What is it? Appreciative inquiry is a process where a community’s positive features are identified and used to facilitate a better future. Facilitators begin an appreciative inquiry project by bringing residents together to discuss their community. Instead of beginning by discussing an area’s problems, facilitators focus the early conversation on positives. Process leaders ask the participants to share personal stories that highlight meaningful moments and beneficial aspects of their neighborhood or town. Faciliators guide the group in examining the conditions that produced these positive experiences. In the next stage of an appreciate inquiry, participants work to create a shared vision, one in which these kinds of moments are the norm. Discussion leaders literally ask the group members to picture that new future and to depict their vision on paper, as best they can. Lastly, the group develops specific strategies for reaching that preferred future. Appreciate inquiry is characterized by the guided, personalized process that focuses on the good in a community and creating the conditions to make those good experiences and worthwhile features more prevalent.
How has it been used? Residents of Bitter Root Valley in Montana participated in an appreciative inquiry process to help identify community goals. Through this process, over 130 participants established shared values, identified assets, and created a future wish list. Small groups created artistic expressions of their dreams for the community. Project leaders guided productive, positive conversations, and shifted focus away from problems or disagreements. The consistent facilitation approach created a nurturing environment that focused on positive future directions. At the conclusion of the process, leaders asked individuals how they might contribute towards identified goals. (Source: Appreciative Inquiry Commons)