Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a community process and methodology focused on positive change and identifying community assets. AI can be adapted for use in a wide range of community events, projects, and long-term planning processes.
AI seeks to locate, highlight and illuminate the “life-giving” forces in a community. Its aim is to generate knowledge by focusing on community strengths, expanding “the realm of the possible”, and helping community members first visualize, then implement a collectively desired future.
AI was developed in the early 1990s, primarily to help corporations and institutions improve their competitive advantage or organizational effectiveness. It has since been applied at the community level domestically and in developing countries. It involves a significant shift in emphasis from local problems to local achievements, from participation to inspiration. By identifying and reinforcing positive, constructive actions, relationships and visions within a community, AI encourages local ownership of activities that contribute to sustainable development and secure livelihoods.
Appreciative inquiry usually progresses through four stages, known as the 4-Is:
1 - Initiate - Discovering periods of excellence and achievement
Through interviews and storytelling, participants remember significant past achievements and periods of excellence. When was their organization or community functioning at its best?
2 - Inquire - Dreaming an ideal organization or community
In this step, people use past achievements to visualize a desired future.
3 - Imagine - Designing new structures and processes
This stage is intended to be provocative––to develop, through consensus, concrete short- and long-term goals that will achieve the dream.
4 - Innovate - Delivering the dream
In this stage, people act on their provocative propositions, establishing roles and responsibilities, developing strategies, forging institutional linkages and mobilizing resources to achieve their dream.