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Appreciative Inquiry

Definition/Primary Purpose   

A strategy for intentional change that identifies the best of "what is" to pursue dreams and possibilities of "what could be"; a cooperative search for the strengths, passions and life-giving forces that are found within every system and that hold potential for inspired, positive change. 

A process of collaborative inquiry, based on interviews and affirmative questioning, that collects and celebrates "good news stories" of a community; these stories serve to enhance cultural identity, spirit and vision.  

Potential Outcomes   

Change in basic orientation from problem-focused to possibility-focused

Clarified or enhanced sense of identity, shared values & culture

Established climate of continual learning & inquiry

Renewal of group energy, hope, motivation & commitment

Increase in curiosity, wonder and "reverence for life"

Whole system changes in culture & language (increase in cooperative practices & decrease in competition; increased ratio of positive: negative comments; increase in affirmative questions and/or narrative-rich communication)

Improved working relations/conflict resolution

Decrease in hierarchical decision-making; increase in egalitarian practices & self-initiated action

Key Principles & Assumptions   

Four Guiding Principles:

Every system works to some degree; seek out the positive, life-giving forces and appreciate the "best of what is.

"Knowledge generated by the inquiry should be applicable; look at what is possible & relevant.

Systems are capable of becoming more than they are, and they can learn how to guide their own evolution -- so consider provocative challenges & bold dreams of "what might be."

The process & outcome of the inquiry are interrelated and inseparable, so make the process a collaborative one. 

 About Reality.  

We create reality through our language, thoughts, images and beliefs

The act of asking a question influences the system's reality in some way (i.e. questions are a form of intervention).

The types of questions we ask determine the types of answers we receive; and "the seeds of change are implicit in the very first questions we ask."

We manifest what we focus on, and we "grow toward what we persistently ask questions about." (both quotes from Cooperrider & Whitney, 1999)