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Appreciative Inquiry: An Introduction Friday, April 30, 2010

Acknowledgements • The Appreciative Inquiry Commons • Powerpoint presentations by: – David Cooperrider – Debbie Morris

Why Appreciative Inquiry? • Conventional approaches to community change often – – – – –

Focus on problems, gaps, and weaknesses Are cumbersome Are slow Fail to engage key participants Cause division and tension

• Appreciative Inquiry – – – – –

Builds on strengths Generates positive energy Fosters a sense of community Involves individuals in multiple roles Can be implemented efficiently

Defining “Appreciative Inquiry” • Appreciate – Recognize the quality, significance or magnitude of – To be fully aware of or sensitive to – To raise in value or price

• Inquiry – The process of gathering information for the purpose of learning and changing. – A close examination in a quest for truth.

Problem Solving vs. AI Problem Solving

Appreciative Inquiry

• What to fix • Underlying grammar = problem, symptoms, causes, solutions, action plan, intervention • Breaks things into pieces & specialties, guaranteeing fragmented responses • Slow! Takes a lot of positive emotion to make real change. • Assumes organizations are constellations of problems to be overcome

• What to grow • New grammar of the true, good, better, possible • “Problem focus” implies that there is an ideal. AI breaks open the box of what the ideal is first. • Expands vision of preferred future. Creates new energy fast. • Assumes organizations are sources of infinite capacity and imagination

How It Works • First, understand the positive core of a living system. What makes it most effective and vital, in economic, ecological and human terms? – We move in the direction of our deepest and most frequently asked questions.

• Positive guiding images of the future trigger action in the present. – Images are found in our dialogue with each other. – Ratio of positive to negative statements is a success factor for change. – Individuals & groups can then weave the best of what is into formal and informal practices.

Key Principles

1. Constructionist: We live in worlds our questions create. Knowledge and organizational destiny are interwoven. We see the world we describe.

2. 3. 4. 5.

Simultaneity: Change begins at the moment you ask the first question. Open Book: We can read almost anything into any organization. Anticipatory: Deep change occurs first in our images of the future Positive: The more positive the question, the greater and longer-lasting the change.

The AI 4-D Model


“What gives life?” The best of what is.



“How to empower, learn, and improvise?”


Affirmative Topic


“What should be – the ideal?”



“What might be?”

Envisioning Results/Impact

An Alternative Version

Discovery: Opportunity Context Positive Core Delivery: Sustaining the Change

Topic (What you Want More of)

Design: Finding innovative ways to create that future; Breakthrough propositions

Dream: Envisioning what might be; shared images for a preferred future

Choose an Affirmative Topic • Organizations move in the direction of what they study. • Questions we ask determine what we find. • Process choice point: Who does topic choice: executive team; core team; or “whole system?” • Topic Re-framing Can Lead to Exciting Breakthrough Results • Example: Not “How do we stop kids from dropping out?” but “How do we provide teens with a magnetic Jewish educational experience?”

Discovery: Learning from One Another • Interviews and small dialogues • Sample Questions: – Best experience: a time when you felt most energized… – What do you value about… yourself, your work, our educational system, our community? – What do you think is the core life-giving factor or value of our Jewish educational system – that which if it did not exist would make it totally different than it currently is? – If you had three wishes for this community, what would they be? – As we think about the future we know there will be many changes…but what are those things we want to keep, even as we change?

• Compile and share what we’ve learned to discover the “positive core”

Dream and Design: The AI Summit • Foci – What do we want our future to look like? – What do we need to do to get there?

• Success Factors “Whole System” in the Room Task is Clear... Future Focus -- In Historical and Global Perspective Self-Management and Dialogue Common Ground (not conflict management as the frame of reference) – Uncommon Action/Follow Through – – – – –

What Do We Mean by Design? • Both a product and a process • To design is to invent, to innovate, to conceive and to make choices - about the purpose, principles, roles, processes, practices and structures which will house, support and give life to the organization’s or community’s members and the dream they have created. • The creation of new forms, new containers, new practices and even new directions which embrace and are infused by the positive core unearthed in Discovery and imagined in our Dream.

Principles for Design Inclusion principle When the whole system and its voices (i.e.- all levels, functions, key stakeholders) are in the room, the richer the conversations and the greater the possibility for true innovation.

Continuity principle Building on successes of the past provides hope, energy and confidence in our ability to create the world of our dreams.

From Design to Destiny Design as improvisational and ongoing • All “designs” are “best bets” about what will work in a given environment. • Regular cycles of inquiry are needed to deepen the understanding of what is working and to stay in tune with the environment. • A sense of “it's never done” is core to the always emerging, continuous quest to discover the best alternatives.

Destiny: Sustaining Inspired Action Integrated Collaborative Community & Online Events

Level of Engagement & Inspired Action

Action Groups

Large Group Summit


Appreciative Inquiry: An Introduction  

An introduction to appreciative inquiry

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