside at the Family Plex while all that was going on outside."


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