Skip to main content

Appreciative Enquiry

Field of application

The appreciative approach can be used as a complete #analysis framework involving many #interviews. The latter can span over a longer period of time with intensive #field work. This description focuses on a workshop format that can be used

·        To #reflect with and orient students on the improvement of learning networks between professors 

         and students and among students

·        The #improvement of a university course with professors and teachers

·        The #strategic reorientation of a region or a location with its stakeholders

·        The strategic reorientation of an organisation including more its employees in #decision making


Resume / Brief description


The Appreciative Inquiry has been developed and used as an alternative to a problem-based approach of process analysis, intervention design and vision building. It is strongly based on appreciation of what is already there and on what can be strengthened (“What gives life”). It starts with and understanding of the organization's or individual´s potential strengths by looking at its experience and its potential. From there an envisioning process starts on how a possible future could look like (“What might be”) and how this future can be co-constructed, and its process maintained as a dynamic and sustainable process.


Target group


·        Students, university departments, organisations, businesses


·        Increase the buy-in of the stakeholders in the strategy process

·        building already on what is there already (in regard to experience, structures, motivation, past


·        Overcoming a problem-solving strategy approach and rather focusing on opportunities and where

         a positive energy exists

·        Creating a strategy that is implementable and co-constructed jointly in the team (of students, of

         CEO and employees, of an organization or of a location etc.)

·        Assuring a process which takes the key motivational aspects of the stakeholders serious and uses

          its energy





When to use:

·        Workshop format can be used when main relevant stakeholders are present in the room. The room

         should not extend 20 persons.


·        4 pin boards, markers, tables


·        The time depends on the intensity of the workshop: It can be 3 hours until up to a day. Not more  

          than 20 persons .

Implementation - Overview

The methodology is realized in four main phases. 


Implementation - Guidelines








II.      “What is the development and change focus we want to take in this workshop?” is the question that needs to be clarified in the beginning The group of participants have to define the topic. Is the reflection e.g. on future cooperation between students and professors, on the improvement of cooperation between the university department, in an organisation or a territory?


III.     The group is asked: “Please share your best and most encouraging and “life-giving” experiences on the change topic of the workshop?”


IV.    Personal and organizational highpoints are discovered, as well as what people value and how they hope and wish to enhance their organization’s social, economic and environmentally vitality.


V.      The experiences are documented on cards on the first pin board by the facilitator. They are clustered in two areas:

o   Experiences

o   Values


VI.    There are two alternatives to speed up the process:

o   Participants write themselves cards on “experiences” and “values” in two rounds of exercises.

o   Participants leave in pairs of two for 30 minutes to come back with cards on their main positive

     experiences and positive values they experienced.




VIII. The facilitator asks the participants (using the second pin board): What can you envision as a possible motivational ideal status when things would work at its best?


IX.    There are two alternatives on how to start this:

o   In small groups of three participants visualize their main answers on a flipchart, expressing

     their main aspects

o   In groups of three or four the participants write down their aspects when it “works at its best”

     on cards and present them afterwards in the plenary.

o   The cards and findings are clustered in the plenary according to similar “dreams”



·        The focus at this stage of the workshop is to look at the clusters of dreams expressed in the earlier


·        The question the facilitator asks: “What activities can we realize that contribute to our envisioned 

         change? Please reflect about activities that create enthusiasm within you and to which you want to


·        Participants have to detail and to reflect about concrete activities necessary to reach these specific


·        The card exercise should be done in groups of 4 or 4 to encourage joint reflection. Cards are

         written by the groups.

·        Groups present their findings and cards on the third pin board.

·        Duplicated cards are taken out, similar ones are clustered.

·        The participants prioritize activities through reflection and voting.



The destiny phase is focusing on the concrete planning of the activities and to “embrace the solutions”. The assurance that these activities are also really implemented and monitored is understood as a deep interest of the organization itself.

The logic is that the AI outcomes are building on the strengths of the individuals in the organization, on internal resources, relationship, past positive experiences and the extension of these positive experiences.

·        The workshop can be concluded with an action plan

·        The alternative is that an action plan is designed by a group of participants as a first draft that later

          then gets presented to the other group participants.

·        The workshop closes with an appreciation of the success.


Example of application:

Description of the context

The AI workshop was used in a workshop from the consultancy company Mesopartner with a German district development agency to reflect about future steps of action. The workshop was at the same time an organisational development workshop. The objective was threefold:

·        To involve stringer the team of employees in the further strategy planning process and to motivate


·        To define key areas for the next three years

·        To reflect about things and network relations to improve in an appreciated way.



Starting point

The workshop started with a joint rating on different circumstances: Relations between each other in the team, relations with the clients (businesses in the district), relations with other partner organisation in the district) to get a joint impression about the status quo.




The team of the agency started to share their positive experiences along the differentiation of experiences and values. Some examples of relevant outcomes are mentioned here:

·        Close contact with businesses improves my motivation and also the relationship with them

·        Being involved in some leading projects provides much better overview for me and feels me being

         part in relevant activities.

·        Working in tandem in projects with persons from different departments provides much better

         knowledge sharing and integration of different perspectives


In regard to values e.g. the following aspects were mentioned:

·        Feeling integrated

·        Close Networking

·        Being close to client

·        etc.



In the DREAM and visioning process aspects were mentioned like:

·        We have regular contact with businesses and learn from them new opportunities for support


·        We work always in changing teams and are informed on each other´s tasks

·        We promote projects that really are focused on business demand instead of published funding

         schemes from the regional government with very diverse foal areas


DESIGN and DESTINY process

In the design and destiny process some of the outcomes were the following:

In the design and co-creating process some of the core activities were the following:

·        Everybody has a discovery meeting with an entrepreneur on future cooperation opportunities in

         the district every two weeks

·        Every second week in the team meeting experiences will be shared on the impressions from


·        Leading team participates in some leading project activities

·        An idea wall in the centre of the agency will be the space to collect ideas from everybody for

          further activities that emerge out of practice and daily work


Support requirements

The workshop duration was from 9 am to 12 am (3 hours). The pin boards were prepared in advance and the role of the facilitator was mainly to guide the group through the process as well as to encourage warm data in the sense of providing a space where team members were able to express their emotions and core motivations.

Templates, Graphics for download


·         Visualisations from Appreciate Inquiry Workshops:

Additional format/references



·        Founder of the AI approach  David Cooperider  introduces the innovation philosophy of AI:

·        Introduction video to appreciate inquiry and its difference to problem solving approaches.

·        Appreciate Inquiry in a nutshell:


·        David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry (developer of AI) to get into contact with other hubs:

·        Introduction to AI: