Brief History

Committed to the belief that social constructionist ideas have powerful and positive implications for human life and well-being, a group of scholars and practitioners came together to found the Taos Institute in the early 1990’s. 

Founders Harlene Anderson, David Cooperrider, Mary Gergen, Kenneth Gergen, Sheila McNamee, Suresh Srivastva and Diana Whitney met through various relational connections and had such an affinity towards the ideas of social construction that they wanted to create a space to explore these theoretical ideas and how they were living out in practice. 

Their first few gatherings happened in Taos, New Mexico, a place of special significance to many involved at the time. Thus, the Taos Institute was born and thus the name. With special attention initially directed to organizational development, and to family therapy, the Institute held international conferences in Taos, as well as provided consultation grounded in social constructionist theory to individuals and organizations and access to social constructionist literature. 

Since this early period Institute activities have expanded in many directions. Many of these will become clear as you explore this website more fully. However, a sample of our past public offerings will illustrate some of our major investments.

The Taos Institute is a “space” of learning and exploring, not a “place”. There is no physical structure or office located in Taos, New Mexico. Our central office is located in Ohio. 

To contact us, email or call 1-440-338-6733.

First Taos Institute Conference, 1993 
From left to right: David Cooperrider, Diana Whitney, Harlene Anderson, Sheila McNamee, Ken Gergen, Mary Gergen, Paul Burney

Conference in Arizona, 1998
10 year Anniversary Celebration in Taos, NM, 2003


»» April, The Taos Institute’s very First Conference, after this conference, the founders decided over dinner that this dialogue was important enough to create an institute so that the dialogue could continue.

»» June, Inquiries in Social Construction – A three day conference coordinated by Sheila McNamee bringing together some 120 scholars, graduate students and practicing professionals to explore various theoretical departures in social construction and their application to wide-ranging cultural practices. New England Center, Durham, New Hampshire.


»» April, Relational Practices: Social Construction in Therapy and Organization Development – A four day conference that expanded the range of social constructionist ideas, with special emphasis on relational theory, to some 130 practitioners and scholars in the management, family therapy, counseling, and educational fields. Taos, New Mexico.


»» October, Leadership and the Global Challenge: A Radical Relational Approach – A four-day conference for 40+ high level managers and organizational consultants was held in Taos to explore new forms of leadership adequate to conditions of rapid change and global expansion of organizations.


»» The Taos Institute is legally formed as a corporation.

»» April, Pro/fusions of Practice – A four-day conference for some 50 organizational consultants, managers, family therapists, graduate students, and others concerned with expanding the range and efficacy of practices of personal and organizational change. Taos, New Mexico.

»» October, Appreciative Inquiry Book Development – Associates Jane Seiling and Sue Hammond, together with Diana Whitney and David Cooperrider, met in Taos with some 50 people to share practices of Appreciative Inquiry. Several books have been published sharing these stories.


»» The first workshop on: Appreciative Inquiry: A Constructive Approach to Organization Transformation and Social Change – A Workshop presented by Diana Whitney and David Cooperrider who teamed up for the first time to offer this workshop on the practice of Appreciative Inquiry in organizations.

»» November, Creating the Appreciative Organization: Social Construction In Organization Development – The Taos Institute partnered with Benedictine University in Naperville, IL to host a two-day conference.

»» June, Organizing in a Multi-Voiced World: Social Construction, Innovation and Organization Change – The Taos Institute partnered with the Dept. of Work and Organizational Psychology in Leuven, Belgium and the European Institute for Advanced Management to sponsor a three-day conference.


»» The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry – Sue Hammond, author, first published this book. Sue donated a small percentage of all sales of this book for the first few years to the Taos Institute. This helped us create the vision for the publishing our own books later on.

»» November 1998, Change Practices: Constructing the Future Through Relational Inquiry – This conference was co-hosted by The Taos Institute and the Institute for Creative Change of Phoenix, AZ.

»» First workshop on Appreciative Life – Diana Whitney began doing this workshop. This workshop explored our own lives when we are at our best. Participants learned the AI process for self-awareness, generativity, and character development.


»» September 16-19, Social Construction and Relational Practices Conference – The Taos Institute joined with colleagues at the University of New Hampshire to sponsor a second international, interdisciplinary conference on social constructionist practice, theory, and research.

»» April 8-10, The Spirit of Social Construction: Spirituality in Organizations, Therapy, and Social Construction – Guest Presenters included: Rev. Fred Burnham, Trinity Church in N.Y.C. Editor of Postmodern Theology, Christian Faith in a Pluralistic World. Dr. James Day, Center for the Psychology of Religion, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. Author of articles on narrative and moral development. Carleton Dallery, Ph.D. MSW, and Harvard AM in Theological studies, therapist and Buddhist practitioner.

»» The first Appreciative Inquiry Summit workshop presented by David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney. The workshop presented for the first time the practice of Appreciative Inquiry with large groups (100-2000) in organizations.

»» November, The Taos Institute received it’s Federal income tax number.

»» December, The Taos Institute achieves tax exempt status as a 501(c)(3). Taos granted tax exempt status by IRS for a trial period of 5 years.


»» March 9-11, Conflict and Transformation: Constructionist Resources for Viable Families, Communities and Societies – The Taos Institute in conjunction with the Instituto Mexicano de Terapias Breves, in Mexico City, held a conference for therapists, educators, organizational consultants, scholars and others who share the desire to be effective in transforming conflict into creative growth.

»» Appreciative Inquiry for Complex Systems – Jane Watkins and Bernard Mohr held their first Taos workshop for consultants, managers, internal staff resources and others who have had some experience with AI and completed a minimum of a five day professional development in AI.

»» September,  Bliss Browne started Imagine Chicago.


»» October 12-14, Performing The World, held at the Montauk Yacht Club, Long Island. The conference was co-sponsored by Performance of a Lifetime, a New York based training and consulting firm with a performance approach to personal, professional, and organizational development and the Taos Institute.  An Exciting Conference for All Surprising, Synergetic, Fun, Touching, Philosophical, Political

»» June 12-17, Harboring Hope in a Sea of Change: Transforming Families, Communities, Organizations and Education – This was a conference and intensive courses on Constructionist Resources for Hope and Transformation presented by The Taos Institute, The University of New Hampshire and The Portsmouth Family Institute on the beautiful campus of the University of New Hampshire.

»» November, Using Appreciative Inquiry for Strategic Change: An Advanced Workshop – Presenters were Jane Watkins and Bernard Mohr. The workshop presented the use of AI philosophy and practices to applications such as mergers, evaluations,  organization redesign, diversity, customer service, strategic planning, through the use of presentations, case histories, and dialogue.

»» November, The Rebirth of Aging: The Challenge of Creative Growth – Ken and Mary Gergen, along with Bob and Sharon Cottor offered this two-day workshop to explore the vital new potentials for Living into late adulthood.

»» September 30 – October 3, The First Appreciative Inquiry International Conference – A Landmark Event, The Taos Institute was one of the many sponsors of the First International Conference on Appreciative Inquiry: Accelerating Positive Change, that took place in Baltimore, Maryland.

»» The Taos PhD Program begins – John Rijsman and Ken Gergen begin the Taos PhD program (5 students accepted in the beginning).  Madelyn Blair becomes the program’s first graduate.

»»  The Focus Book Series begins with lead editor Jane Seiling. Jane had a vision of offering short, concise, easy-to-read books dealing with social constructionist thought, practices and ideas.

»»  April, Accelerating Positive Change: The Advanced Design & Leadership of Appreciative Inquiry Initiatives – The first advanced AI workshop given by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom through TI.

»»  April, Appreciative Inquiry: A Workshop for Leaders and Consultants Engaged in Organizational Transformation – A workshop by Frank Barrett who teams up with one of the following consultants, Bernard Mohr, David Cooperrider, or Ron Fry to offer an exciting workshop covering the foundations of Appreciative Inquiry.

»» June, The first workshop for couples: A Retreat for Couples: An Appreciative Journey – Presenters were Jane Watkins and Ralph Kelly. This workshop was an opportunity for couples to experience a guided Appreciative Inquiry process focused on their own relationship. The journey was rich with opportunity to create a more appreciative, life-giving and joyful relationship.


»» Taos sends its first E-Newsletter; formerly only hard copy through postal delivery.

»» Taos PhD program grows: 10 students, and 30 new applications.

»» July 1-3, Systematic Social Constructionism In Action: An International Conference Celebrating Hope through Dialogue – University of Luton, England. This was a shared venture between the KCC Foundation of London, the University of Luton and the Taos Institute.

»» Dec. 18, A new distance learning program continues to develop with HGI. Cerficiate in Social Construction.

»» October 4-6, 2002, Dialogue & Deliberation Conference – The Taos Institute joined with the The National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation, Alexandria, Virginia, USA, to bring together dialogue and deliberation leaders in a welcoming, respectful and informal atmosphere.


»» The second graduate of the The Taos – Tilburg Program in Social Sciences –  Franklin Olson

»» April 10-13, Transforming Dialogues: Changing Practice – A special conference, co-sponsored by the Houston Galveston Institute and the Taos Institute in League City, Texas.

»» Celebrating connections: A Quilt was created to celebrate 10 years of TI and 25 years of HGI.

»» May 2nd – 3rd, Taos Institute invites the Associates to Cleveland to attend a Taos Jamboree for dreaming, exploring and planning collaborative initiatives.  Several initiatives were created at this gathering including the furthering of Taos Institute Publications with Jane Seiling and Jackie Stavros as editors.

»» Bob Cottor recommends creating a “working” Board.

»» May,  Robert Cottor, M.D. was invited to join the Taos Institute Board of Directors. He was the first member of the board who was not an original founder.

»» May 4th, The Taos Institute hired its first Executive Director, Dawn Dole.


»» March 23, 2004, TI received a letter confirming the advanced ruling of 501(c)(3) status. This was the official notification finalizing the application from 1999. The Taos Institute was officially granted the federal non-profit status – 501c3 – as an educational institution.

»» New Book: Social Construction: Entering the Dialogue, by Kenneth J. Gergen and Mary Gergen was published in the Focus Books series.

»» The BOOKS FOR PROFESSIONALS SERIES was started. This series includes in-depth works which focus on recent developments in theory, research and practice.

»» May,  Ken and Mary Gergen’s first workshop on Social Construction, Relational Theory and Transformative Change.


»» October, Dan Wulff and Sally St. George were invited to join the Taos Institute Board of Directors.

»» November, Official welcome to Dan and Sally as new board members.

»» Diana Whitney becomes Board Member Emerita.

»» Generous donation given to set up the Dharma Scholarship fund.

»» October 6-9, Social Construction: A Celebration of Collaborative Practices a conference in Taos, New Mexico

»» October,  the first McNamee/Anderson workshop on Social Construction, Relational Theory, and Transformative Practice – in Taos, NM.

»» New Books:

»»  The Taos Institute is granted the “Taos Institute”  as a Trademark


»» Generous donations given to continue the Dharma Scholarship Fund.

»» March, Jane Magruder Watkins is invited to join the Taos Institute Board of Directors

»» Taos receives a grant to publish the Buddhist Psychology book.
»» New Books:

»» May 5-7, The first Taos Board retreat is held to be help create a future plan for TI, at Ken and Mary’s.


»» Generous donations by the Whitman Institute for operating funds.

»» Generous donations given to continue the Dharma Scholarship Fund.

»» June 24-29, TRANSFORMATIVE  DIALOGUES – The Taos Institute held its first SUMMER WORKSHOP INSTITUTE, in Durham, New Hampshire at the University of  New Hampshire.

»» May 18-19, Social Construction and CARING Relationships: Moving beyond diagnosis and medication in therapeutic practices at the Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano, Switzerland,  Taos Institute worked in collaboration with Centro Formazione al Dragonato and Taos Associate Christina Meier to present this conference. Taos presenters included: Kenneth Gergen, Harlene Anderson, Imelda McCarthy, Tom Strong.


»» Generous donations by the Whitman Institute for operating funds continue.
»» Generous donations given to continue the Dharma Scholarship Fund continue.

»» May, the first McNamee/St. George/Wulff workshop on Social Constructionist Inquiry in Calgary, Canada

»» June, the first McNamee/Hosking workshop on Social Construction, Relational Theory, and Transformative Practice in The Netherlands.

»» August, The Taos Tempo Series was born – Mary Gergen heads up a new book series which will focus on Collaborative Practices for Changing Times

»»  Revised edition of The Appreciative Organization written by the TI founders.

»» May 24th-25th, Cultural Clashes and the Social Construction of an Ecology of Cultures and People – in Poznan, Poland, A Conference Co-sponsored by the Taos Institute and Sponsored by the Institute of Ethnololgy and Cultural Anthropology, Adam Mickielwcz University.

»» New Books:

»» Sept., Dialogues that Deliver – Generative Practices in Collaboration, Conflict and Community, Sept 25-28, Sarasota, Florida. The Taos Institute founders gather for the opening plenary. Taos celebrates 15 years.

»» September 25-28, 2009 – Dialogues that Deliver: Generative Practices in Collaboration, Conflict and Community, Sarasota, Florida, A conference.

»» 2008 Taos PhD Graduates:
Kathy Clark, Janice DeFehr, Peggy Penn, Marvin Shaub


»» August 20th – August 23rd, Copenhagen, Denmark Constructing Worlds a conference co-sponsored by the Taos Institute in collaboration with MacMann Berg, a consulting company

»» New Book: Ordinary Life Therapy: Experiences from a Collaborative Systemic Practice, (2009) by Carina Håkansson

»» 2009 PhD Graduates: Bill Blaine-Wallace, Susi Riva, Shayamal Saha


»» March 18-21, 2010, The New OD – A Conference, Washington, DC; NTL Institute hosted this conference, with the cooperation of the Taos Institute. Jane Magruder Watkins spearheaded this effort.

»» April 22-24, 2010, Collaborative and Dialogic Practices in Therapy and Social Change: Honoring the Past and Creating the Future. Las Prácticas Colaborativas y Dialógicas en la Terapia y el Cambio Social: Honrar el Pasado y Crear el Futuro. In Cancun, Mexico. Honoring of those whose legacy has inspired us (Tom Andersen, Gianfranco Cecchin, Harry Goolishian, Insoo Kim Berg, Steve de Shazer, Michael White, and Paul Watzlawick). The conference was our first bi-lingual conference with sessions translated live into both English and Spanish by six translators.

»» New Book: Riding the Current: How to Deal with the Daily Deluge of Data, (2010) by Madelyn Blair

»» 2010, Reprint: Positive Approaches to Peacebuilding: Resources for Innovators. Edited by: Cynthia Sampson, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Claudia Liebler, Diana Whitney

»» 2010 Taos PhD Graduates: Mary Altomare, Christine Dennstedt, Larry Epse, Lorraine Hedtke, Kara Kaufman, Leslie Lahaye, Itzik Lichtenfeld, Elaine Peresluha, Vikki Reynolds, Yoshi Tal, Julie Tilsen


»» Feb. 5-10, 2011 Play with Purpose: Relational and Performative Practices in Everyday Life on board the Carnival ship, Ecstasy; Sailing to Progreso, Mexico, where we were escorted to the Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Progreso

»» Feb. 2011, Funded video project to videotape Lynn Hoffman. Chris Kinman and Harlene Anderson spent 2 days full of enriching conversations, memories and ideas for the future. They talked and shared stories and insights from Lynn’s many years of contributions to the field of therapy and change.

»» 2011, Began working with Peggy Sax to develop ideas and platforms for offering online learning opportunities.

»» Created our Taos Associates Grant (TAG) program, in which we dedicated monies to support associates doing projects that forwarded our mission, up to $5,000.

»» October: Held our Taos Board retreat in Amsterdam, The Netherlands at the American Hotel, on the Leidesplein.

»» New Book: Healing Conversations Now: Enhance Relationships with Elders and Dying Loved Ones, by Joan Chadbourne and Tony Silbert

»» The Taos Institute joins to provide the International Certificate Program in Collaborative Practices Partners: Houston Galveston Institute, USA, Grupo Campos Elíseos, MéxicoInterface, BrazilNarrativ, Czech Republic, La Red de Diálogos Productivos

»» December, Jason Wolf is invited to join the Taos Institute Board of Directors for a one year term, which was later extended for another year.

»» 2011 PhD Graduates: Ginny Belden-Charles, Glenn Boyd, Karen Dawson, Satinder Dhiman, Jody Jacobson, Randy Janzen, Anne-Mette Korczynski, Joan Marques, Rodney Merrill, Ottar Ness, Loek Schoenmaker, Tobias Schueth, Aileen Tierney, Cara Weston


»» Saliha Bava and Mark Greene, Social Media consultants, lead the Taos Institute into social media, with facebook and twitter accounts.

»» March 20 – 23, Enriching Collaborative Practices Across Cultural Borders: Constructing Alternatives in Psychotherapy, Education, Community & Organization Development and Research Practices. A Conference Co-sponsored by the Taos Institute and Kanankil Institute,

»» July 2nd-4th in Copenhagen – Attractor/Taos Institute Summer Institute – For the fourth time running, Attractor hosted a summer institute on systemic, constructionist and appreciative theory and practice.

»» Sept, We ran a test pilot for our first online workshop offered by the Taos Institute on “Social Construction: Premises and Practices” – 6 weeks online.

»» October, Graduated our 50th Ph.D. student from the Taos/Tilburg program

»» Held our Taos Board retreat in Brussels, Belgium at the Metropole Hotel, a famous rendez-vous for international physics professors.

»» Nov. 14-17, 2012 in San Diego, California. Relational Practices in Peacebuilding, Mediation and Conflict Transformation: From the Intimate to the International, Gerald Monk, with the help of 20 of his students, and John Winslade, two of our California associates, joined the committee to create the conference. Over 150 practitioners, academics and community members from 14 countries came together to share and create new forms of practice for peacebuilding informed by social construction. We focused on relational, collaborative, and appreciative practices for conflict transformation and mediation in families, organizations, communities, and the world.

»» We received a generous donations by the Whitman Institute to support the conference.

»» New Book: Retiring but not Shy: Feminist Psycologist Create their Post-Careers, edited by Ellen Cole and Mary Gergen

»» First six e-books from Taos Institute Publishing were published.

»» New Books:

»» New Book Series: WorldShare Books – Free full-length books online begins

»» 2012 PhD Graduates: Gita Baack, Jorge Sanhueza, Roberto Aristegui, Teresa Quintana, Stephen Shimshock, Kristin Bodiford, Sherry Harsch-Porter, Margot Brink, Bonnie Milne, Kon Madut


»» April, TAOS 20, April 11-14, 2013, Taos, New Mexico. The Taos Institute celebrates 20 years.
Generous Donations from the Dharma fund for support of the conference, along with many other donations from participants to support a scholarship fund.

»» The Taos Institute agrees to support the Peter Lang Foundation, created to honor and sustain the work of Peter Lang.

»» New Book: Relational Leading: Practices for Dialogically based Collaboration, by Lone Hersted and Kenneth J. Gergen

»» April – May, The Taos Institute offers its first ONLINE workshop to the public – 6 weeks virtual workshop titled “Social Construction: Premises and Practices”.

»» April 2013 – The Taos Institute Celebrates 20 Years. We return to Taos, NM the home of our founding for a gala celebration and conference. Social Constructionist Ideas and Practices: From Origins to New Horizons.