The 5th World Congress on Positive Psychology

Montreal, Canada, 13th to the 16th of July 2017 Congress report

July 2017 at the Palais des Congres, Montreal saw the coming together of positive psychology enthusiasts from around the globe for the 5th World Congress on Positive Psychology. This was the first time that the congress had taken place outside of the United States and Montreal, Canada provided a fantastic venue.


MAPP Students in Montreal: Derek, Romy, Alison, Steve, Inge & Josef

Having just completed our first year of the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP), at Bucks New University, several of us were lucky, to be in a position, where we were able to attend the congress knowing it was an awesome opportunity to consolidate what we had learned over the past year and to motivate us for year two. Not to mention the opportunity to meet, in person, some of the world’s leading researchers from this field of positive psychology! And, we hoped that the information we gathered would prove beneficial to our colleagues who were unfortunately not able to join us.


What follows is our report from the congress with our own personal highlights from the 4 days, take away messages, memorable quotes and any future impact.


Inge – there were a lot of highlights for me, but to keep things succinct these are mine:

  • Ryan Niemiec on Character Strengths
  • David Cooperrider on Appreciative Inquiry (AI)
  • Bob Easton on flourishing at work – “organizations have to be worthy of the talent they want to bring in
  • Michelle McQuaid on Lead Like a Woman
  • Kim Cameron on positive leadership and positive energy


Shona & Inge with Michelle McQuaid

What I take away is that the time has come to start putting all the theories into practice. I want to implement the strengths approach and the PERMA, (in one way or the other), into the workplace.

My focus is clear again: introducing and reinforcing Positive Psychology into organisations.

Ryan mentioned a nice quote of Goethe: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do”.


Alison – there were two main highlights for me, (apart from the excitement of registering famous people on the check in desk) both quite broad in nature:

Firstly, the realisation of the scale of depth, breadth, opportunity and future potential for the field of positive psychology from the insights into the role of genetics, environment and neuroscience through the practical applications in education, families, health, business and society to the possibilities of a better future for humanity. We have really only begun to scratch the surface of this discipline.

Secondly the collective enthusiasm, generosity and warmth of everyone I met – exhibitors, organisers, speakers, presenters and participants and their willingness to openly discuss and share their research, experience, ideas, business models and aspirations was both welcoming and motivating and created a community I want to be part of.

As I approach the next few months, there are also two main areas I see affected, both with contrasting perspectives:

I have lots more ideas for practical application of positive psychology and where I might go in the future increasing my confidence that I can use what I am learning to achieve the life changes I am hoping for, but also I am more aware of the diversity of opportunity which is going to make choosing a dissertation topic even harder than ever.

The experience has given me the courage to be prepared to dig deeper, to hone my critical analysis skills and challenge the theory knowing that rigor is essential to further discipline, yet paradoxically, a parallel recognition that I must enable an environment for creativity to flow and ideas to form so that, maybe, one day I may be able to make a worthwhile contribution to this amazing body of knowledge.


Romy – my highlights:

  • Neuroscience suggests the brain is PREDICTIVE not REACTIVE
  • Loving-Kindness meditation would appear to be a key component to well-being/happiness/positive health as attested by the myriad of research across many domains
  • ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ as you create the reality in which you choose to live (a recurring theme throughout Congress)
  • Meeting strangers, leaving as friends
  • Meeting the Chick-man (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi & recommending he plays Kingdom Hearts on PlayStation 4!

Being in the company of  my MAPP family and finally the impact of the congress for me is that “I belong”.


Steve – there were so many highlights but I think to be able to listen to talks from the leading figures in Positive Psychology and meet the authors of the books I’ve studied was a real highlight.

The talks I attended gave a much deeper insight into many of the topics I’m studying but the two I enjoyed the most were on topics I haven’t studied, namely Resilience and Meaning.

The quote for me was from Martin Seligman “ We now live in times of abundance and yet we continue to cause ourselves problems. Positive Psychology is here to change that”.

I now have a much clearer idea of what I want to do with the rest of my course (MAPP), including an approach to my dissertation.


Derek & Shona with Kay Peterson

Shona – I felt that being one of the 1,300 attendees the IPPA 5th World Congress on PP was a real honor. The welcome that was given to all the participants from the 58 nations was so warm and a hand of friendship was extended to us all. No matter your qualifications, experience or background in the subjects you were instantly brought into the fold and given the opportunity to engage and share. The quality and depth of the presenters was world class.

Coming away from the event I feel very motivated and inspired to be creative with my future years ahead. I will be further developing my own skills and knowledge by engaging with some of the presenters and contacts I have made during the Congress.



Derek – for me, the highlight without doubt was getting to meet and chat to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. His books have been an inspiration to me and just to listen to someone so wise was a great honor.

Derek with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The presentation of the congress was Angela Duckworth’s closing plenary talk on Character and Grit. She a great presenter and her message was very much one of ‘hope’ for the future of education. And the quote that really resonated with me (given my recent studies on talent and the nature vs. nurture question) was “Experts are really not born they are made”.

And I would very much echo what Romy said in that I have found somewhere that I feel I belong and I am super motivated for year 2 of the MAPP.


Collated & edited by Derek Tate
Contributors; Romyann Brooks, Inge Beckers, Alison Birch, Steve Emery, Shona Tate and Derek Tate

NB: If you are a member of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) you can access lots of information from the congress.

Some useful links derived from the congress:

Ryan Niemiec – Character Strengths

Angela Duckworth – Character Lab

Scott Barry Kaufman – Imagination Institute

Michelle McQuaid – Lead Like a Woman

Sharon Salzberg – Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) 

Kay Peterson – Kolb’s 9 Ways of Learning