This post is part 2 of 4 in the series Defining Appreciative Inquiry.

Purpose and outcomes

To enable full-voice appreciative participation that taps the organization’s positive change core and inspires collaborative action that serves the whole system

Number of participants

20–2,000 involved in interviews, large-scale meetings and collaborative actions

Types of participants

Internal and external stakeholders — all co-creators — those who hold images and tell stories about the organization

Typical duration

  • Preparation: work begins with the first question asked
  • Conduct method: 1 day to many months in nonconference design; AI Summit: 4–6 days
  • Total transition: 3 months to 1 year

When to use

  • To create a positive revolution
  • To enhance strategic cooperation overcoming conflict, competition
  • To catalyze whole-system culture change
  • To facilitate high-participation planning
  • To mobilize global organization design and development
  • To integrate multiple change initiatives into a focused whole-system effort
  • To support large-scale mergers and acquisitions

When not to use

  • What you are doing already is getting the results you desire
  • Commitment to a positive approach to change is lacking

Impact on cultural assumptions

Fundamental shift occurs toward cooperation, equality of voice, high participation, a positive revolution, inquiry and improvisational learning as daily practices, appreciative leadership, and focus on life-giving forces — social, financial and ecological


David Cooperrider, Suresh Srivastva and colleagues at Case Western Reserve University and the Taos Institute. Created in 1987

Historical context

Theory: Social construction, anticipatory imagery theory, narrative theory
Pragmatics: Postmodern shifts in global organizing, deficit models of change that simply do not serve the greater good

Reprinted with permission from Peggy Holman and Tom Devane, The Change Handbook: Group methods for shaping the future. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.