Appreciative Inquiry

Objective: According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "Appreciative Inquiry is a facilitated process to discover past and current practices that inform and inspire participants as they strive to collaboratively create and implement an ideal future. Unlike many decision-making processes that focus on what is not working, Appreciative Inquiry focuses on what is already working or and where people want to increase what is working. It does not focus on the identification or solving of problems, but rather envisioning and creating a positive future. It involves selecting topics of shared interest for inquiry, conducting structured interviews to bring out stories that reveal the best of the past – or what has worked – and identifying themes to help plan the future. Appreciative Inquiry is a systematic process that uses the art and practice of asking questions and building upon stories to foster innovation and imagination" (

David Cooperrider, co-creator of the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) method, underscores the importance of the positive core in explaining the 4-D cycle of AI. According to Cooperrider "The first step in an AI intervention is selecting the affirmative topic choice. This is, in short, the selection of topic(s) that will become the focus of the intervention." More information can be found on his website

Challenges to Consider:

  • Because this process is intended to bring the “whole system” together, when using Appreciative Inquiry at the community level it is important to make sure participants are representative of the entire community and that very broad access is created to include as many people as possible.
  • Not appropriate where predictable, linear processes and outcomes are required or where the problem identification and problem-solving method for change is preferred.

Principles for Successful Planning:

  • Provide Appreciative Inquiry training/experience to all team members and decision makers to make sure they are comfortable with the process and open to possible outcomes.
  • Convene a coordinating committee that is representative of the public to develop the theme or question to be considered.
  • Follow the 4-D cycle for implementing the Appreciative Inquiry process.
    • Discovery: craft questions, develop interview guide, train interviewers, conduct interviews, share stories from interviews about best practices, map the core of the findings.
    • Dream: reflect on a focal question, engage in a dream dialogue, clarify the collective dream, creatively enact the dream, determine common themes, create an organizational dream map and document the dream.
    • Design: identify a meaningful social architecture, select relevant and strategic design elements, identify organizational design preferences, craft provocative propositions.
    • Destiny: review, communicate and celebrate accomplishments, generate a list of potential actions, and self-organize for inspired action (


Participation level Target groups Number of participants Duration/Timeline Implementation Frequency Budget
Consultation Any More than 300 Longer than a week Live event Any Medium
Organizational requirements:
  • Moderator/Facilitator
  • Coordinating Committee
  • Project management/Event organization
  • Materials such as laptop computers, printers, projector, blackboard.