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Appreciative Inquiry

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 9 months ago

Appreciative Inquiry


“Each community boasts a unique combination of assets upon which to build its future. A thorough map of these assets would begin with an inventory of the gifts, skills and capacities of the people who are part of that community.”

– sociologists J. Kretzmann and J. McKnight (1993)



Appreciative inquiry explores and identifies the strengths of a particular place and the achievements of its people, and uses these strengths as a way to envision the future. Other community development initiatives begin with identifying problems and unmet needs, but as Charles Elliot writes, this approach “can often disempower the community it is meant to help, by conditioning local people to view their … place as full of problems that only outsiders can solve, and needs that only governments can meet.”


Beginning instead with identifying assets and achievements can empower people to dream. Elliot continues, “When people look for their strengths, they are often amazed to discover how resilient, adaptive and innovative they are…. By focusing on their strengths they can use the “positive present” to build a shared vision of a better future, one that is grounded in reality. Appreciative inquiry creates a development pathway based on what is right rather than what is wrong.”


Appreciative Inquiry encourages people to think deeply about what the value and what contributes to the well-being of their community. Does material success matter more than clean water? How do they value time spent with children, traditional food, local agriculture, animal companions? Can they choose a future that does not sacrifice the things they treasure to achieve other goals?”


Appreciative Inquiry is related to Narrative Inquiry, inasmuch as the process of Appreciative Inquiry allows participants to construct and share a story about their place. Elliot writes, “It is this plasticity of memory and our freedom to remake the history of our organization that is essential for the appreciative approach. For what is at stake is the capacity to construct a narrative of the organization that highlights the worthwhile and life-enriching themes without denying the darker or more somber tones that are also likely to be present. It is only when we can read the history from this perspective that we are likely to transcend the problematic present or the fearsome future.”



Appreciative Inquiry exercise from Beginner’s Guide to Community-Based Arts, (Knight and Schwartzman, 2005):


“Find the heartbeat of the community.”


• Is there a specific location you identify as the center of your community?

• What are the shared experiences and events of your community?

• What image might represent the heartbeat of your community?

• How does the heart of your community beat in you?



Gandhi said: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” This describes the Enactment Principle of Appreciative Inquiry. See http://www.appreciativeliving.com/files/Kelm_AI_Principle_Summary.pdf




Elliot, C. (1999). Locating the Energy for Change: An Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry. Retreived online Nov. 2006 at http://www.iisd.org/pdf/appreciativeinquiry.pdf


Kretzmann, J. & McKnight, J. (1993). Building Communities From the Inside Out, ACTA Publications: Chicago.


Knight, K. and M. Schwartzman. (2005). Beginner’s Guide to Community-Based Arts. Oakland: New Village Press.

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