Appreciative Inquiry

"Appreciative inquiry was developed at Case Western Reserve University by Cooperrider in the early 1990s, primarily as a methodology to help corporations and institutions improve their competitive advantage or organizational effectiveness."

Charles Elliott, Dean of Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge

The Appreciative inquiry approach can be applied to every area of your life. As such it's a philosophy for living. Positive questioning is key.  What's good about this? What's the best thing that happened to you today? What worked? What did we do well? What could make this even better?

Rather than focus on what doesn't or didn't work, or weaknesses, the AI approach focuses on what is working and where and what you'd like to see happen, to be, to achieve.

Methodology in brief:


  • Discover periods of excellence and achievement through interviews and storytelling. What gives life?
  • Dreaming an ideal organization or community builds energy, excitement & collaboration. What might be?
  • Designing new structures and processes. What should be?
  • Delivering the dream. How to empower, learn and improvise?

“Reality is conditioned, reconstructed, and often profoundly created through our anticipatory images, values, plans, intentions and beliefs.” Cooperrider, 1999  

Appreciative inquiry is unusual in that it combines the five features that emerge again and again in discussions of organizational sustainability. 

They are as follows:

1. The incorporation of a wide range of stakeholders in assessing the past and planning the future

2. Transparency of organizational self reflection

3. The inclusive determination of decision-making criteria

4. Non-quantifiable, non-financial elements that may crucially affect the long-term health of the organization

5. The wide dissemination of power and influence throughout the organization, as implied in (2) and (3).

AI involves a significant shift in emphasis from a deficit based approach to an appreciative approach. Local problems to local achievements, from participation to inspiration. By identifying and reinforcing positive and constructive actions, relationships and visions within a community or organisation, it encourages local ownership in activities that contribute to sustainable development and secure livelihoods at the local /departmental /organizational levels.